Responsibility versus profit: The motives of food firms for healthy product innovation

Jilde Garst*, Vincent Blok, Léon Jansen, Onno S.W.F. Omta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In responsible research and innovation (RRI), innovation is seen as a way in which humankind finds solutions for societal issues. However, studies on commercial innovation show that firms respond in a different manner and at a different speed to the same societal issue. This study investigates what role organizational motives play in the product innovation processes of firms when aiming for socially responsible outcomes. Methods: This multiple-case study investigates the motives of food firms for healthier product innovation by interviewing firms about the organizational motives behind product reformulation and innovation. Results: This study highlights the importance of having both instrumental and moral motives in the innovation process when aiming for socially responsible outcomes, and how both these motives interact and contribute to responsible innovation in industry. Furthermore, the study results question the nature of relational motives as a separate category from the other two categories of motives, as suggested by corporate social responsibility (CSR) scholars. Conclusions: If commercial innovation needs to contribute to solutions for societal issues, the importance of moral motives has to be stressed without annihilating the instrumental objectives of firms. Both motives contribute to the success factors of responsible product innovation in industry.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2286
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2017


  • Corporate social responsibility
  • CSR
  • Food industry
  • Instrumental motives
  • Moral motives
  • Motives
  • Product innovation
  • Public health
  • Responsible research and innovation
  • RRI

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Responsibility versus profit: The motives of food firms for healthy product innovation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this