By examining corporate social responsibility (CSR) and power within the context of the food supply chain, this paper illustrates how food retailers claim to address food waste while simultaneously setting standards that result in the large-scale rejection of edible food on cosmetic grounds. Specifically, this paper considers the powerful role of food retailers and how they may be considered to be legitimately engaging in socially responsible behaviors to lower food waste, yet implement practices that ultimately contribute to higher levels of food waste elsewhere in the supply chain. Through interviews with key actors in the Australian fresh fruit and vegetable supply chain, we highlight the existence of a legitimacy gap in corporate social responsibility whereby undesirable behaviors are pushed elsewhere in the supply chain. It is argued that the structural power held by Australia’s retail duopoly means that supermarkets are able to claim virtuous and responsible behaviors, despite counter claims from within the fresh food industry that the food supermarkets’ private quality standards mean that fresh food is wasted. We argue that the supermarkets claim CSR kudos for reducing food waste at the expense of other supply chain actors who bear both the economic cost and the moral burden of waste, and that this is a consequence of supermarkets’ remarkable market power in Australia.
Journal of Business Ethics – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 27, 2016
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