In recent decades, as obesity rates and other sustainability issues have gained traction with the public, the food industry has been under scrutiny for its corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts. As a large industry, consisting primarily of private firms, this sector has huge public stakes. Even so, limited action taken by legislators to address the behaviour of this sector has been met with controversy and debate about freedom of enterprise and freedom of choice, contributing to the ethical and logistical complexity of regulating this large and powerful sector.
Food is different from other consumer goods. We put it inside of our bodies, directly affecting health, disease risk, and quality of life. Furthermore, the addictive properties of some ingredients can affect individual consumer behaviour. With this in mind, should producers of food be subject to the same laxity of regulation as the producers of other consumer goods? Furthermore, is legislation the best or only way to affect socially responsible behaviour from food industry firms?
This thesis steps away from the idea that the consumer is the sole perpetrator of the obesity epidemic by taking a closer look at what it means to be a responsibly behaving firm, as well as the external pressures (specifically, stakeholders and institutions) that lead firms to strive for this title. Findings show that at the level of the firm, stakeholders and institutions effect the CSR behaviour of the firm by influencing the firm’s general CSR strategy. However, at the project level, cost and availability of funds are better predictors of whether or not a CSR activity is chosen by the firm. The conclusion section discusses what this means for theory and policy.<!--EndFragment-->