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Comparing UK Food Retailers’ Corporate Responsibility Strategies

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Diogo Monjardino De Souza Monteiro



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Emerald Group Publishing Ltd, 2017.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Purpose: To examine how socio-economic and institutional factors impact UK food retailers Corporate Responsibility Strategies (CSR) as revealed in corporate communications and product marketing. Building on institutional theory, we empirically examine whether discourse in CSR reports aligns with commercial strategies. Design/methodology/approach: Employing a mixed method approach we quantify quotes related to key CSR themes in annual reports and claims on new private label products launched in 9 key product categories using information from Mintel’s Global New Products Database. These measures are grouped into 8 distinct CSR themes across 7 retailers and 7 years (2006-2012). Findings: Health & Safety and Environment are the leading themes in both datasets. Animal Welfare, Community and Biotechnology & Novel Foods take the middle ground with differing use across reports and products. Fair Trade, Labor & Human Resources, and Procurement & Purchasing are the least commonly described themes in reports and on products. Retailers focus on different CSR themes in reports and new products, which may be evidence of competitive rather than pre-competitive strategies. Research limitations/implications: This research shows that UK food retailers CSR strategies between 2006 and 2012 were more competitive than pre-competitive, which is in line with theory that suggests economic pressures decrease incentives to cooperate. However, this research is limited to innovation data and analysis of CSR reports. A more complete analysis would need to consider sales or consumption data, wider sources of corporate communications and independent measures of social, environmental and economic impact. Our findings caution policy makers to be wary of retailers commitments to voluntary agreement pledges, particularly when the competitive environment and economic conditions are more challenging. Practical implications: Firms are increasingly pressured to contribute to social and environmental domestic and international commitments. Business should enhance coordination between CSR offices and commercial divisions to develop more consistent and effective social responsibility programs. Social implications: Originality/value: This is the first attempt to compare the evolution of CSR discourse and marketing strategy over time and across businesses in a key retail market.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Souza-Monteiro DM, Hooker NH

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Food Journal

Year: 2017

Volume: 119

Issue: 3

Pages: 658-675

Print publication date: 06/03/2017

Online publication date: 07/02/2017

Acceptance date: 10/10/2016

Date deposited: 10/10/2016

ISSN (print): 0007-070X

ISSN (electronic): 1758-4108

Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing Ltd


DOI: 10.1108/BFJ-04-2016-0152


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