New CSR in the food system: Industry and non-traditional corporate food interests
Throughout the twentieth century, the food system has not only undergone changes in structure and in process, but has shown a growing transformation in food system governance. Often this transformation involves private actors engaging in the policymaking and governance arena. This paper draws on corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a private governance mechanism that is frequently used by corporate food actors. The rise of industry’s participation in non-traditional corporate food interests (NTCFIs), or social and environmental concerns, will be explored by drawing on changing governance structures in the food system. NTCFIs move beyond traditional interests of corporate actors such as trade, economic regulation, and competitiveness, and reach into social and environmental issues found in the food system that are often a result of agri-food production and its business practices. This paper problematizes the increased CSR of corporate actors in social and environmental issues in the food system. It considers both sides of the debate – an optimistic view of business engaging in NTCFIs, and a more skeptical view. It concludes by stating that given the power and resources of corporate food actors, they should be involved in food system change at arm’s length in a tripartite partnership: civil society, government, and the corporate sector.