The food system, climate change and CSR: from business to government case

Valeria Sodano (Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Naples “Federico II”, Portici, Italy)
Martin Hingley (Faculty of Business & Law, Lincoln Business School, Lincoln University, Lincoln, UK)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Publication date: 18 January 2013



This theoretical research article aims to take an economics approach to set out the role of the food system and its importance in control of greenhouse gases (GHG) and contribution to climate change. The article seeks to challenge the weak position of public policy aimed at tackling this major issue and the shortcomings of reliance on food corporations' voluntary and sporadic approach based on corporate social responsibility (CSR).


A review of literature and analysis of the legal and economic theories of the firm show how both public and private intervention tends to be ineffective in facing the many problems raised by climate change within the food sector. This article proposes a “government case” for CSR.


It is argued that interventions to tackle climate change are political rather than economic and depend on power relationships among different actors, such as states and large corporations, involved in their implementation. The main conclusion of the article is that a renovated agenda to tackle climate change ought to be based on the two pillars of soft regulation‐voluntary CSR and binding state regulation. In this new scenario corporate and antitrust laws should be used to correct the growing imbalance between corporate rights and corporate responsibility, with binding regulations supporting voluntary CSR.


Application of CSR has been left to corporations which have pursued their own piecemeal agenda; and the predominant creed of neoliberalism has been ineffectual in governance. This article questions its effectiveness and proposes an original and potentially sustainable alternative.



Valeria Sodano and Martin Hingley (2013) "The food system, climate change and CSR: from business to government case", British Food Journal, Vol. 115 No. 1, pp. 75-91

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