Melbourne Law School - Research Publications

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    From responsive regulation to ecological compliance: meta-regulation and the existential challenge of corporate compliance
    Parker, C ; van Rooij, B ; SOKOL, DD (Cambridge University Press, 2021)
    This chapter revisits the significance of responsive regulation for theories of compliance. It shows how responsive regulation’s theory of compliance recognises both multiple motivations for compliance and plural actors who help negotiate and construct compliance. It argues that responsive regulation theory implies responsive compliance and that this can help build possibilities for deliberative democratic responsibility and accountability of both businesses and regulators. This is the idea that Parker previously labelled the meta-regulation of the “open corporation”. This chapter concludes that since business activity, and indeed human development, now face the existential challenge of socio ecological disruption and collapse in which profit oriented commercial activity is a significant driver, theories of compliance need to expand to concern themselves with how whole markets and industries can be made responsive to both social and ecological embeddedness. Regulatory compliance scholars need to pay attention to how networks of interacting business, government and civil society and social movement actors can influence business activity profoundly enough to shift the very nature of “business as usual”. The chapter therefore proposes the need for “ecological compliance” as a development of Ayres and Braithwaite’s analysis of compliance.
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    Investing for Nurtrition and Obesity Prevention: Current Practice in Australia
    Robinson, E ; Carey, R ; Parker, C ; Sacks, G ( 2021-08-19)
    Summary • Unhealthy diets, obesity and related non-communicable diseases are the leading cause of death and disability worldwide and represent a major public health challenge. • Addressing unhealthy diets and obesity will require comprehensive societal change, including comprehensive action from governments and food companies to improve the healthiness of food systems. • Investors can contribute to change through their investment decisions. They also stand to benefit from the positive societal and economic impacts associated with obesity prevention efforts. • In 2019/20, we reviewed a large sample of Australian institutional investors, asset management companies and superannuation funds, to investigate how these investors were incorporating nutrition and obesity-related considerations in their decision-making. • We found that 18 out of 35 investors included nutrition and obesity-related considerations in their investment decision-making, albeit in limited ways. • The most common way in which nutrition and obesity were considered was through so-called ‘ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) integration’ strategies. Most often, this was through considerations related to ‘health’ in the general sense, e.g., broad health and wellbeing considerations in selecting investment portfolios. Some investors explicitly considered the healthiness of a food company’s products in determining whether to invest or not. • Examples of ways in which nutrition and obesity-related considerations were being applied included investors actively engaging with food companies to encourage them to improve their nutrition-related policies and practices, and screening food companies based on risks associated with the healthiness of their product portfolios. • The findings of this research point to the need for: – Consistent nutrition-related sustainability reporting by food companies, guided by clear reporting frameworks; – The availability of comprehensive nutrition-related ESG data for investors, accompanied by agreed nutrition-related performance benchmarks; – More guidance on best practices for investors and the food industry. • Further research will help to identify how the investment community can best support efforts to address obesity and improve nutrition in Australia.
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    Investing for Sustainable Food Systems: Current Practice in Australia
    Carey, R ; Parker, C ; Robinson, E ; Sacks, G ( 2021-08-19)
    Summary • Food systems are a major driver of climate change, biodiversity loss, depletion of freshwater resources and pollution of waterways. • We examined the extent to which major institutional investors engaged in responsible investment in Australia consider sustainable food systems as part of their investment approach. • Nineteen out of 35 investors incorporated considerations related to sustainable food systems into investment decisions in some way. • We identified six strategies that investors used to incorporate sustainable food system considerations into their decision making. • The most common strategy used by investors was 'corporate engagement and shareholder action’ (using shareholder power to influence corporate behaviour). • The sustainable food system themes most commonly mentioned by these investors were ‘human rights’ (specifically labour rights in the food supply chain) and ‘animal welfare and anti-microbial resistance’. • Only one company, Australian Ethical, had a comprehensive policy on investment decisions related to sustainable food systems. • Examples of good practice included engaging with companies in relation to modern slavery concerns in the food supply chain, negatively screening intensive animal agriculture due to concerns about animal welfare and environmental sustainability, and investing in agricultural land to support a climate transition. • Future research will focus on engaging with investors to identify opportunities for progressing an investment agenda that promotes sustainable food systems in Australia.
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    National plan to allow battery cages until 2036 favours cheap eggs over animal welfare
    Parker, C ; Bromberg, L ( 2021-07-05)
    Eggs laid by battery hens would be phased out within 15 years under a plan to improve poultry welfare in Australia. The proposal signals some relief for the 10 million or so egg-laying hens still kept in battery cages in Australia. But it doesn’t go far enough.
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    Responsible investing for food system sustainability: A review of current practice in Australia
    Parker, C ; Carey, R ; Boehm, L ; Sacks, G ; Robinson, E (Thomson Reuters (Professional), 2021)
    This study investigates what role if any responsible investment by the finance sector is playing in promoting sustainable food systems in Australia. We report the findings of a preliminary desktop review of environmental, social and governance reporting by 35 of the most prominent responsible investment funds managers in Australia. Only one responsible investment fund had a comprehensive policy in relation to food system themes and 16 did not specifically mention the environmental, social and governance issues raised by food systems at all. Some addressed labour rights and intensive animal agriculture issues in the food system, and a few mentioned the climate change, biodiversity loss and water impacts of food. We conclude that a more comprehensive and holistic approach to consideration of sustainable food systems in responsible investment is required to meet the goals set by the Paris Agreement, Sustainable Development Goals and other environmental and human rights frameworks.
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    Promoting a healthier, younger you: The media marketing of anti-ageing superfoods
    MacGregor, C ; Petersen, A ; Parker, C (SAGE PUBLICATIONS LTD, 2021-05-01)
    The growing availability of products labelled ‘superfoods’ has been a major marketing success story. While little scientific evidence supports the claims regarding the health-enhancing, age-defying benefits to be derived from the consumption of superfoods, marketers have been able to effectively promote these products for what they promise. This article explores the pedagogic role performed by media in marketing ‘superfoods’ in the contemporary context of food normlessness (‘gastro-anomy’). Using Foucault’s ideas on the workings of power and governance and drawing on data from an analysis of Australian media items on superfoods published between 1995 and 2014, the article reveals the techniques by which superfoods are promoted as the means for fashioning a healthier, younger self. It is argued that ‘superfoods’ is an ill-defined, ambiguous category, whose marketing is assisted through the confounding and confusing of news and advertising in media coverage, and the extensive use of promissory statements, scientific claims and personal forms of address that connect directly with audiences. We conclude by observing that while citizens may seek to live their lives according to the ideals of healthism, the media serves as a platform to promote neoliberal norms and values, such as consumer choice, accountability and the anxiety that goes along with them and that feeds the pursuit of ‘superfoods’.
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    Understanding the Political Challenge of Red and Processed Meat Reduction for Healthy and Sustainable Food Systems: A Narrative Review of the Literature
    Sievert, K ; Lawrence, M ; Parker, C ; Baker, P (KERMAN UNIV MEDICAL SCIENCES, 2020-12-02)
    BACKGROUND: Diets high in red and processed meat (RPM) contribute substantially to environmental degradation, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and the global burden of chronic disease. Recent high-profile reports from international expert bodies have called for a significant reduction in global dietary meat intake, particularly RPM, especially in high-income settings, while acknowledging the importance of animal-sourced foods to population nutrition in many lower-income countries. However, this presents a major yet under-investigated political challenge given strong cultural preferences for meat and the economic importance and power of the meat industry. METHODS: A theoretically-guided narrative review was undertaken. The theoretical framework used to guide the review considered the interests, ideas and institutions that constitute food systems in relation to meat reduction; and the instrumental, discursive and structural forms of power that actors deploy in relation to others within the food system. RESULTS: High production and consumption levels of RPM are promoted and sustained by a number of factors. Actors with an interest in RPM included business and industry groups, governments, intergovernmental organisations, and civil society. Asymmetries of power between these actors exist, with institutional barriers recognised in the form of government-industry dependence, trade agreement conflicts, and policy incoherence. Industry lobbying, shaping of evidence and knowledge, and highly concentrated markets are key issues. Furthermore, prevailing ideologies like carnism and neoliberalism present embedded difficulties for RPM reduction. The literature noted the power of actors to resist meat reduction efforts exists in varying forms, including the use of lobbying, shaping of evidence and knowledge, and highly concentrated markets. CONCLUSION: There are a number of political challenges related to RPM reduction that contribute to policy inertia, and hence are likely to impede the transformation of food systems. Research on policy efforts to reduce RPM production and consumption should incorporate the role of power and political feasibility.
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    The Extent to Which Obesity and Population Nutrition Are Considered by Institutional Investors Engaged in Responsible Investment in Australia-A Review of Policies and Commitments
    Robinson, E ; Parker, C ; Carey, R ; Sacks, G (FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2020-12-23)
    INTRODUCTION: Responsible investment (RI), in which environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations are incorporated into investment decision making, is a potentially powerful tool for increasing corporate accountability and improving corporate practices to address broad societal challenges. Whilst the RI sector is growing, there is limited understanding of the extent to which pressing social issues, such as obesity and unhealthy population diets, are incorporated within RI decision making. This study aimed to investigate the extent to which obesity prevention and population nutrition are considered by Australian institutional investors engaged in responsible investment. METHODS: A desk-based review was conducted of investment approaches of prominent Australian asset managers and superannuation funds identified as engaged in responsible investment. Relevant information on the incorporation of ESG issues related to obesity and population nutrition was extracted for each investor, drawing on websites, published policy documents and annual reports. Strategies were categorized as: (1) negative/exclusionary screening; (2) positive/best-in-class screening; (3) norms-based screening; (4) ESG integration; (5) sustainability-themed investing; (6) impact/community investing; and (7) corporate engagement and shareholder action. These strategies were compared across investors and by themes related to obesity and population nutrition. RESULTS: Eighteen of the 35 investors indicated that they applied investment strategies that considered issues related to obesity and population nutrition. The most commonly identified strategy was ESG integration (n = 12), followed by sustainability-themed investing (n = 6), and positive screening (n = 4). The ways in which obesity and population nutrition were considered as part of these approaches included relatively high-level general health considerations (n = 12), considerations around the healthiness of food company product portfolios (n = 10), and consideration of specific company nutrition policies and practices (n = 4). The specificity and depth to which RI strategies were disclosed varied. CONCLUSION: There is significant potential for investment decisions to contribute to efforts to address key social issues, such as obesity and unhealthy diets. Some institutional investors in Australia have recognized the potential importance of incorporating obesity- and population nutrition-related issues into decision-making processes. However, the extent to which these considerations translate into investment decisions and their impact on companies in the food sector warrant further exploration.