Melbourne Law School - Research Publications

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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.
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    Introduction
    Park, C-M ; Uslaner, EM ; Park, CM ; Uslaner, EM (ROUTLEDGE, 2020-01-01)
    BACKGROUND: One important way to transform food systems for human and planetary health would be to reduce the production and consumption of animals for food. The over-production and over-consumption of meat and dairy products is resource-intensive, energy-dense and creates public health and food equity risks, including the creation of superbugs and antimicrobial resistance, contamination and pollution of land and waterways, and injustice to animals and humans who work in the sector. Yet the continuing and expanding use of animals is entrenched in food systems. One policy response frequently suggested by parties from all sectors (industry, government and civil society) is voluntary or mandatory labelling reforms to educate consumers about the healthiness and sustainability of food products, and thus reduce demand. This paper evaluates the pitfalls and potentials of labelling as an incremental regulatory governance stepping-stone to transformative food system change. METHODS: We use empirical data from a study of the regulatory politics of animal welfare and environmental claims on Australian products together with an ecological regulation conceptual approach to critically evaluate the potential of labelling as a regulatory mechanism. RESULTS: We show that labelling is generally ineffective as a pathway to transformative food system change for three reasons: it does not do enough to redistribute power away from dominant actors to those harmed by the food system; it is vulnerable to greenwashing and reductionism; and it leads to market segmentation rather than collective political action. CONCLUSION: We suggest the need for regulatory governance that is ecological by design. Labelling can only be effective when connected to a broader suite of measures to reduce overall production and consumption of meat. We conclude with some recommendations as to how public health advocates and policy entrepreneurs might strategically use and contest labelling and certification schemes to build support for transformative food system change and to avoid the regressive consequences of labelling.
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    How Free Is Sow Stall Free? Incremental Regulatory Reform and Industry Co-optation of Activism
    Carey, R ; Parker, C ; Scrinis, G (WILEY, 2020-07-01)
    This article critically examines how interactions between social movement activism, supermarkets, and the pork industry led to the voluntary adoption of “sow stall free” standards in Australia. We “backwards map” the regulatory space behind “sow stall free” products to show how the movement against factory farming became selectively focused on the abolition of one form of confinement for sows, rather than other forms of confinement and the conditions of the sows’ offspring, the piglets that are consumed. We argue that this facilitated an incremental shift to “sow stall free” production, allowing the concept of pig welfare to be corporatized in a way that maintains the dominant model of factory farmed pig meat production.
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    Can the Hidden Hand of the Market be an Effective and Legitimate Regulator?: The Case of Animal Welfare Under a Labeling for Consumer Choice Policy Approach
    Parker, C ; Carey, R ; De Costa, J ; Scrinis, G (Wiley, 2017)
    In Australia, labeling for consumer choice, rather than higher government regulation, has become an important strand of the policy approach to addressing food animal welfare. This paper illustrates the usefulness of “regulatory network analysis” to uncover the potentials and limitations of market‐based governance to address contentious yet significant issues like animal welfare. We analyzed the content of newspaper articles from major Australian newspapers and official policy documents between 1990 and 2014 to show how the regulatory network influenced the framing of the regulatory problem, and the capacity and legitimacy of different regulatory actors at three “flashpoints” of decisionmaking about layer hen welfare in egg production. We suggest that the government policy of offering consumers the choice to buy cage free in the market allowed large‐scale industry to continue the egg laying business as usual with incremental innovation and adjustment. These incremental improvements only apply to the 20 percent or so of hens producing “free‐range” eggs. We conclude with a discussion of when and how labeling for consumer choice might create markets and public discourses that make possible more effective and legitimate regulation of issues such as layer hen welfare.
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    A Public Appetite for Poultry Welfare Regulation Reform: Why Higher Welfare Labelling is not Enough
    Parker, C ; Scrinis, G ; Carey, R ; Boehm, L (Sage Publications, 2018)
    This article argues that the growth of free-range labelled egg and chicken shows that the public wish to buy foods produced via higher welfare standards. It summarises the main reasons for dissatisfaction with the current regulation of animal welfare standards in Australia and shows that labelling for consumer choice is not enough to address public concerns. It critically evaluates the degree to which recently proposed new animal welfare standards and guidelines for poultry would address these problems and concludes that the new standards are not sufficient and that more responsive, effective and independent government regulation of animal welfare is required.
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    The Meat in the Sandwich: Welfare Labelling and the Governance of Meat-chicken Production in Australia
    Parker, C ; Carey, R ; Scrinis, G (Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, 2018)
    This article critically examines the degree to which higher-animal welfare label claims change animal welfare regulation and governance within intense meat-chicken ('broiler') production in Australia. It argues that ethical labelling claims on food and other products can be seen as a 'governance space' in which various government, industry and civil society actors compete and collaborate for regulatory impact. It concludes that ethical labelling can act as a pathway for re-embedding social concerns in the market, but only when it prompts changes that become enshrined in standard practice and possibly the law itself. Moreover, the changes wrought by ethical labelling are small and incremental. Nevertheless, labelling may create ongoing productive tension and 'overflow' that challenges the market to listen to and accommodate actors (including animals) on the margins to create ongoing incremental changes.
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    The Consumer Labelling Turn in Farmed Animal Welfare Politics: From the Margins of Animal Advocacy to Mainstream Supermarket Shelves
    Parker, C ; Carey, R ; Scrinis, G ; Phillipov, M ; Kirkwood, K (Routledge, 2019)
    “Free range” and other higher welfare label claims are increasingly visible on Australian egg, pork and chicken meat products. This paper critically examines the way in which these claims have shifted animal welfare concerns from the “margins” of the animal advocacy movement to the “mainstream” of everyday consumer choice. It asks what has been lost and what gained as mainstream producers and retailers have adopted these label claims. The chapter argues that the growing market share of higher welfare labelled foods and the increasing public discussion and contestation of the meaning of terms such as “free range”, “free to roam” and “bred free range” does represent the success of animal advocacy campaigns aimed at activating mainstream consumers to express their concern about animal welfare. At the same time label claims also exhibit the creativity of industry and retailers in appropriating and accommodating civil society critiques of dominant production and distribution systems by narrowing down the range of contested issues, and sentimentalising, simplifying and de-radicalising potential solutions. This indicates a governance gap - a chasm between what can be achieved via voluntary certification and labelling and the need for a more inclusive, sustainable and official government regulation of animal welfare.
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    Higher welfare labelling for eggs: A summary of findings from the project Regulating Food Labels: The case of free range food products in Australia
    Parker, C ; Carey, R ; Scrinis, G (The University of Melbourne, 2018)
    A summary of findings from the project Regulating Food Labels: The case of free range food products in Australia
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    Free Range Egg Labelling Scrambles the Message for Consumers
    Parker, C ; Carey, R ; Scrinis, G ( 2016-04-01)
    New standards for free-range eggs will limit stocking densities and mean hens must have access to outdoors. But the new definition of free range could still perpetuate confusion and controversy for consumers.