Melbourne Law School - Research Publications

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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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    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.