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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    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.