CSR in the retail food industry - An empirical study of sustainability measures
Firms face increasing demands from a multitude of stakeholders to behave responsibly, but it is important to recognize that at the very core of sustainability lies compromise. None of the extreme alternatives—either the firm shutting down or the firm disregarding all societal demands—provide optimal solutions. The rational approach to sustainability is to seek 'win-win' solutions, as it clearly mandates achieving two different goals—for at least two different stakeholders, and this leads to goal conflicts and paradoxes. Not surprisingly, reducing costs while bolstering the firm's reputation as an environmentally responsible organization to the increasing number of climate-conscious consumers has become a common strategy for creating shared value. However, firms may face the paradox of choosing between those sustainability measures that are most beneficial to the firm and/or society, versus those measures that are most communicable to key stakeholders and thus most likely to provide reputational gains. There are very few studies on how approaches to food waste management in the retail sector contributes to CSR. The current study provides insight into resolving some of the paradoxes inherent in CSR-motivated strategies by describing how two of the biggest grocery chains in Norway—Coop and Norgesgruppen, seek to create more shared value through handling waste management. The data were collected through in-depth interviews with key informants at these two firms, that combined represent approximately 70% of the Norwegian food retail industry. In addition, data from expert interviews with key members of industry bodies provide further insights into the challenges in CSR issues. Our contribution is twofold, we develop insight into how retail chains handle conflicting goals from different stakeholders, and we show how using theory on paradoxes may contribute to achieving key CSR goals in the retail sector.