Publication Details

Richards, Z. & Phillipson, L. (2017). Are Big Food's corporate social responsibility strategies valuable to communities? A qualitative study with parents and children. Public Health Nutrition, 20 (18), 3372-3380.


Objective: Recent studies have identified parents and children as two target groups whom Big Food hopes to positively influence through its corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies. The current preliminary study aimed to gain an in-depth understanding of parents and children's awareness and interpretation of Big Food's CSR strategies to understand how CSR shapes their beliefs about companies. Design: Community-based qualitative semi-structured interviews. Setting: New South Wales, Australia. Subjects: Parents (n 15) and children aged 8-12 years (n 15). Results: Parents and children showed unprompted recognition of CSR activities when shown McDonald's and Coca-Cola brand logos, indicating a strong level of association between the brands and activities that target the settings of children. When discussing CSR strategies some parents and most children saw value in the activities, viewing them as acts of merit or worth. For some parents and children, the companies' CSR activities were seen as a reflection of the company's moral attributes, which resonated with their own values of charity and health. For others, CSR strategies were in conflict with companies' core business. Finally, some also viewed the activities as harmful, representing a deceit of the public and a smokescreen for the companies' ultimately unethical behaviour. Conclusions: A large proportion of participants valued the CSR activities, signalling that denormalising CSR to sever the strong ties between the community and Big Food will be a difficult process for the public health community. Efforts to gain public acceptance for action on CSR may need greater levels of persuasion to gain public support of a comprehensive and restrictive approach.



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