Product stewardship : institutionalising corporate responsibility for packaging in Australia

Lewis, H 2009, Product stewardship : institutionalising corporate responsibility for packaging in Australia, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Product stewardship : institutionalising corporate responsibility for packaging in Australia
Author(s) Lewis, H
Year 2009
Abstract This research investigates the responsiveness of companies in the Australian packaging supply chain to stakeholder concerns about the environmental impacts of packaging. The National Packaging Covenant (NPC), which was introduced in 1999, is based on the principle of shared responsibility for the 'life cycle' environmental impacts of packaging. This principle is commonly referred to as 'product stewardship' (PS).

The primary focus of the thesis is corporate environmental policies and practices, but within a broader institutional framework. The institutionalisation of PS as a relatively new framework for corporate behaviour is occurring within an 'organisational field' at several levels. At the broadest (macro) level it is being institutionalised through the interaction of the state, industry associations and environmental non-government organisations (ENGOs) in policy processes. Within the packaging supply chain (meso level) it is being institutionalised through changes to corporate policy and practice within different sectors of the packaging supply chain, including raw material suppliers, packaging manufacturers, product manufacturers (brand owners) and retailers. Within individual firms (micro level) PS is being institutionalised through the interaction of functional groups with different interests, allegiances and stakeholders.

At a macro level the institutionalisation of PS as the solution to the perceived 'packaging problem' is linked to the relative power of the industry coalition in policy negotiations and the deregulatory approach to policy making within federal and state governments.

Within this environment, companies have sought to maintain or enhance organisational legitimacy by developing policies and practices that institutionalise PS in the way they do business. The responsiveness of companies in different industry sectors is evaluated by examining the PS policies and practices of 30 large companies in the Australian packaging supply chain.

The results show that companies are acting to reduce the environmental impacts of packaging, but most are only doing the minimum required to meet public expectations. The research also found a significant gap between the performance of the beverage and packaging manufacturers and retailers. This reflects, at least in part, the fact that beverage and packaging manufacturers have a longer history of exposure to interest group pressure on this issue. Decision-making within individual companies is also driven by corporate policies on environmental and social responsibility, which in turn appear to be linked to industry sector, company size and country of origin.

Most companies are focusing on strategies which achieve both environmental and financial savings. This reflects the competitive nature of the industry and the pressure being imposed on companies, by their customers, to reduce supply chain costs. It is also consistent with the voluntary and flexible nature of the NPC, which allows individual companies to choose strategies that support other business objectives. However, while this approach is likely to achieve incremental improvements, it may not meet the expectations of some government agencies and ENGOs for more rapid and substantial reductions in packaging waste. Companies in the packaging supply chain face a continuing challenge to maintain their legitimacy in the face of ongoing stakeholder concerns about their products.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global Studies, Social Science and Planning
Keyword(s) Packaging -- Environmental aspects
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