|Home > Social Responsibility and Competitiveness Strategies of Agri-food Enterprises: A Theoretical and Methodological Approach|
In recent years a number of ongoing social, economical and institutional changes have progressively led, on the one hand, to the emergence of intricate competitive scenarios, and, on the other, to a more extensive role of the food industry in modern society. Two fundamental issues – the question of the environment and that of food safety – have prevailed upon the political and institutional scene, setting the conditions which have successively brought about significant changes in consumer demands and expectations, in policies, and in the strategies of enterprises and food processing systems. Initially, in order to confront the environmental and social issues, steps were taken mainly in the institutional ambit. Norms and standards were introduced which the industries internalised as a added cost or bind that served to weaken their competitive potential. This took place in a scenario characterized by the emergence of new competitors who based their competitive edge on those very costs. Subsequently, in part due to the driving force of the European Union, a new phase began. The European Commission’s Green Paper for corporate social responsibility (2001), gave rise to an interesting political and scientific debate, which then led to the growth of a new collective conscience regarding the need for all the stakeholders in the economic system to adopt behaviour which was both socially aware and responsible. A new ethos of doing business has now been established. By introducing models of technological innovation which partake of the green economy, the food industries have voluntarily integrated concerns for the environment and food safety within their economic and productive activities, from the viewpoint of new, high-value methods of production. Along these lines, in this paper, the food industry is (re)interpreted as a network of value-producing governance structures (multi-value enterprise) introducing ethical market opportunities, which represent a strategic competitive factor in advanced economies. This paper aims to contribute to the theoretical debate agricultural economics by focusing the attention on the theme of corporate social responsibility. Although traditionally this was the object of business studies, the present-day evolution of society and of the markets places it at the very centre of the analysis of competitive re-positioning strategies, even in modern farms and food industries. This objective has allowed us to define new interpretive models for the food industry and to extend the paradigm of ‘value portfolio’ (Marotta, Nazzaro, 2010, 2011) to this sector. The paradigm proposed represent a significant advancement of theoretical and application knowledge in the analysis of models of value production in the food system.