Supermarkets and private standards : unintended consequences of the audit ritual

Davey, Stephen S. & Richards, Carol (2013) Supermarkets and private standards : unintended consequences of the audit ritual. Agriculture and Human Values, 30(2), pp. 271-281.

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Abstract

Recent scholarship has considered the implications of the rise of voluntary private standards in food and the role of private actors in a rapidly evolving, de-facto ‘mandatory’ sphere of governance. Standards are an important element of this globalising private sphere, but are an element that has been relatively peripheral in analyses of power in agri-food systems. Sociological thought has countered orthodox views of standards as simple tools of measurement, instead understanding their function as a governance mechanism that transforms many things, and people, during processes of standardisation. In a case study of the Australian retail supermarket duopoly and the proprietary standards required for market access this paper foregrounds retailers as standard owners and their role in third-party auditing and certification. Interview data from primary research into Australia’s food standards captures the multifaceted role supermarkets play as standard-owners, who are found to impinge on the independence of third-party certification while enforcing rigorous audit practices. We show how standard owners, in attempting to standardize the audit process, generate tensions within certification practices in a unique example of ritualism around audit. In examining standards to understand power in contemporary food governance, it is shown that retailers are drawn beyond standard-setting into certification and enforcement, that is characterized by a web of institutions and actors whose power to influence outcomes is uneven.

Impact and interest:

5 citations in Scopus
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2 citations in Web of Science®

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ID Code: 68196
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Audit, Governance, Private standards, Retailers, Third-party certification, Global agrifood system, 3rd-party certification, Food system, Safety, Countries, Economy, Chains, Grades
DOI: 10.1007/s10460-012-9414-6
ISSN: 0889-048X
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 Springer
Deposited On: 13 Mar 2014 23:13
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2014 22:01

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