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.

View at publisher


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:

7 citations in Scopus
4 citations in Web of Science®
Search Google Scholar™

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

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

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page