THE ACCOUNTABILITY OF CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IN THE SEAFOOD INDUSTRY – A FOCUS ON TRANSPARENCY TOOLS
Packer, Helen Meredith
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This dissertation explores corporate social responsibility (CSR) accountability and practices in the wild seafood industry, focusing on mid-chain seafood companies. Mid-chain companies, especially large ones, are thought to play an influential role in dealing with the social and environmental impacts of fisheries. The Sustainable Seafood Movement (SSM) emerged as an approach to hold seafood companies accountable for their social and environmental impacts through CSR using social and market mechanisms (e.g., campaigns, eco-labels). This research examines the CSR accountability systems developed by the SSM and the CSR activities these systems lead to among mid-chain seafood companies. To do so, I critically examine three elements of accountability systems: 1) standards; 2) information and monitoring systems and 3) sanctions and rewards. I also examine the CSR practices these accountability systems lead to. To do so, Chapter 2 provides a desktop review of the accountability systems developed by the SSM. Chapter 3 and 4 take a deep dive into two kinds of information and monitoring systems, with Chapter 3 looking at CSR reports and Chapter 4 looking at traceability systems. Chapter 3 also provides an analysis of the leading CSR practices in the seafood industry. Finally, Chapter 5 reflects on the role of social networks and social capital in improving CSR accountability in the seafood industry, using the example of Fishery Improvement Projects. Chapter 6 synthesizes the findings and concludes with opportunities to improve CSR accountability. I conclude that the SSM has made companies more accountable for their social and environmental impacts. However, the extent to which CSR accountability mechanisms and CSR practices can contribute to social and environmental improvements is constrained due to power asymmetries, poor information systems, weak sanctions, risks of co-optation between NGOs and companies, and a market for sustainability that is limited to certain parts of the world’s market and consumers. Therefore, I suggest that improving CSR accountability and practices will require 1) stronger social capital between stakeholders; 2) more participatory and democratic processes to design CSR standards and policies; 3) pluralistic forms of accountability that are not only focused on market leverage points but also financial and regulatory leverage points and; 4) integrated reporting.