Recent studies have identified parents and children as two target groups
whom Big Food hopes to positively influence through its corporate social
responsibility (CSR) strategies. The current preliminary study aimed to gain an
in-depth understanding of parents and children’s awareness and interpretation of
Big Food’s CSR strategies to understand how CSR shapes their beliefs about
Community-based qualitative semi-structured interviews.
New South Wales, Australia.
Parents (n 15) and children aged 8–12 years (n 15).
Parents and children showed unprompted recognition of CSR activities
when shown McDonald’s and Coca-Cola brand logos, indicating a strong level of
association between the brands and activities that target the settings of children.
When discussing CSR strategies some parents and most children saw value in the
activities, viewing them as acts of merit or worth. For some parents and children,
the companies’ CSR activities were seen as a reflection of the company’s moral
attributes, which resonated with their own values of charity and health. For others,
CSR strategies were in conflict with companies’ core business. Finally, some also
viewed the activities as harmful, representing a deceit of the public and a
smokescreen for the companies’ ultimately unethical behaviour.
A large proportion of participants valued the CSR activities, signalling
that denormalising CSR to sever the strong ties between the community and Big
Food will be a difficult process for the public health community. Efforts to gain
public acceptance for action on CSR may need greater levels of persuasion to gain
public support of a comprehensive and restrictive approach.