Why are ecological problems increasing when corporate sustainability practices are significantly growing? A planetary boundaries perspective of the Swedish food retail market’s sustainability reporting

Detta är en Kandidat-uppsats från Göteborgs universitet/Företagsekonomiska institutionen

Sammanfattning: Background and Problem: The environmental debate has increased in society for the lastcouple of years and the main focus has been on climate change and carbon dioxide emissions.The concern has led to an increase of sustainability practices among companies and newdirectives from policymakers. Despite the increased concern, the status of earth systems arestill worsening. The alarming status has been described in the research about planetaryboundaries.Purpose: The purpose of this research is to receive a better understanding of whatimprovements are necessary in order to achieve better ecological sustainability in theSwedish food retail market. More specifically, the research aims to examine to what extentthe two planetary boundaries biosphere integrity and biogeochemical flows are integrated inthe selected companies ecological sustainability information.Method and Theory: The sustainability reports and the alternative sources were analysedthrough the consolidated interrogation model (CONI), which combines both the quantitativeand the qualitative method. The two theories, impression management and stakeholdertheory, are presented to explain underlying forces affecting the companies’ operation.Information about sustainability reporting, the Swedish law and the Global ReportingInitiative, are included to provide background information about mandatory demands andvoluntary guidelines. Lastly, previous research is presented to provide the reader with anoverview of earlier findings concerning the topic of the planetary boundaries.Findings: The quantitative results show that all companies cover at least one of the twoplanetary boundaries to some extent. The qualitative results indicate that there is a lack ofnumeric measurements and to some extent a lack of explanatory descriptions of theboundaries. The two examined boundaries are not considered to be cared for in a reasonableproportion to the food industry’s severe and alarming impacts, especially when comparingfindings between the two boundaries and the alternative category climate change. The resultscan be explained by what the media highlights, since such information leads to what isconsidered to be general knowledge concerning ecological issues. If it is considered generalknowledge, the possibility that stakeholders will put pressure on the companies to act on thematter increases. Furthermore, the findings show that sustainability information can bepresented in a favorable way that influences stakeholders perception of corporatesustainability achievements.

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