The government has criticised the food industry for failing to take corporate social responsibility (CSR) seriously, but it will not legislate on company ethics.
Lord Whitty, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs minister for CSR, told a Westminster Diet & Health Forum that while trade associations often sign up to ethical, legal, commercial and public expectations, their member firms do not perform well.
Whitty cited the industry's response to obesity, nutrition labelling and energy reduction targets as evidence of failure.
Friends of the Earth (FoE) also said the voluntary approach to CSR has failed. It is pushing for new European laws to ensure greater transparency in company reporting and fairer prices for traders in less developed countries. Only 2--3% of companies report on CSR globally, it said.
Meanwhile, MP Linda Perham is sponsoring a bill to make CSR compulsory in the UK.
CSR is moving up the finance agenda, said law firm Eversheds, However, partner Steven Francis questioned whether making it a legal requirement was the best way to proceed.