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Consumer influence on internet-based corporate communication of environmental activities: the UK food sector

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Purpose - Aims to demonstrate whether consumers influence provision of environmental communications by the UK food sector, challenging the view that such reporting is principally targeted at institutional stakeholders and shareholders. Design/methodology/approach - Web site research was undertaken on a sample of 43 manufacturers and 16 retailers on provision of environmental information of a policy (intent) or reporting (action-based) nature, analysed using chi-square techniques assessing the significance of turnover, public listing, brand-name companies, consumer-goods companies and media allegations on the provision of environmental information. Findings - Turnover, public listing, brand-names, consumer-focus and media allegations all affected provision of environmental information by UK food companies, suggesting that greater consumer-focus leads to the perception that provision of such information into the public/consumer domain is important. Research limitations/implications - The sample size selected was relatively small, and findings were based on the assumption that the internet is an accurate and appropriate means of conveying environmental information to the consumer. Further research could test such findings with a larger sample and a consumer survey to confirm interest in corporate environmental information provision. Practical implications - There are important implications for UK food companies considering environmental actions and communications, particularly for brand-name- or consumer-focused companies. Reporting is seen as a necessary defence but may also offer opportunities for differentiated competitive advantage. Originality/value - This paper is very valuable in challenging the traditional view that corporate environmental reporting is largely of interest to shareholders and other institutional stakeholders. It demonstrates the need for brand-name- and consumer-focused food companies to communicate their environmental performance, whether for competitive advantage or as a defensive strategy.

Keywords: Brands; Communication; Consumers; Corporate Image; Internet

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2005-10-01

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