'Sustainability does not quite get the attention it deserves': synergies and tensions in the sustainability frames of Australian food policy actors

Helen Trevena, Jenny Claire Kaldor, Shauna M Downs
Public Health Nutrition 2015, 18 (13): 2323-32

OBJECTIVE: The development of food policy is strongly influenced by the understanding and position actors adopt in their 'framing' of sustainability. The Australian Government developed a National Food Plan (2010-2013). In public consultations on the National Food Plan Green Paper, the government sought stakeholders' views on sustainability. The present study examined the way in which the food industry and civil society organizations framed sustainability in their submissions to the Green Paper.

DESIGN: Submissions by food industry actors and civil society organizations were analysed using a framing matrix that examined positioning, drivers, underlying principles and policy solutions related to sustainability. Submissions were open coded and subsequently organized based on themes within the framing matrix.

SETTING: Australia.

SUBJECTS: One hundred and twenty-four written submissions (1420 pages).

RESULTS: While submissions from industry and civil society organizations often framed sustainability similarly, there were also major differences. Civil society organizations were more likely to make the link between the food supply and population health, while industry was more likely to focus on economic sustainability. Both viewed consumer demand as a driver of sustainability, welcomed the idea of a whole-of-government approach and stressed the need for investment in research and development to improve productivity and sustainable farming practices.

CONCLUSIONS: The meaning of sustainability shifted throughout the policy process. There are opportunities for creating shared value in food policy, where the health, environment and economic dimensions of sustainability can be compatible. However, despite pockets of optimism there is a need for a shared vision of sustainability if Australia is to have a food policy integrating these dimensions.

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