The three-quarters of food shopping are made through just four firms. Supermarkets’ claims on fulfilling their corporate social responsibility can not be measured in the absence of relevant benchmarks. There is greater need to bring the civil society organisations to the table with supermarkets to hold a discussion on social, environmental and ethical issues but supermarkets are not coming forward in good numbers to follow an approach where transparency and stakeholder interests are protected with the participation of civil society organisations. A number of reasons can be attributed to the supermarkets’ withdrawal from such initiatives the like of Race to the Top (RTTT) project whose objective was to set benchmarks taking into confidence the civil society organisations (RTTT Final Report).
Government intention to develop major performance indicators for the food sector created fear in the supermarket lobby of a new governance structure by selecting a successful RTTT. Supermarkets had not been forthcoming in providing data, which was crucial for partnering with society stakeholders. External data is costly because of expensive labour and methodological issues although crucial in showing change in comparison to supermarkets’ data showing company policies only (RTTT Final Report).
There was lack of staff time and technical know-how. The timing of pressurising the supermarket companies to bring transparency in data on environmental and social effects mismatched because of their disinterest in providing the information due to cost cutting measures to remain in competition with leading market giants (RTTT Final Report)
Another problem is the heterogeneous nature of the UK supermarket in terms of scale, ownership and customer base. Companies are wary of running such business initiatives that map the customer rather than the companies on sustainability of high animal-welfare food items (RTTT Final Report).