Multiple Stream Model of Policy and It’s Application to Tesco Packaging Policy

By John Dudovskiy

Multiple Stream Model developed by Kingdon (1984), on the basis of refining garbage can framework, represents an alternative approach to policy process and perceives it in terms of three different streams: a problem stream, policy stream to address the problem, and the political stream. According to this theoretical framework “the streams are usually independent, but windows of opportunity sometime open that allow for the streams to interact” (Crank, 2003, p.35).

First, the problem stream relates to the source of the issue that necessitates introduction of a policy. As it has been partially discussed above, the problem stream for Tesco packaging policy is directly related to increasing status of sustainability issues in media, and consequently consumers in UK and elsewhere becoming more sensitive towards the issues related to sustainable development.

Second, the policy stream involves evaluations and analysis of a wide range of policy ideas and proposals directed to the solution of the problem. In Tesco, the policy to be adopted as a response to the problem needed to balance the profitability of business operations with the creation of ‘green’ image fir the brand. In other words, Tesco strategic level management faced with the task of positioning the company as a ‘green’ in a cost effective manner.

Third, the political stream includes various elements such as relevant government legislation, the influence of various non-government organisations and pressure groups and others. It is important to mention that while UK government encourages multinational business such as Tesco to behave in a socially responsible manner, there is a lack of legislation that specifies the extent of ‘greenness’ businesses need to adhere to (Horrigan, 2010).

Therefore, Tesco possesses a great level of freedom in terms of government legislation when formulating its packaging policy. However, there are additional elements of political stream such as non-government organisations and environmental groups like Greenpeace that possess effective tools of impacting Tesco packaging policy.

Specifically, a wide range of such organisations can negatively influence Tesco’s profitability and long-term growth through attracting media attention to packaging or any other business practices engaged by Tesco that might fall below their standards of sustainable development.

Therefore, it can be stated that in formulating its packaging policy Tesco has to consider three main factors: relevant CSR policies of its main competitors, expectations and ‘norms’ of the main non-government organisations and environmental groups such as Greenpeace, and financial constraints associated with the policy.

In essence, Multiple Stream Model indicates that successful proposal and implementation of a policy depends upon the level of integration of all three streams discussed above. In other words, the issue of policy gaining the agenda status is subject to convergence of these three streams.

In the case study of Tesco in particular, it can be stated that the formulation and implementation of packaging policy has been done in a way that all of three streams of Multiple Stream Model have been addressed effectively. Namely, the problem stream has been addressed by dealing proactively with CSR aspect of the business, the policy stream has been dealt with effectively by summarising Tesco packaging policy into five clear and unambiguous points, and the political stream has also been addressed effectively by achieving positive media coverage of the policy.


Crank, J.P. (2003) “Imagining Justice” Elsevier

Horrigan., B. (2010) Corporate Social Responsibility in the 21st Century: Debates, Models and Practices Across Government, Law and Business, Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, UK