One of the popular definitions of policy reads as “a statement by government – at whatever level – of what it intends to do about a public problem” (Birkland, 2010, p.9). Accordingly, the issues of policy process are mainly discussed in the literature in relation to government policies.
Tesco packaging policy is based on the following five key principles: being fit for purpose, using the lightest materials in terms of weight, using materials from the most sustainable sources, maximising the opportunities for recycling and recovery, and designed in a way that the lowest carbon impact can be achieved (Waste and packaging, 2012, online).
According to Peters (2009) the Stages Model of Policy Process consists of the following stages: issue emergence, agenda setting, alternative selection, enactment, implementation and evaluation. All of these stages can be analysed in an individual manner in relation to the packaging policy of Tesco.
Issue emergence of the policy process is an initial stage when specific problems are identified that need to be dealt with. Issues that require the introduction of relevant policies may arise fuelled by a wide range of reasons such as disasters, or any other dramatic changes.
In terms of Tesco packaging policy this stage corresponds with increasing role of corporate social responsibility (CSR) aspect of the business in general, and the level of ‘greennes’ in particular. In other words, defined as responsibilities of business towards society apart from profit maximisation (Blowfield and Murray, 2008), CSR has emerged as a crucial aspect of the business to be dealt with by Tesco.
The agenda setting stage of policy process corresponds with the issue growing to an extent that it requires immediate and due attention. It has been stated that “agenda setting occurs when the key players focus on an issue problem, which can be brought to attention by a crisis, a change in a leading indicator, or publicizing by the media” (Polifko, 2009, p.164), and the issue can no longer be neglected at this stage.
For the case of Tesco in particular, agenda setting stage for its packaging policy occurred when the issues of environmental sustainability draw increasing amount of attention from the media and the activities of various non-government organisations. Moreover, a new tendency evolved, whereby companies in UK, including Tesco competitors started to adopt CSR as an important source of competitive advantage, thus the formulation of environmentally friendly packaging policy became a matter of immediate necessity for Tesco.
Furthermore, an argument proposed by the Local Government Association (LGA) in Britain, a cross-party organisation that represents councils in England that supermarkets should be made to pay for the recycling expenses of products sold by them (Environmental Leader, 2009, online) further contributed to the status of packaging issue for Tesco to become urgent.
This stage is followed by the alternative selection that involves the selection of policy tools in order to address the problem. In the case of Tesco, the alternative selection stage of packaging policy formulation related to the degree to which the company was willing to become ‘green’, i.e. it related to the extent to which Tesco management was willing to compromise profitability in favour of becoming ‘green’.
The policy process stage of enactment involves the law being passed or regulation issued. Accordingly, the five key principles of Tesco packaging policy has been decided to consist of being fit for purpose, using the lightest materials in terms of weight, using materials from the most sustainable sources, maximising the opportunities for recycling and recovery, and designed in a way that the lowest carbon impact can be achieved (Waste and packaging, 2012, online).
During the policy process stage of implementation, “the chosen alternative is budgeted for, set into motion through hiring responsible staff and developing regulations, and, in general, action is taken to put the new law into effect” (Hoefer, 2011, p.12).
According to the policy, the five principles outlined above have been implemented by Tesco and this fact has been communicated to all stakeholders of the company in general, and to customers in particular with the implementation of various communication channels for advertisement purposes.
The last policy process stage is evaluation, which is associated with the assessment of outcome. This specific policy process stage represents a major point of difference between public policies and policies introduced by private entities such as Tesco. Namely, unlike the outcome evaluation of the majority of public policies which is deemed to complex (Denhardt, 2010), policy evaluation for Tesco is more straightforward, because it is only assessed through its contribution to the level of revenues generated by the company and its impact upon the brand image.
It is important to acknowledge that the Stages Model of Policy Process is associated with a set of drawbacks. First of all, it has been noted that “no real-life policy-making process takes such neatly organised steps” (Raadschelders, 2003, p.254), and in reality several steps outlined in the model are taken in a simultaneous manner.
Moreover, additional points of criticism the Stages Model of Policy Process attracts include assumed high degree of rationality, offering prescriptive pretensions instead of being descriptive, and being highly legalistic in approach (Aykin, 2007).
Policy process efficiency can be defined as “the degree to which there is savings of the amount of resources (for example time, costs, and effort) required for attainment of the goal” (Nabukenya et al, 2008, p.229) and it needed to be addressed in relation to Tesco packaging policy in order to provide this discussion with a greater scope. However, there is no official data available regarding the manner in which resources have been utilised by Tesco in order to develop and utilise its packaging policy.
Aykin, N. (2007) “Usability and Internationalisation” Springer Publications
Birkland, T.A. (2010) “An Introduction to the Policy Process: Theories, Concepts, and Models of Public Policy Making” 3rd edition, M.E. Sharpe
Blowfield, M., & Murray, A. (2008). Corporate Responsibility: a critical introduction, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, UK
Denhardt, R.B. (2010) “Theories of Public Organisation” Cengage Learning
Environmental Leader (2012) “Should Supermarkets Pay Recycling Costs For Products Sold?” Availabel at: http://www.environmentalleader.com/2009/02/19/should-supermarkets-pay-recycling-costs-for-products-sold/ Accessed May 6, 2012
Hoefer, R. (2011) “Policy Creation and Evaluation: Understanding Welfare Reform in the United States” Oxford University Press
Polifko, K.A. (2009) “The Practice Environment of Nursing: Issues and Trends” Cengage Learning
Nabukenya, J., Bommel, P. & Proper, H.A. (2008) “Repeatable Collaboration Processes for Mature Organisational Policy Making” in Groupware: Design, Implementation and Use, 14th International Workshop, editor Briggs, R.O.
Peters, B.G. (2009) “American Public Policy: Promise and Performance” CQ Press
Raadschelders, J.C.N. (2003) “Government: A Public Administration Perspective” M.E. Sharpe
Waste and packaging (2012) Tesco plc, Available at: http://www.tescoplc.com/index.asp?pageid=112 Accessed May 10, 2012