Food investors call for mandatory nutrition and sustainability reporting

The UK government must introduce mandatory reporting of nutrition and sustainability metrics for the food sector, according to a coalition of investors.

The group, led by Rathbone Greenbank Investments and representing £3.8 trillion in assets under management or under advice, argued that a lack of published data on food industry practices is “hindering the ability of investors and other stakeholders to compare performance across the sector and accurately understand what progress is being made”.

New legislation should include a wide set of metrics, including sales of food and drink high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS), sales of protein by type, sales of fruit and vegetables, and food waste. It should cover large retailers, restaurants, caterers, wholesalers, manufacturers, and online food ordering platforms that have operations within the UK, the group explained in an open letter. The kind of data would help investors compare food businesses. 

The government should also consider “fiscal interventions and enhanced regulation”. “[…] well-designed regulation can create an essential enabling environment for businesses seeking to build long-term thinking and sustainability into their business models,” the investors wrote.

Some businesses are reporting voluntarily, as shown by the Food Foundation’s Plating up Progress work and ShareAction’s Healthy Markets initiative. However, there is a lack of consistency in how metrics are being reported and some sectors are lagging behind on voluntary reporting. 

Analysis from the Food Foundation shows that while five out of 11 UK supermarkets have now set targets for reporting on healthier food sales targets, only two report on the percentage of their protein sales that come from animal versus plant-based sources – a shift that is urgently needed for the UK to meet net-zero targets.

Henry Dimbleby’s national food strategy for England recommended the development of a consistent methodology for reporting on sales of healthy versus unhealthy foods, as well as defining the parameters for reporting on sales of fruit and vegetables and different protein sources, with a shift over time to setting sales-based or procurement-based targets. It also recommended the government facilitates the development of a shared database for relevant food data so that food businesses can access consistent and reliable environmental metrics.

The government said it would respond within six months to Dimbleby’s plan, which was published in July.

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