Investors call for greater ambition on food reporting

Investors managing £6trn in assets have called on the UK government to commit to mandatory health and sustainability standards for food companies.

The leaders of the investor group, which includes Rathbone Greenbank Investments and LGIM and is supported by the Food Foundation, have welcomed the government’s commitment to improve food industry reporting standards but say the proposals contained in this week’s food strategy white paper do not go far enough.

In particular, they argue the government should insist on mandatory not voluntary reporting mechanisms, which they warn could potentially lead to weaker reporting standards and inconsistent metrics, making it difficult to compare and track progress both between businesses and across the industry.

Mandatory reporting should at a minimum include reporting of sales of fruit and vegetables, plant and animal-based proteins and HFSS (high in fat, sugar, salt) foods. The investors said this would help them understand the direct and systemic risks companies face and facilitate the movement of capital toward companies that are supporting the transition to a sustainable and healthy food system.

They offered strong support for the food strategy proposal for a multi-stakeholder ‘food data transparency partnership’ to agree what should be reported and said the “unique long-term perspective of the investment community should form a central pillar” of the partnership.

“There are many risks and opportunities facing the food sector which are linked to issues such as health and nutrition and environmental impacts,” said Sophie Lawrence, stewardship and engagement lead at Rathbone Greenbank Investments, the original investor leading the coalition. “We also recognise the urgent need to improve health outcomes and address rising food insecurity and inequality, and we cannot drive change in our portfolios without consistent, high quality and meaningful information on the nutritional and environmental performance of companies.”

Investors are taking an increasingly keen interest in how the food system can deliver better health and environmental outcomes, including by collaborating with NGOs to compel companies like Tesco and Unilever to set ambitious targets.

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