The ATNI Socials Blog is a series of personal commentaries to stimulate discussion on how to transform markets so that they provide more nutritious, affordable and sustainable foods. Our hope is to trigger understanding around the causes and the cures for access to nutrition.

Next up, the ATNI Socials are happy to introduce Elena Schmider, Researcher and former Communications Manager at the Access to Nutrition Initiative. Elena has worked in ATNI’s Investor Support team for nearly 2 years, gaining insight into how nutrition and health are fast climbing the agendas of responsible investors. 

Attention around the potential of financial levers to drive food systems transformation has mounted in recent years, as the business case for addressing malnutrition and diet-related disease becomes clear. Responsible investors have a key role to play in food systems transformation towards healthier, more sustainable diets. Yet, how much do we really know about how they are leveraging change?

I’ve had a glimpse at the world of responsible investment through my work at the Access to Nutrition Initiative (ATNI) supporting ATNI’s Investors in Nutrition and Health (AINH). We support a growing number of institutional investors who engage with food and beverage companies on the topic of nutrition. AINH currently consists of 80 investors, representing USD 19.9 trillion in assets under management (AUM), all of whom are signatories to the Investor Expectations on Nutrition, Diets and Health.

How responsible investors (such as those in AINH) drive private sector progress begins with where they choose to invest, and how they engage with the companies they invest in. There exists a number of responsible or sustainable investment strategies which investors can use to direct their investments, and to drive progress for healthy, sustainable diets at the company or sector level.

Investors’ approaches to addressing nutrition

These include:

  • ESG integration – the systematic and explicit inclusion of ESG factors, including health and nutrition, in financial analysis.
  • Negative/exclusionary screening – the exclusion of sectors, companies, countries etc. from a fund or portfolio based on factors considered not investible, including high levels of sugar content in products, for example.
  • Norms-based screening – screening of investments against minimum business standards based on international norms.
  • Positive/best-in-class screening – the investment in sectors, companies or projects selected for better ESG performance in comparison to industry peers.
  • Sustainability-themed investing – the investment in themes or assets that support sustainability goals, including the SDGs, for example.
  • Impact investing – investments made with the intention of generating positive, measurable social and environmental impact.
  • Engagement and shareholder action – also referred to as stewardship or active ownership, this is the active use of shareholder power to influence corporate behavior, for example, by direct engagement with companies or filing/co-filing shareholder proposals.


Although ATNI’s data is used by investors to support various responsible investment approaches, such as ESG integration, ATNI’s work with investors focuses on the last type of responsible investment strategy. Members of AINH commit to use their power as shareholders and bondholders to influence corporate behavior through direct engagement with investee companies, either in individual meetings with companies and/or through a collaborative engagement process. 


In doing this, they integrate the principles of the Investor Expectations on Nutrition, Diets and Health in their responsible investment approach.

Specifically, the group uses ATNI’s benchmarking tools to gauge how the companies they invest in fare on nutrition topics that pose a risk to public health, the economy at large, and/or the company’s financial performance.

The most material topics raised by investors during meetings with the food and beverage companies ATNI assesses include nutrition governance, responsible marketing, product healthiness, and lobbying, with a consistent ask of all companies for disclosure of percentage of revenues from sales of healthy products.

Through engagement with companies on these topics using ATNI data, AINH have played an important part driving companies to manufacture and market more nutritious and affordable foods.


Increasingly, we’re also seeing shareholders take action through filing resolutions – proposals submitted by shareholders of a company to be voted on at companies’ Annual General Meetings – urging a company’s board to take some form of action. Some have even used ATNI’s data to underpin the argumentation of the proposals.

Why do investors choose this form of action? I asked Frank Wagemans, Senior Engagement Specialist at Achmea Investment Management and Co-Chair of AINH, to explain:

“Shareholder resolutions are an escalation tool that can change [investors’] position at the table. For companies that are open and constructive to our feedback, they are not really needed. But for companies that are less receptive…resolutions can open negotiation with the company. Companies typically don’t want resolutions to appear on [shareholders’ voting] ballots, so they’re like a bargaining chip for investors.”


While most resolutions do not gain majority support from investors, those that receive 20-30% support do hold more weight with a company, as they can be re-filed the following year. This is also true for resolutions related to nutrition, as the topic is still growing in visibility among responsible investors. But this can change, says Frank.

“Five or six years ago, climate change-related resolutions did not get much support, but that’s changing. As topics become more visible to investors, resolutions can gain more support.”

As responsible investors become increasingly aware of the materiality of malnutrition and diet-related disease, they are taking more action through the approaches outlined above. ATNI believes fervently that investors are a key part of the process for transforming food systems towards healthy and sustainable diets. Certainly, investors’ engagement with the companies assessed in our Indexes has helped to drive progress in the food and beverage sector towards this end.


Moving forward, ATNI aims to see nutrition more systemically and routinely embedded in ESG investing. I am personally excited as ATNI seeks to transform markets for nutrition through our work with investors, and look forward to seeing momentum for nutrition and health continue grow amongst responsible investors so they can help shape our food systems in future.


If you want to know more about ATNI’s work with investors, or become a member of AINH, contact

ATNI’s Investors in Nutrition and Health

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