“Follow the Money” and Reallocate It: Key Takeaways from UNGA 7822 September 2023
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.
Our latest blog features our Executive Director, Greg S Garret (pictured opposite) who reflects on his week in New York at UNGA.
It’s time to close out a productive week in NY on the sidelines of UNGA 78. I’ve been engaged in discussions and events on financing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 2, Zero Hunger, and SDG3, Good Health and Well-Being.
Much has been said this week – and a lot of data presented – demonstrating the lack of progress we’re making to achieve these SDGs, and there is real cause for concern. The silver lining however is that it’s not so much a lack of financing that is holding back progress, but a misallocation and prioritization of capital.
Consider my primary messages this week on the problem and some solutions:
- “People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to food.” Wendell Berry, American author, poet and environmental activist. While he said this many years ago and progress has been made, data show that his sentiments remain relevant in 2023.
- The estimated cost to human life due to unhealthy diets is $11 trillion.
- Approximately 70% of all sales from food manufacturers globally are derived from unhealthy food products. Meanwhile, modern food retail and grocer outlets are growing fastest in low- and middle-income markets from 40% to 300% annual growth depending on the country. This is resulting in a proliferation of processed foods which are high in fat, sugars, salts and often low in essential vitamins and minerals.
- ATNI wants to see at least half of all food & beverage sales derived from healthy products by 2030, contributing to healthy diets for all.
- We must act quickly – and especially the private sector – if we’re going to address the growing triple burden of malnutrition.
So what can be done to curb this negative trajectory? To facilitate transformative change, follow the money and shift it towards healthier foods:
- Promote ESG investing to include nutrition and health especially in low- and middle-income countries where ESG investment practice is taking hold. ATNI is working with 80 institutional investors and food company shareholders encouraging them to place nutrition at the forefront of investment strategies. It’s good for business. This new Kroll study shows that companies which are leaders in applying ESG strategies earned an average annual return of 12.9%, compared to an average 8.6% annual return earned by laggard companies. This represents an approximately 50% premium in terms of relative performance by top-rated ESG companies.
- Align on standards and metrics for nutrition. ATNI, which is part of the Good Food Finance Network, wants to ensure nutrition is systematically part of ESG investing disclosure and reporting. We will complete a nutrition materiality assessment shortly, and want to be part of a market shift so that the negative externalities of poor food are taken into account in the future.
- ATNI will continue to drive forward company improvements through our indexes. Next up in November is the launch of our India Nutrition Index ranking the top 20 food manufacturers in India on their nutrition policy, products and practice.
- We will also launch new company compacts that encourage clearer 2030 targets.
We remain optimistic that SDGs 2 and 3 can be achieved if all actors – in particular investors and the food industry — work towards these goals and a more conscience capitalism.
What might success in 2030 look like? Building on Berry’s quote above, it would be a world where people are fed by a food industry that considers health a priority and makes the necessary changes so that their products are more affordable and healthier for all.