ATNI’s Collaborative Engagement Analysis Report outlines the impact of corporate shareholder engagement19 April 2023
As providers of capital to food and beverage corporations, institutional investors can play a significant role in promoting better corporate performance on material issues such as health and nutrition. Corporate engagement, or stewardship, is a key responsible investment strategy, whereby investors use their shareholder (and bondholder) power to influence corporate behavior. As such, investors are a key stakeholder for the Access to Nutrition Initiative (ATNI) – as detailed in one of our latest blogs.
To accelerate private sector progress for nutrition, and with the specific goal of ensuring that 50% of packaged food products contribute to sustainable and affordable healthy diets by 2030, ATNI has supported ATNI’s Investors in Nutrition and Health (AINH) in their corporate engagement activities with global food and beverage manufacturers.
Following the release of the Global Index 2021, 53 of the 81 AINH members started engaging collaboratively with the publicly listed companies assessed in ATNI’s Global Index 2021, and later, the US Index 2022. This subset of investors cumulatively manages $15 trillion in assets, accounting for a staggering 12% of the global asset management industry.
Read the 2021-23 Engagement Analysis Report
Between July 2021 and February 2023, these investors targeted 20 global food and beverage manufacturers (Ajinomoto, BRF, Campbell’s, China Mengniu, Coca-Cola, ConAgra, Danone, General Mills, Grupo Bimbo, Kellogg’s, Keurig Dr Pepper, Kraft Heinz, Meiji, Mondelez, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Suntory, Tingyi, Unilever and Yili) and engaged with 19 of them (all but Tingyi) on the topic of nutrition.
During this 20-month long engagement period, investors held 34 meetings with the companies, and made critical asks for improved performance across the 4 pillars of the Investor Expectations on Nutrition, Diets and Health: Governance, Strategy (products, accessibility and affordability, responsible marketing, BMS marketing, and labelling), Lobbying and Transparency. Companies have made 56 ‘confirmed updates’ to investors (confirmed updates are defined as new commitments since the ATNI research was published.
Transparency was discussed in every single meeting with the companies, indicating how important transparent disclosure of corporate activities is to investors. ‘Products’ – which encompasses product development and (re)formulation, innovation and R&D, as well as definitions of product healthiness – was the second most discussed topic (covered in 94% of meetings). This illustrates the materiality of the healthiness of companies’ product portfolios to investors, who weigh risks related to regulation of unhealthy products against opportunities arising from increasing consumer demand for healthier alternatives. Similarly, the greatest share (41%) of ‘confirmed updates’ made by companies to investors pertain to ‘Products’ as evidenced, for instance by the following (this is a non-exhaustive list):
- 5 companies commit to benchmark their own nutrient profiling model (NPM) against external and recognized NPMs (in some cases the Health Star Rating system, in other cases other systems)
- 3 companies are in the process of setting a target to increase the sales/revenues/volume sold deriving from healthy products (using their own definition of healthy)
- 4 companies are updating and strengthening their sugar, salt and/or fat reduction targets
As the macroeconomic costs related to malnutrition become increasingly evident (poor diets are linked to one in five deaths globally) and as pressure mounts on investors to better define the impacts of their investments on society and the environment – for instance through recent financial markets regulation in Europe such as the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation – investors’ attention to social issues including health and nutrition is expected to rise.
ATNI’s own research and engagement – coupled with investors’ collaborative engagement efforts – has shifted practice in the majority of food and beverage companies within the Global and US Indexes, as evidenced by the 56 confirmed updates made by companies to investors through this collaborative investor engagement.
ATNI looks forward to continuing to work with investors globally to drive better market performance for healthy and affordable diets.