Seven major European and North American institutional investors, under the auspices of the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare, are calling on global food companies to improve their management and oversight of farm animal welfare.
In the first initiative of its kind, major food companies are being encouraged by investors to improve their performance on farm animal welfare. The investors – Aviva Investors, BNP Paribas Investment Partners, Coller Capital, Ecclesiastical Investment Management, NEI Investments, Rathbone Greenbank Investments and Schroders – representing a combined total of over £980bn (€1.3trn) in assets under management are working together to encourage food companies to strengthen their management systems and processes on farm animal welfare.
The investor engagement is based on the findings of the third annual Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (as reported in Responsible Investor in February 2015), which evaluated the farm animal welfare management, policy commitment and disclosure in food companies of 80 global food companies.
The Benchmark report identified 40 companies – including Associated British Foods, Burger King, Carrefour, JD Wetherspoon, Mars, Mondeléz International, Starbucks and Whitbread – who provided little or no evidence that they recognised farm animal welfare as a business issue or that that the risks and opportunities associated with farm animal welfare were being effectively managed by the company. The investors supporting this initiative have written to each company setting out their views on the company’s performance and suggesting priority areas for action and improvement.
These investors are also writing to the ten companies – Coop Group (Switzerland), Cooperative Food (UK), Cranswick, J Sainsbury, Marks & Spencer, McDonalds, Migros, Noble Foods, Unilever and Waitrose – that the Benchmark considered to have well developed farm animal welfare management systems and processes.
These letters are seen as sending an important signal to companies that good performance (whether on farm animal welfare or on other sustainability-related issues) is recognised and valued by investors.The investors will be following up their letters with direct company engagements and will use the annual Benchmark report to monitor company progress. The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare Secretariat will support the engagement by providing data and information to the participating investors, and tracking the progress being made by the companies covered by the engagement.
As a final reflection, the fact that seven major institutional investors are engaging with companies on farm animal welfare is hugely encouraging. It shows that the investment industry is waking up to the risks and the opportunities that farm animal welfare presents to companies in the food sector.
It sends a clear signal to major food companies that investors recognise farm animal welfare as an important business risk that needs to be managed effectively. Of equal importance, it shows that investors see farm animal welfare as a potential future source of business opportunity and growth, and that they recognise those companies that are most likely to benefit from these opportunities.
Nicky Amos is the programme director to the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare and Rory Sullivan is expert adviser to the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare.
For further information on the investor collaboration, contact Nicky Amos.
The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) is the first global measure of farm animal welfare management, policy commitment and disclosure in food companies. It is designed for use by investors, companies, NGOs and other stakeholders interested in understanding the relative performance of food companies in this area.
More information on the programme can be found here.*
The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare is supported by Compassion in World Farming, World Animal Protection and Coller Capital.