Investors call for mandatory reporting in food sector

£2.8trn investor group responds to UK government's National Food Strategy

Rathbone Greenbank Investments, Aviva Investors and Newton Investment Management are among nine investors and groups, representing £2.8trn in assets under management, calling on the UK government to make food reporting standards mandatory.

In 2019, then Defra secretary of state Michael Gove commissioned the National Food Strategy to review the country’s food system. Its second part was published last week, in response to which UK prime minister Boris Johnson said he would not support higher taxes for salt and sugar.

But investors are asking the government to go further by implementing mandatory reporting for food sector companies, and considering fiscal intervention and enhanced regulation to promote sustainability.

Kate Elliot, head of ethical, sustainable and impact research at Rathbone Greenbank Investments, said: “The food system is a major driver of climate change and biodiversity loss. At the same time, the incidence of overweight and obesity – a key risk factor in cases of severe Covid-19 – is rising across the world and awareness is growing of labour rights concerns in global food chains.

“A key challenge for investors has been the lack of consistent, high quality and meaningful information on the nutrition and environmental performance of companies within the food sector. While there are examples of good practice in individual disclosures, a lack of common metrics means investors are often comparing apples and pears and we are limited in our ability to direct capital toward the companies which are taking a proactive and leading approach to sustainability issues. We therefore welcome the recommendation of clear and consistent mandatory reporting requirements for companies in the food sector.”

In May a group of investors filed a shareholder resolution with Tesco, asking the food giant to increase the proportion of its sales from healthier products to 65% by 2025 and set out a strategy for how it will achieve this, which it has now done. This was thought to be the first health-based shareholder resolution filed at a FTSE 100 company, marking an increased focus on health-based concerns this year.

Full list of signatories of the letter to Johnson:

  • Rathbone Greenbank Investments
  • Aviva Investors
  • Castlefield Investment Partners LLP
  • EOS at Federated Hermes (on behalf of its stewardship clients)
  • Guy’s & St Thomas’ Foundation
  • Newton Investment Management
  • ShareAction
  • The Food Foundation 
  • Legal and General Investment Management


Natasha Turner

Natasha is global editor at ESG Clarity, part of Mark Allen Financial, and has been a financial journalist for seven years. She has been shortlisted for Story of the Year and Investment Journalist of the...