New Food Foundation report calls on food industry to set and report on health & sustainability targets
A new report entitled “PLATING UP PROGRESS 2020: - Pathways for a healthy, just and sustainable food system during a global pandemic” has been launched by The Food Foundation.
In light of the report’s findings, the Food Foundation is calling on food businesses to set targets for shifting revenue towards producing and selling healthier and more sustainable food. The Food Foundation is urging for reporting on these targets to be made mandatory by policy makers and for investors to include performance against these targets as part of their engagement and investment strategy.
The report and accompanying dashboard maps out the current commitments, targets and performance reporting of 26 major UK food businesses.
The new report finds that only 4 of the 11 supermarkets have public targets on either the percentage of food sales that are healthy, or for increases in sale of fruit, veg or plant-based protein products.
The analysis does however highlight leadership examples in the field, including Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer’s commitment to reporting the percentage of sales that comes from healthy products. Tesco’s leadership also aims to halve the environmental impact of the average shopping basket, and Lidl reports a 20% increase in sales of veg between 2017-2019.
Below shows how the supermarkets scored on 10 key topics. Full analysis and comparison diagrams are available on the dashboard here.
Restaurants & caterers
The report finds that, of the major restaurants and caterers analysed, only 3 out of 15 have public targets or data available on either the percentage of food sales that are healthy, or report on fruit and veg sales. None of the companies have clear published targets or data for increasing sales of plant-based proteins, although several are introducing new menu options as alternatives to meat.
The report highlights both the opportunity for an economic recovery that could accelerate a transition to health and sustainable food, and the risk that the economic downturn could hinder this. It states the need for financial incentives for companies to invest in change towards a greater focus on healthy and sustainable foods. It notes that some of this change can be driven by consumer demand, but governments need to legislate to help get the parameters and incentives implemented too.
The Food Foundation says investors need to introduce expectations on food businesses to set targets for, and report on, sales of healthy and sustainable food if they are to understand the actual risks and opportunities that apply to these companies. Because only the minority of these companies have revenue or sales-weighted target the Food Foundation says that investors cannot reasonably assess whether they are exposed to risks such as government action on obesity or climate change, or risks associated with the supply of foods more exposed to environmental shocks. In the same way as we would expect energy companies to set targets for renewable energy, food companies need to set targets for healthy and sustainable food. , says the Foundation.
The report provides a set of “asks” for investors to use in this engagement with companies and additionally gives examples of where sustainability performance has been linked to capital provision. Investors need to explore innovative ways that they can attach clear conditions of sustainability performance to capital investment, especially as the economy looks to respond to Covid-19.
Anna Taylor, executive director, The Food Foundation said: “The challenges we face are formidable and understanding the progress food companies are making and what targets they are setting is key. We need clear direction from both investors and government to demand that companies report on these metrics if we are to see lasting change and if those companies with more ambitious health and sustainability commitments are to flourish.”