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Investors: Key Agents For Change In Business Practices On Animal Welfare

Posted on February 2, 2017 at 12:35 PM

Spare a thought for business. In a world where guessing what's next on the agenda from those in political leadership becomes a major daily past-time, it must be hard to stay focused on what the consumer public's concerns are - and keep up with them, or be seen to do so.


Starbucks was very quick to say it would hire refugees, as international public outrage became ever more vocal around U.S. President Donald Trumps actions.


Since then, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Uber (all technology firms inspired by and reliant on immigration) have spoken out - as have those in other sectors. But there are also other public concerns that often don't make the headlines but are nevertheless very real for consumers.


Animal welfare is one of them. So it's worth noting that in the grim last days of January, the global Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) report was published. Now in its fifth year, the BBFAW provides an annual review of how 99 of the world’s leading food companies are managing risks and opportunities associated with farm animal welfare.


Starbucks - along with Domino's Pizza Group plc and Restaurant Brands International-  is near the bottom of these rankings.

 


On the other hand, 13 companies occupy leadership positions in the Benchmark’s top two tiers. "These companies demonstrate strong commitments to farm animal welfare and have established management systems and processes" says the report. They include Coop Group (Switzerland), Cranswick, Marks & Spencer, Migros, Noble Foods and Waitrose in Tier 1, and BRF, Cargill, Co-op (UK), Greggs, McDonald’s, Tesco and Unilever in Tier 2.


The report was compiled in collaboration with investment firm Coller Capital and leading animal welfare organisations Compassion in World Farming and World Animal Protection.


The good news is that investor pressure works - 73% of companies have now published farm welfare policies , compared to just 46% in 2012. And 65% of companies have set and published targets on animal welfare, compared to just 26% in 2012. That's a fairly rapid rate of progress.


 "Currently, 13 companies occupy leadership positions in the Benchmark’s top two tiers. These companies demonstrate strong commitments to farm animal welfare and have established management systems and processes. They include Coop Group (Switzerland), Cranswick, Marks & Spencer, Migros, Noble Foods and Waitrose in Tier 1, and BRF, Cargill, Co-op (UK), Greggs, McDonald’s, Tesco and Unilever in Tier 2" says the report (my emphasis).


“With 26 companies moving up at least one tier since 2015, there is a clear indication that the food industry is finally starting to treat farm animal welfare as an important business issue” said Nicky Amos, BBFAW Executive Director.


“From farms to fast food chains, global investors want well managed, forward-thinking food companies. The Benchmark is an essential tool to help investors find such corporate leaders, as a company’s disclosure of farm animal welfare practices offers a valuable insight into the wider quality of corporate management" said Jeremy Coller, Founder of Coller Capital and the FAIRR (Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return) Initiative.


“It’s very encouraging that 26 companies have risen up the Benchmark this year. That suggests a critical mass is building in the food sector to improve farm animal welfare management practices. The market is changing rapidly with consumers demanding higher welfare standards, regulators introducing tougher laws in areas such as antibiotic use, and investors driving change through new initiatives like FAIRR” he added.


(The Benchmark is the first global measure of farm animal welfare management, policy commitment and disclosure in food companies and 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).

Categories: Investors, ESG, Governance