The UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights invites all institutional investors to feed into its global UNGPs 10+ project, which is taking stock of implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to date and…
On July 1st 2020, ATNI released the Investor Expectations on Nutrition, Diets and Health. Created in consultation with institutional investors, they are intended to support and spur greater investor focus on global nutrition challenges, already serious prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and now substantially heightened.
Even before the new coronavirus emerged, the world was way off track in reducing levels of malnutrition and achieving the WHO 2025 targets or SDGs relating to health and nutrition. Obesity and diet-related diseases were known to affect nearly 2 billion people globally, and impose serious health and socio-economic impacts on individuals, communities and nations. Those who suffer from these conditions have been more susceptible to severe cases of Covid-19 and died in disproportionate numbers. Moreover, the coronavirus pandemic is predicted to nearly double the levels of those facing acute hunger; as the economic downturn and job losses materialise across the world, the ability of tens of millions of people to afford healthy, balanced diets, with sufficient vitamins and minerals, will be further compromised. Turning the tide for the 2 billion people already undernourished and lacking vital micronutrients will be made even more difficult.
High levels of diet-related disease impair countries’ economic growth, take up substantial proportions of their healthcare budgets, reduce productivity among workers across all sectors and impose serious burdens on individuals and families, particularly those on low incomes. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, it was estimated by the OECD that its 52 members countries would spend on average 8.4% of their health budgets to treat the consequences of overweight between 2020 and 2050. The associated average reduction to GDP due to lower employment and reduced productivity was predicted to be 3.3%. The expected economic costs of undernutrition, in terms of lost national productivity and economic growth prior to Covid-19, ranged from 2% to 3% of GDP in some countries, up to 11% of GDP in Africa and Asia each year. It is likely to be much higher now.
It is in institutional investors’ interests to encourage companies in all sectors to support their employees to eat healthily and be active, so as to reduce levels of obesity and chronic disease and the related absenteeism and poor productivity, as well as related corporate healthcare costs. Adults with at least one chronic disease associated with being overweight are 8% less likely to be employed the following year. When they have a job, they are up to 3.4% more likely to be absent or less productive.
Food and beverage companies that do not effectively address global nutrition challenges by improving the nutritional quality of their products, marketing and labelling them responsibly, and making them affordable and accessible, face a number of potential consequences: falling demand for their less healthy products and the associated losses of revenue and market share as well as the financial impacts of regulation and fiscal measures, including sugar taxes, marketing restrictions and strict food labelling requirements being introduced in many markets. Those companies that manage these risks effectively, and the business opportunities associated with consumers’ and governments' increasing awareness of the need to eat more healthily, have the potential to protect and enhance shareholder value.