Food for thought: building a healthier food system, Rathbone Greenbank Investment’s 25th Annual Investor Day

Each year, Rathbone Greenbank Investments (Greenbank) brings together clients, partners and other responsible investment enthusiasts to explore and discuss a different environmental or social topic.

3 May 2022

Building on the success of last year’s event – which explored the topic of financing a just transition to net zero – 2022’s Investor Day will take a closer look at building a healthier food system.

Good health is important to us all, but in the UK we are facing a health crisis as obesity rates grow, food inequality rises, and millions of people’s lives are limited by their ill-health.

Rathbone Greenbank Investment’s 25th annual Investor Day – taking place on Wednesday 15 June – will explore the state of health and nutrition in the UK, the role that the food and drinks industry plays in shaping public health, and how investors can help create positive change.

By bringing together a panel of high-profile speakers from the investment, sustainability and food sectors, our Investor Day offers a chance for us to share knowledge across industries, and for our clients to contribute to meaningful discussion of this vital topic.

Why health and nutrition?

Good health underpins the UK’s economic resilience and prosperity, making it a topic of key importance to investors. This has been brought into sharp focus over the last two years as the Covid-19 pandemic has taken its toll. In 2020 alone, UK GDP declined by 9.7%, reinforcing the importance of public health on the economy, and supporting Greenbank’s choice to make health and wellbeing a priority engagement project for this year.

At a macro level, poor health represents a systemic risk to our economy. As obesity rates rise, so too does government spending on public health and the treatment of obesity-related illnesses. In fact, current figures estimate the cost of obesity to wider society at £27 billion.

For businesses, poor health and nutrition pose direct and indirect risks. There are clear direct risks to food and drinks companies from regulatory intervention (such as the upcoming restrictions to promotions of unhealthy foods), but businesses could also be at risk of litigation, reputational damage and decreased sales associated with providing unhealthy food products.

Driving change through investment

Investors have a key role to play in driving forward a healthier and more sustainable food system, from investing in initiatives that promote better health and nutrition, to engaging with companies directly.

The starting point for this is the disclosure of information. There is a lack of consistent, high quality and meaningful information on the nutrition and environmental performance of companies within the food sector. This makes it challenging for investors to compare performance and to identify companies in need of support or intervention. To address these issues, Greenbank (working closely with the Food Foundation and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation) recently led an investor letter to the UK Government in support of the National Food Strategy’s recommendation to introduce mandatory reporting for food sector companies.

We have also seen success through direct engagement, working with ShareAction’s Healthy Markets investor coalition to engage with companies through their Annual General Meetings. This type of engagement saw great success last year with a resolution against Tesco resulting in changes to their healthy product line offering.

We also enhance our activity and increase the scale of engagement we can undertake through strong partnerships with the Access to Nutrition Initiative and Plating up Progress Initiative.

Investor Day speakers

The event will be chaired by Baroness Rosie Boycott, Crossbench peer and Chair of London Food.

Our other speakers are:

Professor Corinna Hawkes, Director of the Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London

Judith Batchelar OBE, Director - Food Matters International

Henry Dimbleby, Author of the National Food Strategy, an independent review for government

Sophie Lawrence, Stewardship and Engagement Lead at Rathbone Greenbank Investments