According to the Lancet Commissions Report, The Global Syndemic of Obesity, Undernutrition, and Climate Change, the current annual economic costs of obesity are estimated at about $2 trillion, which includes direct health-care costs and lost economic productivity. In spite of public health measures to tackle NCDs and address some of the underlying risk factors, the influence of the food and beverage industry on laws and regulations meant to safeguard public health may undermine these efforts.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the food and beverage industry spent $29 million in federal lobbying in 2018 in the United States; however, it is unclear to investors and other stakeholders exactly how this money is being spent.
Expanding on the metrics covered by the Access to Nutrition Index on lobbying practices, in August 2019 under the leadership of ICCR, a group of investors sent out letters to 11 food and beverage companies to inquire about their lobbying and public policy engagement practices focused on health, nutrition, and well-being. ICCR lead investor organizations include Boston Common Asset Management, Mercy Investment Services, Trinity Health, Robeco Institutional Asset Management B.V., Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investment, and Socially Responsible Investment Coalition. The companies included Campbell’s Soup, Coca-Cola, ConAgra, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Keurig Dr. Pepper, Kraft Heinz, Mondelēz, Nestlé, and Unilever. Investors received substantive responses from 10 companies, which led to further dialogue with seven of the companies. The only non-responder, Keurig Dr. Pepper, was subsequently presented with a shareholder proposal and a dialogue was held in early 2020.
See below to download a pdf of the letter and to learn more about this initiative.