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Landscape analysis of environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing metrics for consumer nutrition and health in the food and beverage sector

Version 2 2024-06-03, 00:53
Version 1 2023-10-06, 02:54
journal contribution
posted on 2024-06-03, 00:53 authored by M O'Hearn, J Reedy, E Robinson, C Economos, JB Wong, Gary SacksGary Sacks, D Mozaffarian
IntroductionThe private sector plays a critical role in influencing food choices and health outcomes of consumers. Among private sector actors, investors are a powerful yet underutilised stakeholder for driving scalable public health impact. There are systems to facilitate investors’ involvement, notably environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing, which is well placed to include an assessment of business risks to social well-being. However, nutrition efforts within the ESG agenda (ESG-Nutrition) are nascent. We aimed to critically assess the strength of existing ESG-Nutrition metrics to advance the science of measuring business impacts on consumer nutrition and health.MethodsESG-Nutrition metrics were extracted from eight ESG frameworks and categorised across four domains: product portfolio healthfulness; product distribution and equity; product marketing and labelling; and nutrition-related governance. The strength of each metric was evaluated and scored 1–3 (best), independently by two researchers, based on six attributes: materiality, objectivity, alignment, activity, resolution and verifiability. The total score (range 6–18) and intercorrelation for each attribute was calculated.ResultsAcross 529 metrics, most related to product marketing and labelling (n=230, 43.5%), followed by product healthfulness (n=126, 23.8%), nutrition-related governance (n=108, 20.4%) and product distribution and equity (n=65, 12.3%). Across all metrics, average total score was 10.94 (1.58), with average attribute scoring highest for verifiability (mean: 2.36 (SD: 0.57)), objectivity (2.11 (0.61)) and materiality (2.01 (0.68)) and lowest for activity (1.83 (0.74)), alignment (1.37 (0.67)) and resolution (1.26 (0.65)). Most intercorrelations were null, suggesting attributes were measuring distinct characteristics of each metric. Significant heterogeneity across domains and frameworks was also observed.ConclusionsThis research identifies a range of nutrition-related metrics used in ESG frameworks with respect to food companies, but with substantial heterogeneity in relevant nutrition domains covered and strength of each metric. Efforts are required to improve the quality of metrics across frameworks, establish standardised reporting and align these with investor priorities.

History

Journal

BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health

Volume

6

Article number

e000600

Pagination

139-152

Location

London, Eng.

ISSN

2516-5542

eISSN

2516-5542

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Issue

2

Publisher

BMJ Publishing Group

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