The Investor Coalition on Food Policy
Harnessing the power of the investment community to engage with the Government on food system related issues
Read the summary document and watch the video below for an overview of the Coalition
- To test the value of investors engaging policymakers on food policy.
- To test the value of investors working collaboratively across the thematic areas of health, sustainability and affordability in the context of engagement with policymakers and broader corporate engagement.
Opportunities, risks and trade-offs
Taking a food systems approach to investor engagement and stewardship, to address the interlinked health and sustainability challenges we face, provides a unique opportunity to improve the health of both people and planet. However, investors will inevitably encounter hard choices between multiple, and sometimes competing, goals. Below is an example of the opportunities and risks they present investors with affordability of healthy and sustainable diets.
Affordability of healthy and sustainable diets: Research shows that there are often trade-offs between the nutrient adequacy, health, environmental impact, and cost of various diets. Generally, healthier foods and diets cost more for consumers. Lower affordability of healthier foods, whether because of higher prices for healthier foods or lower incomes, is linked to the purchase and consumption of less healthy foods and poorer health outcomes.
Foods classified as healthier (such as fruit and vegetables) are often more expensive per calorie than foods high in fats, sugars, and salts, with this price differential having increased over the last couple of years. This exacerbates health inequalities between richer and poorer households; with those on low incomes more likely to switch to cheaper and more unhealthy food products (that are more satiating than healthier foods) when confronted with high prices. Low income groups tend to consume greater quantities of processed meat and sweet snacks or processed potato products (e.g., chips, crisps), while higher-income groups report consuming greater quantities of fruits, vegetables, and oily fish. These dietary differences have led to a significant and growing divide in health inequalities.
- Encourage companies to offer a wide range of healthy, nutritious, and sustainable products at affordable prices at a greater rate than less healthy products.
- Persuade companies to make public commitments to addressing the price and affordability of their healthier products relative to their less healthy products
- Work with companies to advocate for government initiatives that support healthy eating for the poorest e.g., expanding the eligibility criteria for Free School Meals or the Healthy Start scheme.
- Many companies are now starting to prioritise healthy and sustainable diets e.g., Tesco’s Better Baskets scheme and this provides an opportunity to advocate companies to assess the affordability aspects of any programs/initiatives.
Risks and trade offs
- Healthy foods are often more expensive and less accessible to lower income households than unhealthy foods. Given the current cost of living crisis, there is a real danger low-income households will be increasingly priced out of healthier foods, resulting in increases in malnutrition and hunger.
- Plant based meat and dairy replacements are still more expensive than many meat/dairy equivalents despite being more sustainable.
- More sustainable foods, such as those certified as Organic, Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance, often come with a price premium that is out of reach for many low-income households.
- Many companies focus on affordability through charitable donations through to food banks and other schemes. This tends to focus on more heavily processed pre-packaged goods which are not always the healthiest options - inadvertently exacerbating malnutrition issues for the populations they are seeking to help.
Investor asks of companies (examples)
- Have you made any policy or public commitments to address the price and affordability of your healthier products relative to your less healthy products?
- Do you use price promotions to encourage customers to promote the consumption of healthy and sustainable foods as opposed to unhealthy less sustainable foods?
- Do you have a policy that focusses on increasing the proportion of marketing spend on healthy and sustainable foods and prevents advertising of unhealthy foods to children?
- Do you have any policy that ensure healthy and sustainable diets are accessible to all income groups?
- How are you working to bring the costs down of more sustainable plant-based meat and plant alternatives?
- Are you measuring and reporting on these price differentials?
- Do you conduct any pricing analyses to ensure your ‘healthier’ and sustainable products are priced appropriately and are affordable for low-income households?