Lobbying for good: food businesses and investors share their vision for a better food system

Sustainability

Lobbying for good: food industry and investors share their vision with parliamentarians for a healthy and sustainable food system post-election by our Business Engagement Manager Chloe

The Food Foundation held a roundtable at the House of Lords with the aim of providing forward-thinking food businesses and investors with an opportunity to put forward their vision for a healthy and sustainable food system post-election.

The event, on April 23, was hosted by Baroness Anne Jenkin (Conservative Peer), Shadow Minister for DEFRA, Daniel Zeichner, and Vidhya Alakeson, Director of External Affairs for Keir Starmer, were the other Parliamentarians in the room.

Businesses and investors were invited based on the leadership they are already taking with tackling either (or both) the health or environmental crises.

They were: BNP Paribas Asset Management, Compass Group UK & Ireland, Cook Foods, The Co-operative, Danone, Greenbank, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation, Iceland, Sainsbury’s, Sodexo and Tesco.

The session was broken down into four main themes, with each business and investor speaking to just one of them. Speakers had only a few minutes to make their point and outline a specific policy ask they wanted the next Government to focus on. The themes were: 

  • A clear direction of travel for the UK’s food sector (e.g. a Food Bill, joined up internal Governmental processes)  
  • The need for Government intervention (e.g. mandatory reporting, fiscal interventions)  
  • Supply chain resilience in a changing world (e.g. procuring British produce, horticulture, inflationary impacts of climate change)   
  • Net zero and how to support businesses to get there (e.g. reducing scope 3 emissions, meat reduction, regenerative agriculture and ELMS, food waste)

Although the themes covered a range of issues that concern our food system, the message that rang loudest from the speakers was the need for more regulation and stronger intervention from the UK Government in order to raise standards and create a level playing field for the food sector as whole.

There was also a great deal of consistency between what food businesses and investors were calling for. 

Common asks from the businesses and investors:

  1. Be consistent. Stop flip-flopping on policies because this erodes business confidence and is a waste of resources. Create well-designed policies that have realistic timelines for implementation and are adequately resourced to enforce.  
  2. Change the incentives by creating the commercial incentives for businesses to deliver healthy and sustainable products.  
  3. Level the playing field, by making reporting mandatory for food businesses against a range of metrics, including on food waste. Progressive businesses have reached a glass ceiling with voluntary reporting. Continue and strengthen the work of the Food Data Transparency Partnership under a new Government.  
  4. Set targets: set achievable and realistic targets that businesses can work towards over a sustained period of time.  
  5. Use the National Food Strategy; the groundwork has already been done. Dust off the NFS and use it! 
  6. Standardise policies and regulation to ease the reporting burden on businesses and make it easier for investors to compare businesses across nations and sectors.  
  7. Industry lobbying is being raised frequently as an evidence gap and a potential barrier to progressive food policy being developed/implemented. Investors are increasing their scrutiny of their investees’ lobbying activities and this is a specific area of focus for the Investor Coalition on Food Policy over the next 12 months. 
  8. Follow through with HFSS legislation, including volume and advertising policies and ensure such regulation is properly enforced. Businesses are supportive of the HFSS legislation.

Not often is there a chance for both investors and food businesses to come together and speak to parliamentarians about the changes they want to see.

The main asks for more regulation and consistency were reiterated from almost every speaker and sent a clear and undeniable message to Government that there is a significant section of the food industry that is supportive of more regulation.

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