Happy sugar awareness week!
As we all know, snacks such as chocolate bars can provide a quick, sweet and easy boost to a person’s energy levels. However, that swift hit comes at a health cost, and one which is ever-growing, particularly among children and young people.
A cursory glance at some of the stats around food-related illnesses in the UK today are shocking:
1. By the time children are in school, 1 in 5 will be overweight or obese.
2. 1/3 of children aged 2-15 in the UK today are overweight or obese
3. It is estimated that in 2017/18 the NHS spent £6.1bn on overweight and obesity-related ill health. That’s more than government spending on the police, fire service and judicial system combined.
Such statistics reveal an unsustainable status quo, and, as we have written previously, the current food system as it stands needs to undergo significant changes for both planetary and human health to prosper in the long term.
It’s not just the social and environmental impacts which concern us – the food-related health burden poses both significant financial risks and opportunities for the food retailers and manufacturers in which we invest too.
On the risk side, there’s potential for future regulation, which might include the expansion of the government’s Soft Drinks Industry Levy and, from an opportunity perspective, promoting healthier ranges seems to offer a clear growth path, with 85% of UK shoppers actively trying to eat healthier, according to one survey.
This is why we will be making food a key engagement theme for 2020 and beyond. As active, ESG-integrated investors, we know that constructive, in-depth engagement can prove a powerful tool for moving issues like these up the corporate agenda and encouraging change. Collaborative engagements, where we work alongside NGOs, asset owners, industry groups and charities to learn from each other and push for change from many angles can be particularly effective too.
To that end, we’re delighted to have joined ShareAction’s Healthy Markets campaign, funded by Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Charity. The campaign asks food and drinks companies to take more responsibility for their role in public health and nutrition, and provide healthier alternatives which are accessible and affordable. There are lots of levers we believe retailers and manufacturers can pull in this respect, from more responsible advertising and marketing, to new product ranges and the position of products in stores.
ShareAction has produced an excellent video which outlines our plans. Take a look:
We’re looking forward to working with ShareAction and the other highly knowledgeable groups involved in this campaign, and we will update you on our progress as we go.
 House of Commons Health Committee: Childhood obesity: Time for action https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmhealth/882/882.pdf
 IGD: Shoppers of the Future https://www.igd.com/Portals/0/Shoppers-of-the-Future.pdf
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