Melbourne Law School - Research Publications

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    Investing for Nurtrition and Obesity Prevention: Current Practice in Australia
    Robinson, E ; Carey, R ; Parker, C ; Sacks, G ( 2021-08-19)
    Summary • Unhealthy diets, obesity and related non-communicable diseases are the leading cause of death and disability worldwide and represent a major public health challenge. • Addressing unhealthy diets and obesity will require comprehensive societal change, including comprehensive action from governments and food companies to improve the healthiness of food systems. • Investors can contribute to change through their investment decisions. They also stand to benefit from the positive societal and economic impacts associated with obesity prevention efforts. • In 2019/20, we reviewed a large sample of Australian institutional investors, asset management companies and superannuation funds, to investigate how these investors were incorporating nutrition and obesity-related considerations in their decision-making. • We found that 18 out of 35 investors included nutrition and obesity-related considerations in their investment decision-making, albeit in limited ways. • The most common way in which nutrition and obesity were considered was through so-called ‘ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) integration’ strategies. Most often, this was through considerations related to ‘health’ in the general sense, e.g., broad health and wellbeing considerations in selecting investment portfolios. Some investors explicitly considered the healthiness of a food company’s products in determining whether to invest or not. • Examples of ways in which nutrition and obesity-related considerations were being applied included investors actively engaging with food companies to encourage them to improve their nutrition-related policies and practices, and screening food companies based on risks associated with the healthiness of their product portfolios. • The findings of this research point to the need for: – Consistent nutrition-related sustainability reporting by food companies, guided by clear reporting frameworks; – The availability of comprehensive nutrition-related ESG data for investors, accompanied by agreed nutrition-related performance benchmarks; – More guidance on best practices for investors and the food industry. • Further research will help to identify how the investment community can best support efforts to address obesity and improve nutrition in Australia.
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