Investors Withdraw Resolution, Back Unilever Use of Food Health Metrics

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by KnowESG
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A Brief Summary

ShareAction-led investor alliance has withdrawn a shareholder resolution from Unilever's upcoming AGM after it (Unilever) agreed to adopt health and nutrition metrics. The investors' group has welcomed the decision.

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The company has previously claimed 61 per cent of its food and drink sales met high standards based on its definitions and terms will now estimate its sales in markets using government-endorsed nutrient profile models (NPMs).

ShareAction, in a statement, said, “Unilever’s commitment to using independent benchmarks going forward will provide far greater clarity to shareholders and consumers on its impact on public health.”

Investors jointly filed a resolution in January, which called on Unilever to adopt higher targets for food and drink sales and disclose against government-endorsed standards.

The filing, spearheaded by ShareAction, was part of an engagement effort, including Candriam, a pan-European asset manager, ACTIAM, US healthcare provider Trinity Health, CCLA Investment Management, and Greater Manchester Pension Fund.

An independent review concluded that out of Unilever's food sales, healthy products accounted for around 17 per cent.

In recent years, investors have grown, so as their concerns related to health issues, due to the increasing evidence of economic losses to firms from poor employee health and risks in the global food system.

In October, the company will publish annual assessments for around 25,000 products against NPMs, used to categorize and regulate consumer food markets to enhance nutrition and public health by national food standards authorities.

NPMs include High Fat Salt Sugar classifications in the UK, Nutri-Score used in European countries including France and Germany, the Health Star Rating, used in Australia and New Zealand, and the Front of Pack labelling.

Louisa Hughes, Engagement Manager at ShareAction, said: " The next seven months are crucial for ensuring that this commitment is translated into ambitious long-term goals, with concrete policies to deliver these. We encourage investors to make their expectations known to the company."

In 2022 and 2023, Unilever and ShareAction plan to collaborate quarterly, then bi-annually after that.

The engagement is part of ShareAction's larger Healthy Markets Initiative campaign, which aims to include health issues into investment decisions and is endorsed by investors with a combined AUM of $5.8 trillion.

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