Food brands sluggish in improving social and environmental policies

Food brands sluggish in improving social and environmental policies
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Leading food brands including Nestle, Coca-Cola and Unilever are slowly improving their social and environmental policies following the launch of Oxfam's Behind the Brands campaign seven months ago.

The Behind the Brands (see TVC below) scorecard ranks the world's ten biggest food and drink companies on their social and environmental policies and how they conduct business in poor countries, urging them to do better to strengthen their efforts to prevent hunger, fight poverty and protect the environment.

No company performed better overall than the 'fair' category, with companies including Nestle, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Danone and General Mills experiencing slight increases in their scores. Associated British Foods, General Mills and Kellogg's are at the bottom of the scorecard with few signs of progress.

Oxfam Australia's acting public policy and advocacy manager Kelly Dent, said: "The top ten food and drink companies have enormous power to improve the lives of thousands of people, whose work contributes to the products they sell for a huge profit.

"While it's heartening to see some companies improve policies, no company emerges with an overall good score – all could do better given their influence."

Among the changes that led to score increases:

Nestle now more comprehensively recognises land rights and is the first company of the Big 10 to fully support Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) for local communities in its supplier guidelines, used for the sourcing of sugar, soy, palm oil and other commodities.

Coca Cola's Sustainable Agricultural Guiding Principles now include policies that require suppliers to better manage water pollution, biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions, leading to small improvements in the company's scores on water, land and climate change.

  Unilever's gender score has improved from a three to four based on its endorsement of the UN Women's Empowerment Principles and its commitment to conduct impact assessments on commodities it sources where women play a key role.

Oxfam's first Behind the Brands focus on women's rights earlier this year resulted in new policy commitments from Mars (Mars Bars, Snickers), Mondelez (Vegemite, Toblerone, Cadbury) and Nestle to address inequality for the women farmers and workers producing their cocoa.

Putting extra pressure on food and beverage manufacturers to improve their social and environmental policies, 31 major investment funds, representing $1.5 trillion of assets under management, are today calling on food giants to improve their policies and transparency.

In a statement shared with the ten biggest food and beverage companies in the world, the investors expressed support for Oxfam's Behind the Brands initiative and urged companies to do more to reduce social and environmental risks in their supply chains.

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