Unilever is being urged by a group of investors to prioritize healthier food options and establish ambitious goals for selling these products. The investor group, which includes Candriam, Actiam, and Greater Manchester Pension Fund, has submitted a resolution calling for Unilever to disclose the current proportion of sales attributed to healthier products and significantly increase this share by 2030. They also request that Unilever publish an annual progress review.

Although Unilever is widely recognized as a leader in sustainable business practices, the investors argue that the company has overlooked the health aspect of its food and drink offerings. They point out the growing regulations around health, such as taxes on products high in sugar or calories, and assert that failure to address this issue could have financial implications for Unilever.

ShareAction, a responsible investment non-governmental organization, facilitated the resolution and emphasizes its significance for Unilever’s investors. Ignacio Vazquez, a senior manager at ShareAction, notes that supporting the resolution can drive meaningful change within one of the world’s largest food and drink manufacturers, while also safeguarding investors from regulatory and reputational risks.

Similar calls for action were made at Unilever’s annual general meeting last year, but they did not result in significant progress. The investors question Unilever’s metrics, despite the company’s claim that 61% of its food and drink sales in 2020 met high nutritional standards. Sophie Deleuze, lead ESG analyst at Candriam, argues that a company of Unilever’s magnitude should align its targets and disclosures with nutrient profiling models endorsed by governments.

The resolution also urges Unilever to consider its risk profile in the countries it operates, taking into account regulatory pressures, customer health profiles, and preferences as a basis for reformulation. This comprehensive approach would better address the health needs and preferences of Unilever’s customers.

This push for healthier food options comes at a challenging time for Unilever, as the company recently withdrew its proposal to acquire GlaxoSmithKline’s consumer health unit. Investors are increasingly concerned about the health and nutrition crisis and have been urging policymakers to take action. Promoting healthier food and drink choices has become a priority for investors managing trillions of dollars in assets.

In conclusion, a group of investors is exerting pressure on Unilever to prioritize healthier food options and establish ambitious targets for selling these products. They argue that addressing this blind spot and aligning with government-endorsed nutrient profiling models will benefit both Unilever and its investors. As investor focus on the global nutrition crisis grows, companies like Unilever are being called upon to take greater responsibility in providing healthier options for consumers.

Useful links:
Unilever’s commitments to improving health and well-being
Investing in healthier and more sustainable food: The investor opportunity