Today Nest, the pension fund, and EQ Investors have joined ShareAction’s call on Tesco, the largest UK food retailer, to disclose the proportion of its sales made up by healthy food and drink products and set ambitious targets to increase these over time.

A similar commitment has already been made by other major UK supermarkets including Sainsbury’s and M&S.

The question has been submitted to Tesco on the day of its AGM, which will not take place physically due to social distancing restrictions.

This request follows the publication of a review of UK supermarkets’ plans to improve the nation’s diets earlier this year. The report found significant gaps in their public commitments and actions to help people eat balanced diets and tackle childhood obesity. Tesco came third with information being found on only 30% of indicators across topics such as product formulation, responsible marketing, affordability, clear labelling and corporate governance.

The ongoing pandemic has highlighted the critical importance tackling childhood obesity and supporting public health. Obesity has been pinned as an underlying health condition increasing the severity of Covid-19 cases. During the peak of the crisis, 73% of UK patients in ICU were overweight or obese, compared to 63% in the general population.

As part of its ongoing Healthy Markets’ campaign, backed by investors with $1 trillion, ShareAction is asking supermarkets to define and publish comprehensive nutrition and health strategies to drive healthier food and drink consumption.

Louisa Hodge, Engagement Manager at ShareAction says:Retailers have worked really hard to guarantee our food supply during the ongoing health crisis and their role in shaping people’s diets and health has never been more apparent. As the largest food retailer, Tesco has a critical role to play in rebuilding a healthier community in the UK post-covid by supporting improvements to people’s diets and tackling childhood obesity. Today we are pleased to be joined by investors in calling on Tesco to take a leading role in this area by committing to disclosing on the proportion of its sales made of healthy food and drink products and set clear plans and increasing year on year targets to deliver these.”

Mais Callan, Senior Responsible Investment Manager at Nest Pensions and member of the Healthy Markets coalition says: “There’s a growing demand from governments to tackle the issue of obesity and a consumer trend towards healthier products. Sugar taxes, like the Soft Drinks Industry Levy in the UK, are being implemented around the world and it’s likely other measures will follow. Evidence from the Covid-19 pandemic is also showing that people with obesity-linked conditions are more likely to suffer serious complications. Health is emerging as a key investment risk.

“We’re supporting ShareAction’s question because we think companies like Tesco have an important role to play in promoting a healthier product range. We believe companies that get ahead of the curve on this issue will have a better chance of long-term success.”

Louisiana Salge, Impact Specialist at EQ Investors and member of the Healthy Markets coalition says: “As part of EQ’s Positive Impact Investment approach, one of our engagement aims this year is to raise awareness of the importance of health and nutrition in sustainable finance. Understanding the actions food retailers are taking to improve the nation’s diets is vital for investors to assess the associated risks and opportunities in this area. This is why we want to support their call on Tesco today to significantly increase its disclosure on this topic and set up measurable and comparable healthy eating targets.”

Sarah Hickey, Programme Director for childhood obesity at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity and key partners of ShareAction’s Healthy Markets campaign, says: “We know that many families struggle to access healthy, affordable food, and that COVID-19 has deepened existing inequalities in children’s diets. Commercial organisations – including food retailers – play a huge role in shaping what young people eat and improving children’s access to nutritious food. We need supermarkets to be transparent about the actions they’re taking in this area, to drive further positive change that gives all young people access to the food they need to thrive.”

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Notes for editors:

  • For more information, please contact Beau O’Sullivan at osullivan@shareaction.org or +447950 299 491
  • ShareAction is a campaigning organisation pushing the global investment system to take responsibility for its impacts on people and planet, and use its power to create a green, fair, and healthy society. We want a future where all finance powers social progress. For 15 years, ShareAction has driven responsibility into the heart of mainstream investment through research, campaigning, policy advocacy and public mobilisation. Using our tools and expertise, we influence major investors and the companies they invest in to improve labour standards, tackle the climate crisis and address inequality and public health issues. Visit shareaction.org or follow us @ShareAction to find out more.
  • Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity is an independent, urban health foundation. It works in partnership with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and others to improve health in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark. Find out more at gsttcharity.org.uk and follow @GSTTCharity on Twitter.