Fresh from their efforts to hold fossil companies accountable for their climate-related business risk, investors are turning their attention to food companies, filing 131 shareholder resolutions this year on products ranging from beef to palm oil.
“Over the past several months, historic shareholder resolutions have pushed oil giants, including Exxon, to disclose their climate-related risks,” InsideClimate News reports. “Food companies are next, experts and investors now say—whether they use or produce palm oil, corn, soy. or beef, to name some with the biggest climate impacts.”
“There are many products consumers enjoy daily that suppliers produce in ways that destroy rainforests and promote climate change,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. “More and more companies recognize that by taking steps to buy palm oil or soy from suppliers that do not contribute to deforestation, they are promoting better environmental practices and protecting their shareholder value.”
ICN notes that the number of shareholder resolutions directed at food and beverage companies has grown from 12 in 2011 to 131 this year. Last week, Boston-based Ceres released a climate risk guide for food industry investors that traces the climate risks to supply chains and businesses in eight commodity areas.
“We wanted to arm investors with better information when they engage companies on these issues,” said Brooke Barton, senior director of the investment advocacy organization’s water and food programs. “The risks are mounting—whether it’s climate change or water scarcity or human rights abuses—and investors need a one-stop shop.”
“Ceres believes that the food sector is the next frontier,” states a Ceres analysis related to the new guide. “Investor awareness is growing about the sector’s financial risks stemming from sustainability challenges like climate change.”
While investors focus on the wider food system, The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future is looking at tools to align food supply chains with state and local climate action plans. The Center points to food policy councils as a focal point for reducing the system’s climate impacts by supporting a shift to plant-based diets, reducing food waste, and moderating the environmental impacts of the current agriculture system.
It also calls for climate adaptation measures focused on supporting farmers facing climate impacts, preserving farmland, promoting urban agriculture and green space, and encouraging cities and states to develop food resilience plans.