Pension fund Nest and EQ Investors have joined ShareAction to raise the issue at the company’s AGM today (26 June), which will not take place physically due to social distancing restrictions.
The request follows the publication of a ShareAction report earlier this year, which identified ‘significant gaps’ in UK supermarkets’ ‘public commitments and actions’ to promote healthy eating and tackle childhood obesity. Research from Access to Nutrition Initiative (ATNI) found Tesco disclosed information on only 30% of indicators across topics such as product formulation, responsible marketing, affordability, clear labelling and corporate governance.
As part of its ongoing Healthy Markets’ campaign, backed by investors with $1 trillion in assets, ShareAction is asking supermarkets to define and publish comprehensive nutrition and health strategies to drive healthier food and drink consumption.
COVID-19 and the urgency of tackling obesity
According to ShareAction, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the ‘critical importance’ of tacking childhood obesity and supporting public health.
Obesity has been identified 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.
And, while retailers have demonstrated the crucial role in food security during the crisis, ShareAction believes that now is the time for them to step-up and help find solutions to the obesity pandemic. “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,” Louisa Hodge, engagement manager at ShareAction, stressed.