Investment manager coalition urge Compass to take action over inadequate food parcels

Groups representing £3trn write to Compass CEO demanding answers to four key questions

CCLA has created a coalition of asset owners, managers and finance industry stakeholders calling on Compass Group to answer critical questions regarding the highly criticised food parcels in lieu of free school meals by its subsidiary Chartwells.

Social media has been flooded with angry posts, which has been picked up by national press, regarding meagre food portions to feed children for up to 10 days after the UK government contracted Chartwells to issue the food parcels to children who normally obtain free school meals at educational settings – the national lockdown in the UK has meant this has become inaccessible for some. UK Minister for children Vicky Ford launched an urgent investigation earlier this week and said Chartwells “has rightly apologised and admitted the parcel in question was not good enough”, reported Sky News.

CCLA, the UK investment manager for charities and local authorities, has mobilised the coalition of investment managers and financial firms representing £3trn in assets under management – including Legal and General Investment Management, EOS at Federated Hermes, BMO GAM, M&G , Rathbone Brothers, The Church Investors Group and ShareAction – to sign an open letter to Compass Group’s CEO, Dominic Blakemore, expressing concern in response to the reports the food packages provided by Chartwells to the most disadvantaged families are falling short of expectations.

The letter said it welcomes the clarification and apology issued by Chartwells, but seeks further reassurance on the changes that are being implemented so that future food meet the needs of these families.

“As responsible investors and their representatives, we are concerned by the disproportionate impact the disruption posed by Covid-19 has had on the poorest members of our society. All children have the right to access nutritious diets to support healthy development, and we are particularly alarmed about the increase in child hunger during this period.

“Research by the Social Market Foundation identified that more than 1.9 million children went short of food during 20201 and, according to Mars and the Trussell Trust, 30% of UK adults are concerned that they will not be able to provide for themselves or their family.

“We welcome Compass Group’s commitment to responsible business practices. As investors, we were pleased to see the clarifications and apology made by Chartwells following the media coverage of the 12 January.

“However, we would appreciate reassurance as to how the food parcels that you provide meet the needs of the most disadvantaged families in the UK.”

The coalition seek answers to the following questions:

  • What provision of food items are made in the parcels that you provide and what do you estimate the value of those goods to be?
  • Do you conduct analysis on the food boxes that you provide to ensure that pricing is accurate?
  • Do you conduct analysis on the content of the food boxes you provide to ensure that they provide a balanced diet in line with national school food standards?
  • What plans does the company have to address the concerns raised by the media and ensure that future food boxes are ‘fit for purpose’?

Lead signatory James Corah, head of ethical and responsible investment at CCLA, continued the nation has rallied behind campaigns, such as the one led by footballer Marcus Rashford, to ensure that no child goes without a nutritious meal. However, “an insufficient response to this issue could raise questions about Chartwell’s commitment to your stated guiding principles and values and has the potential to cause significant reputational damage to Compass Group.”

In a statement supporting the letter, James Bevan, CIO at CCLA, said: “At times it is necessary to seek answers, not only as investors in the company, but also as members of society. The coronavirus pandemic has been challenging for everyone and particularly for lower-income families. It is incumbent on us all to do our part. As responsible investors, we will call upon companies to demonstrate commitment to sustainable business practices that meet the needs of all stakeholders.”

The full list of signatories:

Legal and General Investment Management

EOS at Federated Hermes (a stewardship services provider advising on behalf of global institutional investors)

BMO Global Asset Management

M&G PLC

Rathbone Brothers PLC

The Church Investors Group

Church Commissioners for England

Church of England Pensions Board

PIRC

Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church & Epworth Investment Management

The Jesuits in Britain

Lankelly Chase Foundation

Trust for London

Friends Provident Foundation

ShareAction

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Natalie Kenway

Natalie is global head of ESG insight for ESG Clarity and has been an investment journalist for 16 years. She won Editor of the Year at the Aviva Investors Sustainability Media Awards 2021, and was Winner...