Robeco targets obesity reduction as ESG play

The fund group is working with companies in its investment portfolios to reduce sugar levels in foods

Dutch fund manager Robeco is aiming to reduce global levels of childhood obesity through working with portfolio companies to reduce the amount of sugar they put into their processed foods.

To coincide with the United Nations celebration of the anniversary of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, this week, Robeco said its engagement team saw the issue as an ESG priority.

Peter van der Werf, engagement specialist at Robeco, said: “There is a direct link between sugar intake, the risk of obesity and therefore the risk of diabetes.”

Van de Werf said the world’s increased sugar consumption had led to an obesity epidemic, which is increasing the prevalence of diabetes, heart attacks and clogged arteries.

“We are of the opinion that many food producers and food retailers will need to adjust their business model and deliver healthier products to align their business with the Sustainable Development Goals on healthy nutrition,” he said.

According to Robeco more than 670 million adults and 120 million children between the ages of 5 and 19 years are considered obese. At the same time over 820 million people are suffering from hunger.

The manager analyses companies and collaborates with other investors through its engagement activities and initiatives such as the action nutrition index, considering how society can solve the global obesity crisis and the impacts this will have for companies operating in the food and beverage industry.

Van der Werf said: “We engage with companies to reduce the total volume of added sugar in their product portfolios, believing that if they adopt a product portfolio that is well placed to thrive in a low-sugar economy, these companies will develop a superior business model compared to those that remain solely focused on their legacy products.”

The UN World Food Day is celebrated annually around the world on October 16, to mark the date of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, first established in 1945.