Institutional shareholders in consumer giant Unilever have dropped a request for a resolution at this year’s AGM after the company today committed to new public reporting about the healthiness of the products it sells.

Unilever today said it would publicly report the performance of its product portfolio, by volume of product and sales revenue, against at least six different government-endorsed “Nutrient Profile Models” as well as its own internal metric.

It said the move followed extensive, constructive engagement with ShareAction and its Healthy Markets Initiative, and that it would continue this engagement as its commitments were developed and implemented in the run-up to the 2024 AGM.

In January, a coalition of institutional investors and individuals, co-ordinated by ShareAction, filed a shareholder proposal urging Unilever to disclose against government-endorsed health models and adopt ambitious targets to increase the share of healthy foods in its sales.

Unilever today also said it would strengthen its nutrition targets that expire at the end of 2022.

“As one of the largest food manufacturers, Unilever has a real opportunity to tackle rising obesity levels around the world,” said Councillor Gerald Cooney at Greater Manchester Pension Fund.

“In the UK, poor diets are one of the biggest drivers of ill health and widening inequalities across the country. In this context, we welcome the announcement made by Unilever today and we encourage the company to be ambitious as it fleshes out these commitments later this year.”

Unilever’s move also comes after its failed bid for the consumer-health business of GlaxoSmithKline, and headline-grabbing criticism from Terry Smith, the founder of London-headquartered Fundsmith Equity who said Unilever had “lost the plot”. Earlier this month Unilever’s CEO reportedly ruled out any acquisitions in the “foreseeable future”. 

Corporate climate transition plan activity not up to scratch, says CDP

One-third of organisations disclosing to CDP reported having developed a low-carbon transition plan, according to the environmental information platform.

It also said that while almost all organisations disclosed emission reduction targets, less than 35% had credible targets meeting CDP’s criteria.

CDP also reported that those industries arguably facing the most scrutiny – namely financial services, power and fossil fuels – had the highest rates of climate transition plan disclosure, even though only 5% of organisations in each of these sectors reported against the 24 key indicators that CDP considers associated with a credible plan.

Nicolette Bartlett, chief impact officer at CDP, said the figure for organisations reporting developing a low carbon transition plan “does not match the appetite from investors, customers and employees and governments who are pushing for more scrutiny since COP26”.

“Critically, these plans also need to be assessed to ensure they meet stakeholder expectations and are actually delivering against climate needs,” she added.

Finance sector offered climate-nature ‘integrated transition framework’

Finance for Biodiversity (F4B) has published what it calls an integrated transition framework that financial institutions can use to structure an approach to transition to a “net-zero and nature positive world”.

The initiative said its framework, which was developed with support and analysis by Vivid Economics, provide both the content financial institutions need to understand how climate and nature are interlinked, and the process needed to make this operational.

It said the framework was consistent with the work of the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD).

“Our integrated transition framework offers an off-the-shelf solution that financial institutions can use – from today – to develop quantitative, nature-inclusive strategies that will potentially help to drive investment success,” said Simon Zadek, chair of F4B.

‘Climate reporting by leveraged finance investors hampered by data availability’

The European Leveraged Finance Association (ELFA) has said that efforts by investors to analyse climate change risks and report on topics such as net-zero alignments in leveraged finance and private credit markets are being hampered by data availability issues.

It said this on the basis of a workshop it held with members in November 2021, with many investors apparently reporting finding measuring carbon emissions at a portfolio level difficult, as not all borrowers disclose this data.

“Measuring the carbon footprint of a portfolio is difficult, if not impossible, when not all borrowers disclose this data,” said Sabrina Fox, chief executive officer of ELFA. “Even where the data are disclosed, borrowers may not do so in a consistent, comparable or timely manner within individual sectors, let alone across sectors. Asset managers are forced to make estimations where gaps exist.”

ELFA said it was supporting the ESG Data Convergence Project for the private markets, which is led by CalPERS and Carlyle, and backed by limited partners including APG, PGGM, and the Wellcome Trust.

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