Dutch asset manager PGGM and Switzerland’s UBS Asset Management have partnered to develop an impact measurement framework and methodology that tackles food security, the UN’s second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG).

In a joint statement, the investors said they had launched a sponsored research project with Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in the Netherlands and Harvard University in the US.

The project aims to build scalable models that can be applied to global listed equities of companies selling technologies to improve agricultural yields and access to nutritious food.

The research project was initiated by UBS AM two-and-a-half years ago, after its sustainable development team was selected by PGGM – the asset manager of the €197bn Dutch healthcare scheme PFZW – to manage a €1.5bn mandate of listed equities for its impact strategy.

PFZW selected food security as one of its priority areas for investing in solutions with a real-world impact.

“With the global population approaching 9bn in 2030, it is evident that providing food poses a great challenge, especially if we consider nutritional quality, access to food and resource productivity,” said Piet Klop, senior adviser for responsible investment at PGGM.

“To tackle such a complex issue, we partner with the best in finance and [the] academic community to develop a replicable, science-based methodology for measuring impact in food security.

“We are happy to lead the charge and hope to demonstrate that mainstream investors can deliver both market-rate returns and a measurable impact.”

WUR, a leading Dutch university focused on healthy food and living environments, will examine the link between technologies produced by listed companies and agriculture yields. Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health is building models that provide deprived communities with access to nutritious food.

Dinah Koehler, executive director of the global sustainable equities team at UBS AM, said that the research would focus on four food security-related metrics.

“Given the complexity of our global food system, building these models is challenging,” she commented. “Based on our experience building impact models for climate change and water, we believe we have established a solid foundation for extending our measurement impact framework.”

UBS AM said it also wanted to deploy academic expertise to develop impact measurement methodologies for climate change, air pollution, clean water access and healthcare, in line with other relevant UN SDGs. It has already begun developing models in conjunction with Harvard University.