The first edition of the global Access to Nutrition Index (ATNI) report and rankings, was released on March 12, 2013. The report says that the world’s largest food and beverage manufacturers must do more to increase access to nutritious products and positively exercise their influence on consumer choice and behavior. The report assesses the nutrition-related commitments, performance and disclosure practices of 25 of the world’s largest food and beverage manufacturers as measured against international guidelines, norms and accepted best practices.
Unfortunately, on a 10-point scale, even the top three performers only scored about a 6, leaving much room for improvement for even the best of food and beverage compalnies. For example, even Danone and Nestlé, ranked 1st and 3rd respectively, hare in violation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.
Inge Kauer, Executive Director of ATNI, says,”Obesity and undernutrition affect billions of people and threaten a global health catastrophe. The Access to Nutrition Index is an urgent call to action for food and beverage manufacturers to integrate improved nutrition into their business strategies. It is not only good for public health; it is a business imperative and key to their long-term sustainability.”
The three-year ATNI initiative was funded by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust. Development of ATNI was housed at GAIN and involved an extensive, multi-stakeholder process that included input from governments, international organizations, civil society, academia, and investors at every phase of the process. It was also guided by advice from an independent, multi-stakeholder advisory panel and a group of experts on nutrition. Company research and assessments were conducted by MSCI ESG Research using publicly available documents supplemented by additional information requested from each company.
ATNI evaluated companies on:
- Corporate strategy, management and governance related to nutrition
- Formulation and delivery of appropriate, affordable and accessible products
- Positive influence on consumer choice and behavior
“The Access to Nutrition Index offers companies a comprehensive, independent assessment of how well their practices align with competitors in the food and beverage industry and provides benchmarks against which they can improve their approach to nutrition,” said Keith Bezanson, chair of the ATNI Independent Advisory Panel. “The aim is to promote a more objective public debate and encourage companies to do more to address nutritional needs of customers.”
Thirty-nine investment organizations which collectively manage more than USD 2.6 trillion in assets have signed a statement of support for the Index. The ATNI Investor Statement recognizes health and nutrition as drivers of future growth in the food and beverage sector, and that those manufacturers that are most effective in anticipating and responding to these factors will be better positioned to deliver superior and more sustained financial performance.
Key findings include:
- The highest scoring companies have clear commitments, detailed policies and measurable targets related to nutrition. They have also charged senior executives with achieving these targets and provided incentives for them to do so.
- Companies’ practices often do not measure up to their commitments. Companies are missing key opportunities to implement their commitments in core business areas such as product formulation, marketing and distribution.
- Companies are not meaningfully engaged in addressing undernutrition and could better leverage their expertise, skills and scale to help combat this global health challenge.
The report challenges companies to:
- Develop clear and measurable objectives and targets to improve nutrition. This is critical to ensuring that nutrition considerations become central to companies’ core business activities such as product development, pricing, distribution, and marketing.
- Translate commitments to improve nutrition into action and develop mechanisms to track and monitor progress.
- Increase public disclosure of nutrition activities. Such disclosure underpins credibility, strengthens any evaluation of their nutrition practices, and heightens accountability.
- For companies that manufacture breast-milk substitutes, ensure full compliance with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes in all countries.
Later this year, ATNI will also publish three Spotlight Indexes assessing 10 of the largest food and beverage manufacturers operating in India, Mexico and South Africa, respectively. The ATNI Global Index will be published every two years.
Here are the FAQS for the Access to Nutrition Index:
How can you compare these companies to each other when their product portfolios are so vastly different?
ATNI aims to evaluate the contribution all companies are making to improving consumers’ access to nutrition. This is determined by evaluating their efforts related to improving their product portfolio, how they support consumers in understanding what comprises a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle, how they label their products, how they present them in marketing materials, offering a wide choice of products in varying sizes, and how they engage with governments and policymakers. Companies can improve their nutrition-related practices in all of these areas regardless of the composition of their product portfolios.
Has ATNI received financial contributions from industry for the development of the Index?
No. ATNI has a strict policy against accepting any financial contributions from companies or organizations that are part of the food and beverage industry.
Is this an investable index?
While ATNI is not intended to be an investable index, it does have the support of both investment managers and large institutional asset owners from around the world. ATNI has produced an Investor Statement in support of the Index, and its current signatories collectively manage over $2.6 trillion. ATNI is designed to be of value to them by providing insights into companies’ performance on nutrition issues which can be integrated into their financial analyses or used as a basis for engagements with companies on these critical issues.
When will the next Index be published?
The next global ATNI will be published in 2015.
How does ATNI’s scoring work? Is it absolute or relative?
- Companies are scored on an absolute scale from 0 to 10 using a system that rewards good practices rather than penalizing poor ones.
- A score of 0 indicates that no evidence was found for any nutrition-related commitments or practices.
- A score of 10 signifies best practice as determined by consensus judgments against established international codes and guidelines and other norms set out in the ATNI assessment methodology.
Does ATNI address issues such as companies’ use of genetically modified organisms, impact on water and the environment, sourcing practices, and labor practices?
- In this first version of the Index, ATNI confined its scope to those issues that are most important to improving access to nutrition.
- As such, ATNI does not evaluate companies on other important ways in which they may have a social and/or environmental impact. Other ratings address some of these issues, such as Oxfam’s Behind the Brands Scorecard, which reviews the social and environmental impacts that ten large food and beverage companies are having on the food supply chain.
How does ATNI define which foods are healthy?
- There is currently no universally accepted system for determining the nutritional quality of products relative to one another. As a result, there is no international standard for what can be considered a “healthy” product.
- This creates inherent limitations on ATNI’s assessment of company practices as several indicators in the ATNI methodology depend on companies’ own definitions of “healthy” products, which can vary significantly.
- A proxy approach is used in this version of the Index that assesses the quality of companies’ nutrient profiling systems – i.e., how companies determine the nutritional quality of their own products.
Does ATNI assess the nutritional quality of companies’ products?
Given the extremely large number and heterogeneity of products sold by companies assessed in the Global Index, it was not within the current scope of ATNI to profile the nutritional composition of companies’ products globally (or to identify a reasonably sized sample of products for profiling that would be sufficiently representative of their portfolios).
How can some companies with unhealthy product portfolios score so well on ATNI?
ATNI evaluates the contribution all companies are making to improving consumers’ access to nutrition around the world. This is determined both by efforts that companies have undertaken to improve the nutritional quality of their product portfolios and the efforts they make in many other aspects of their businesses, such as how they support consumers in understanding what comprises a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle, how they label their products, how they present their products in marketing materials, offering a wide choice of products in varying sizes, and how they engage with governments and policymakers. Thus if a company with a seemingly less healthy portfolio receives a higher overall score on the ATNI, it is due to strong performance in other categories evaluated by the Index.
Could companies elect whether to be included in the Index?
- Companies did not have a choice whether to be included in ATNI, which selected the world’s 25 largest companies by retail sales according to Datamonitor, a provider of proprietary global market research data (see Annex 1 in the 2013 Global Index report for more information on the methodology used to select companies to be assessed by ATNI).
- Companies also could not pay to be evaluated (funding for ATNI was provided solely by GAIN, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust).
- Companies had the option not to take part in the engagement phase of the research process. For companies that chose not to participate, their evaluation was based solely on publicly available information.
How should this information be used?
The results of ATNI allow for comparison of company performance on delivering better access to nutrition as measured against international guidelines and expert guidance.
- Companies (including both those ranked and not ranked by ATNI) may use this information to benchmark their performance against peers or to help guide their agenda for nutrition activities.
- Investors may use this information to guide their engagement with companies and/or investment decisions.
- Norm-setting bodies may use this information as an input into guideline development, including the identification of areas which currently lack such guidance.
- Policymakers may use this information to identify areas in need of industry-wide improvement which may be amenable to regulatory intervention.
- Civil society organizations may use this information to guide their advocacy efforts.
- Academics may use this information to identify areas in need of further research.
- Media organizations may use this information to draw attention to priority, or otherwise under-recognized, issues.
Who developed ATNI?
The Access to Nutrition Index was developed by a team based at the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, with the support of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, and under the guidance of two multi-stakeholder bodies. An Expert Group advises on the development of the company assessment methodology. Separately, an Independent Advisory Panel (including representatives from each the three funding organizations) provides strategic advice on the development of ATNI. To ensure objectivity, neither body includes anyone currently employed by the food and beverage manufacturing industry. In the future, ATNI will be operated outside of GAIN by a separate stand-alone organization.
Why create this Index?
This Index underscores the important role of food and beverage manufacturers in addressing obesity and undernutrition, both of which are among the world’s most pressing public health concerns. These public health challenges affect billions of people, and efforts to address them are vital to ensure that people around the world can live healthy and productive lives. There is currently no other systematic effort to compare companies’ contribution to addressing global nutrition challenges in a consistent way. The Index provides all those concerned with addressing obesity and undernutrition with an objective picture of what companies are already doing and where they can improve and highlights good practices across the industry.
Why have you included the BMS companies in the assessment? Shouldn’t they have been given zero score or been excluded from the Index altogether?
ATNI is designed to assess the overall contribution companies make to preventing and addressing obesity and diet-related chronic diseases and to undernutrition. While we recognize the critical importance of supporting and promoting breastfeeding, ATNI has chosen to include BMS companies and assess whether they comply with the International Code, according to material published by IBFAN, rather than to exclude them. This enables comparison with their competitors who do not manufacture BMS.