Top Stories

May 24, 2018

Ratings, rankings & indices

Concerns raised over healthiness of major food & beverage companies’ products

The 2018 Global Access to Nutrition Index (ATNI) shows that, despite some progress, most companies are doing far too little to ensure that poor people have access to affordable healthier diets. The index also identifies that there is still widespread lack of compliance with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. Analysis of 23,013 products sold in nine countries by the companies in the Index reveals that less than a third of them can be classified as healthy. Many companies state that a higher proportion of their products are healthy, indicating that their definition is less strict than the two objective and independently-verified models used by the Access to Nutrition Foundation. Nestlé tops the 2018 Index, with above average performance in all, and improvements in most, of the categories of the Index. Meanwhile, FrieslandCampina, a Dutch dairy cooperative, has improved the most since 2016, climbing four places in the ranking largely thanks to a new strategy, new initiatives to tackle undernutrition and more responsible marketing commitments. (Access to Nutrition)

Nestlé produced the following press release announcing its pole position in the Access to Nutrition Index (ATNI) and second place for marketing of breast milk substitutes.

Responsible Investment

Asset managers agree on 8 questions to put to companies

Ten asset managers overseeing a total of $8tn in assets, including Schroders, Hermes Investment Management and Axa Investment Management, have agreed eight questions to put to boards. They include asking bosses how they know they do a good job, as well as the positive or negative effects of a company on society. Investors will use the questions to guide conversations with companies. Although most groups promote a set of values, this is often dismissed as a public relations exercise. Asset managers believe the new questions will help them encourage companies to become more responsible and consider risks, especially in the wake of recent scandals. “For years shareholder value has been king. Looking after customers, employees and society as a whole has been neglected. That has come back to bite companies,” said Leon Kamhi, head of responsibility at Hermes. Jessica Ground, global head of stewardship at Schroders, said: “[Companies] just can’t get away with acting in an unsustainable manner. [Purpose] has got to be rooted in their business model.” The initiative, convened by the charity A Blueprint for Better Business, comes as politicians and policymakers push companies to broaden their goals beyond financial gain. (Financial Times)*

The Blueprint for Better Business paper “How can investors identify purpose-led companies?”, which includes the list of 8 questions, can be found here.

Corporate Reputation

Brexit, Trump wouldn’t have happened without Facebook

Former United Kingdom Independence Party leader and European Parliament member Nigel Farage told Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg that the online platform gave rise to “Brexit” and President Trump. “Historically, of course, it’s true that through Facebook and other forms of social media, there’s no way that Brexit or Trump or the Italian election could have ever possibly have happened,” Farage told Zuckerberg at a hearing before the European Parliament on Tuesday. “It was social media that allowed people to get around the back of mainstream media. Perhaps you’re horrified of this creation of yours and what it’s led to,” he continued. He made his remarks as Zuckerberg testified before the European Parliament about the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. “Whether it’s fake news, foreign interference in elections or developers’ misusing people’s information, we didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibilities,” Zuckerberg said at the hearing. “That was a mistake, and I’m sorry.” (The Hill)


New York Stock Exchange appoints first female leader

The New York Stock Exchange has appointed its first female leader more than two centuries after it was established. Stacey Cunningham will be elevated to the leadership role from her current position of chief operating officer. Her appointment means that both NYSE and the technology-focused Nasdaq exchange will now be run by women. Ms Cunningham replaces Thomas Farley, who had run America’s best-known stock exchange since 2013. She began her career at JJC, later part of Bank of America Securities and held senior positions at Nasdaq before taking up roles at the NYSE.  In an interview last year with the Financial Times newspaper Ms Cunningham said she first “fell in love” with the trading floor during a summer internship while studying engineering at university. (BBC)


Congress approves first big Dodd-Frank rollback

Congress agreed on Tuesday to free thousands of small and medium-sized banks from strict rules that had been enacted as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law intended to prevent another global financial crises.  The legislation will leave fewer than 10 big banks in the United States subject to stricter federal oversight, freeing thousands of banks with less than $250 billion in assets from a post-crisis crackdown that they have long complained is too onerous. Republican lawmakers and the banking industry cheered a measure they said would help unshackle banks — and the economy — from regulatory burdens. Democrats have pointed to record profits on Wall Street, saying banks do not need relief from rules given combined net income of the nation’s commercial banks and savings institutions has increased by 27.5 percent from a year ago. Sarah Bloom Raskin, deputy Treasury Secretary during the Obama administration, said she was worried about the cumulative effect of the Trump administration’s deregulatory efforts. “Overall resilience is being weakened in unexamined ways,” Ms. Raskin said. (New York Times)


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