Corporate Practice on Farm Animal Welfare…in Numbers
The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) was established in 2011 with the aim of catalyzing mainstream investor interest in farm animal welfare. BBFAW produces an annual benchmark of how large food companies manage farm animal welfare. The third benchmark report which analyzed the performance of 80 global food companies – across the three food industry subsectors of food retail and wholesale, restaurants and bars, and food production – was released in February 2015.
The report offered four key findings.
The first is that practice and reporting of farm animal welfare remain relatively underdeveloped.
- Key statistic: While 84% of the companies covered by the Benchmark acknowledge farm animal welfare as a business issue, just two-thirds (64%) have adopted formal policies on farm animal welfare.
The second is that there is evidence that companies are increasing the attention they pay to farm animal welfare.
- Key Statistic: 64% of the 80 companies covered by the Benchmark now have a published farm animal welfare policy, compared to 46% in 2012.
The third is that a growing number of companies that have integrated farm animal welfare into their management practices and processes.
- Key statistic: The 2014 Benchmark identified 10 companies – Co-op (UK), Co-op Switzerland, Cranswick, J Sainsbury, Migros, Marks & Spencer, McDonald’s, Noble Foods, Unilever, Waitrose – that have made strong commitments to farm animal welfare, have well developed management systems and processes, and have a clear focus on farm animal welfare performance measures. This compares to seven such companies in the 2013 benchmark and just three in 2012.
The fourth is that many companies have yet to take substantive action on farm animal welfare.
- Key statistic: For 40 of the 80 companies covered by the Benchmark, there is limited evidence that they recognize farm animal welfare as a business issue.
So what do these findings mean for investors? They clearly point to the need for investors to be aware of the risks presented by weaknesses in companies’ management systems. This is not just about farm animal welfare but about companies’ wider risk identification and risk management processes. They also point to the importance of investors engaging with companies to strengthen their management systems and processes on farm animal welfare, which in turn should help reduce the risk to investors.
Over the past two years, we have had extensive discussions with European and North American investors about farm animal welfare. We have seen a growing awareness of the investment implications of farm animal welfare, and an increased willingness to engage with companies on the issue of farm animal welfare. The Benchmark has played an important role, both in setting out the investment case for action and, more importantly, by providing investors with a tool that enables them to delineate between strong and weak performers, and that provides them with a robust basis for engaging with companies. We are optimistic that pressure from investors, together with the wider societal pressures for companies to adopt higher standards of farm animal welfare will, over time, contribute to substantive improvements in how food companies manage farm animal welfare.
The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) program is designed to drive higher farm animal welfare standards in the world’s leading food businesses. It provides investors, governments, academics, NGOs, consumers and other stakeholders with an independent, impartial and reliable assessment of individual company efforts to adopt higher farm animal welfare standards and practices. The key tool for the delivery of these objectives is an annual Benchmark of food companies’ performance on farm animal welfare.
The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare has been developed with the support and expertise of leading farm animal welfare organizations, Compassion in World Farming and World Animal Protection, with additional funding from Coller Capital and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. For further information see www.bbfaw.com