Food and drink industry makes progress on development: Oxfam

Wed Feb 26, 2014 2:12am EST
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By Emma Thomasson

BERLIN (Reuters) - Many of the world's top food and drink companies are taking steps to improve their social and environmental impact on poor countries, although there is still much more to do, development group Oxfam said on Wednesday.

Oxfam launched its "Behind the Brands" campaign a year ago to try to assess the real impact of food and drink companies on the countries where they source raw materials, especially given a proliferation of public commitments to sustainability.

Oxfam said the companies it ranked as most responsible - Nestle, Unilever and Coca-Cola - had extended their lead over the others, while General Mills had replaced Associated British Foods in last place.

Big food and beverage companies have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years over their sourcing of raw materials, courting criticism on issues ranging from child labor on cocoa farms to the impact of palm oil plantations on rain forests.

Oxfam said its campaign had been helped by thousands of consumers bombarding brands with messages calling for action as well as a joint statement from 31 investment funds representing nearly $1.5 trillion of assets reiterating the Oxfam demands.

"Those that are not moving fast enough will pay a price with the public, investors and communities in the field," Chris Jochnick, director of Oxfam's private sector work, told Reuters.

"Those companies that move first should see benefits in long-term access to sustainable supply chains which should be reflected in their share price."

Oxfam said the biggest 10 food and beverage companies it studied had huge impact given that their annual revenues of more than $450 billion are equivalent to the national income of all the world's low-income countries combined.   Continued...