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FAIRR is 3: And it’s a birthday to remember

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28 December 2018
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Early in 2015, I was sitting in an ordinary office room in London with FAIRR founder Jeremy Coller, discussing his theory that the rapid rise of factory farming and its profound impact on human health and the environment was set to pose substantial risk to the global economy. There was clearly a compelling business case behind this theory, and also a knowledge gap among investors on the impact of the livestock sector. Yet, we were still unsure of how the investment community would react, and whether the financial risks posed by the sector would be fully recognised, as with other high risk industries from mining to munitions.

Three years on, and it’s clear that investors are taking FAIRR’s arguments seriously. Indeed, the scale of investor support for FAIRR, and the issues it raises, has been nothing short of remarkable. In three years investors managing over $10.5 trillion have participated in FAIRR’s network — the equivalent of adding $9.5 billion of support every day!

With such high levels of investor support, FAIRR is making substantial headway in achieving its original aim: to close the investor knowledge gap on factory farming and the associated environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks.

We are seeing a far deeper understanding among the responsible investment community of issues such as antibiotic resistance, livestock emissions and alternative proteins. Last month FAIRR’s latest volume of case studies showed investors such as Allianz, Aviva and IFC finding ways to integrate issues such as these into their internal investment processes. Emerging thinking ranges from Alliance Trust’s ‘Sustainability Matrix’ to Kepler Cheuvreux’s ‘cookbook’ on food security and FAIRR’s own tool for the sector: the Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index.

FAIRR’s work has also been featured across international media with over 650 articles in 30 countries including the New York Times, Financial Times, Bloomberg and CNN.

Beyond awareness raising

The scale of investor support has enabled FAIRR to go beyond closing the knowledge gap to drive tangible change in corporate behaviour. The FAIRR team has facilitated shareholder engagements with over 70 global companies, which have resulted in improvements in company practices on issues from antibiotic overuse to protein diversification.

In parallel, investors are also seeing regulatory headwinds blowing against the intensive farming industry. In October, the European Parliament agreed to ban the routine use of antibiotics in animal agriculture by 2022. And as FAIRR predicted in its Livestock Levy white paper last year, momentum continues to grow for the concept of a meat tax.

What is next for FAIRR?

So far so good. But, like any three-year-old, FAIRR still has much to learn and much to do.

There is a real challenge to ensure that mainstream financial markets — across the globe — not only understand the material impacts of factory farming, but also factor them into their investment policies and processes.

We must also continue to widen our corporate engagement programme, helping investors to drive sustainable practices within the food sector, creating real change to future-proof their business models. Key to this will be the development of strategic corporate approaches to protein diversification, comprising an evidence-based approach to reduce reliance on animal sources of protein.

It’s a challenging and exciting road ahead. We are all at FAIRR very grateful to all our partners and supporters, and hope you’ll continue to support us in the birthdays to come.