Colombia's Nutresa ranked one of the most sustainable food companies

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Sustainability Nutrition reformulation

Colombian company Nutresa has topped the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) for sustainable practices.

Within the food company category, the index placed Thai Union Group number one, followed by Nutresa and Nestle joint second while third place was shared by Ajinomoto, Mondelez International and Charoen Pokphand Foods.

The DJSI, now in its 20th​ year, is a global index that tracks the biggest sustainability-driven publicly listed companies. It is published by RobecoSAM, an investment agency focused on sustainable investing that align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

RobecoSAM said consumer awareness of the social and environmental impact of food products is continuing to grow.

"Leading companies in the industry address both issues by sourcing responsibly produced raw materials to create foods of high nutritional value," ​it added. "The industry’s major sustainability risks and challenges relate to the procurement of agricultural commodities. Proactive supply chain management, robust procurement standards and increased transparency can help to ensure food safety – a key consumer concern."

Under Nutresa’s health and nutrition strategy, the company is aiming to make its portfolio healthier. To date, it has reformulated over 3,000 products bringing them in line with its own nutritional profile, reaching 97.8% of its 2020 goal.

Some of its recent new product launches include better-for-you options, such as its Pietrán nitrite-free range, veggie burger and veggie bites and Bénet vitamins.

Sustainable sourcing practices include a beef production chain analysis it conducted last year with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to identify the main risks in its supply chain. It has drawn up sourcing guidelines based on the findings, and has pledged to source its 10 main commodities according to sustainable criteria.

Carlos Ignacio Gallego, president of Grupo Nutresa, said the result showed Nutresa chose to respect both people and the planet in order to generate economic development.

“We are approaching our first century with the conviction that sustainability is a corporate capacity that allows us to remain in time and guarantee value for all our related groups,” ​he said.

Driving a race to the top

The Dow Jones Sustainability Index rates companies using financially-measurable and industry-specific criteria, which generate around 1,000 data points per firm. These data points are used to calculate a total sustainability score for each company. Firms that rank within the top 10% of their sectors are included in the DJSI World index.

This ‘best-in-class’ approach is intended to drive a race to the top. “[It] encourages consistent disclosure practices around both currently relevant sustainability themes and emerging forward-looking sustainability issues that may have a financially material impact on companies​,” said RobecoSAM.

How useful are sustainability indices?

Oliver Nieburg, sustainability analyst at Lumina Intelligence, sees the DJSI as a positive tool in general as it is comprehensive and highlights companies transparent in public disclosures as well as those with guidelines for suppliers.

The DJSI was recently updated to include the percentage of a companies’ annual volumes to third-party certification standards, for instance.

“The Index provides companies an incentive to implement sustainability guidelines and criteria,” ​he told FoodNavigator-LATAM.

Consumers could also use it to identify responsible companies they wish to support. According to a survey by market research company Nielsen, Latin American consumers are interested in supporting firms with sustainable practices. It found that 85% said they would 'definitely' or 'probably' change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment, compared to 73% globally.

What is less clear, however, is the actual impact such indices have on the ground.

Neiburg added: “Having strong guidelines and sourcing criteria are the foundations of sustainable business, but tell us little how these criteria impact farmers and agricultural laborers at the bottom of the chain. Are they living below the poverty line? What is the quality of education for their children?

“Proving the impact of these guidelines rather than their existence is more strongly aligned with the UN’s 2030 SDG targets. Focus on the outcome rather than the means.”

This is the ninth consecutive year that Nutresa has appeared in the Dow Jones index.  

According to the company’s own figures, Nutresa has a significant consolidated market share – around 60% - of processed food products in Colombia.

It has sales of COP$9 billion and is active in several categories including meat, cookies, confectionery, coffee, ice cream and pasta.

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