One of the key elements of our research process is what we call ‘horizon scanning’; looking out for those issues and risks that may not be material today but that could have a significant impact on our investments in the future. One issue that we have recently considered is farm animal welfare. While this is seen as a niche ethical issue in many countries, we have seen a growing number of companies identify farm animal welfare as presenting significant downside business risks, and also as presenting significant opportunities, particularly in markets such as the UK. In December 2013, we were delighted to host the launch of the 2013 Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare.
The event provided us with the opportunity to review the most important investor-oriented initiatives on farm animal welfare, and to discuss the investment risks and opportunities with an audience of farm animal welfare experts, investors, food companies and investment research organisations. We have invited Dr Rory Sullivan, the investment adviser to the Business Benchmark, to summarise their key findings in 2013 (see below). Here we offer some reflections on farm animal welfare as an investment issue and how we believe the benchmark will contribute to our wider work on sustainability in the food industry.