Published 1 year ago.
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Image: The Mississippi River | USGS
Meat and dairy companies need to go further and faster to protect our natural world — before politicians, regulators and investors make the decision for them. The latest FAIRR Index shows what’s possible and shines a spotlight on the investment risks of maintaining the status quo.
As the sub-tropical sun glints off the endless, blue-green waters and countless
vacationers stretch out along miles of beautiful white sand beaches, the Gulf
of Mexico does not look like an urgent warning light for the global
But hidden from view beneath the waves, the picture is very different.
Stretching from the Mexican border to the eastern tip of the Mississippi
delta is a vast area of seabed where nothing can live: An oxygen-free dead zone
the size of Connecticut — the result not of some natural cycle, but poor
management of fertilizers, manure and agricultural runoff into the Mississippi
Every year, this entirely man-made disaster costs the US seafood and tourism
sectors $82 million in lost business. And it’s just one example of why this
biodiversity summit could prove to be a turning point for both the global animal
agriculture industry and anyone with funds invested in it.
With hopes growing that the Montreal meeting will secure an international
treaty for biodiversity on the scale of the Paris
to tackle climate change, new data from the Coller FAIRR Protein Producer
Index demonstrates just how exposed meat and dairy
producers would be to such a resolution.
The index shows that less than one in five meat, egg and dairy farms are
adequately managing the pollution of waterways from manure, leading to the kind
of situation we see in the Gulf of Mexico; only 13 percent of them could
even accurately identify whether their farming operations were located in areas
of high water stress.
It’s not just action to protect water that would hit agricultural portfolios: At
least 60 percent of companies that source soy for animal feed do so from
areas at high risk of
and have still not set deforestation targets.
The figures should make troubling reading for anyone invested in the industry.
With clean water and fertile
consistently jeopardized by conventional animal agriculture practices, any
post-COP push to preserve nature would likely require a mammoth and expensive
overhaul of current industry practices. It could even render large parts of the
industry inoperable, leaving investors with a stranded
The good news is, some investors and producers are already getting ahead of the
game. With four years of FAIRR data to draw on, a growing number of companies
are reducing their exposure by cleaning up their acts before they are forced to
do so. The number of companies whose overall ESG management is ranked as ‘high
risk’ has fallen by more than a fifth. More money is being invested by major
producers in both more sustainable meat
and alternative protein sources and methods of
At FAIRR, we want to bridge investors’ knowledge gaps with the hard data they
need to accelerate that kind of
Because even if world leaders fail to reach agreement in Montreal, the business
case for doing things differently is undeniable. Natural assets such as clean
water and healthy soil are consistently jeopardized by factory livestock
farming, to the extent that a million plant and animal
are threatened with extinction. But our economy is reliant on the very same
natural world that intensive animal agriculture is putting in such danger. The
World Economic Forum estimates $44 trillion of economic
— around half of global GDP — depends on it.
Change in the industry is already overdue. The latest FAIRR Index shows what’s
possible and shines a spotlight on the investment risks of maintaining the
status quo. Meat and dairy companies need to go further and faster still to
protect our natural world — before politicians, regulators and investors make
the decision for them.
Published Dec 14, 2022 7am EST / 4am PST / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET