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Farm animal welfare moves up the corporate agenda

Leading global measure of how companies perform on farm animal welfare shows that ‘big business’ is getting the message: animal cruelty is bad for business.

Launched today (23/02/18 NZT) The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) Report, now in its sixth year, demonstrates again that farm animal welfare is moving up the corporate agenda; with more companies responding to growing consumer and investor demand for better treatment of animals in their supply chains. The message is clear: cruel treatment of farm animals is not just ethically unacceptable it is also bad for business.

The BBFAW report, in collaboration with World Animal Protection, Compassion in Farming and investment firm Coller Capital, is the globally recognised investor framework for assessing the quality of companies’ practices, processes and performance on farm animal welfare.

In 2017, a record 110 companies sought a BBFAW ranking; up from 99 in 2016. The companies include global food brands such as McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and New Zealand multinational – Fonterra Cooperative Group Limited.

This latest 2017 Report shows that many of the 110 global food companies are increasingly integrating farm animal welfare into their management and reporting processes:

• 47% of these companies now have explicit board or senior management oversight of farm animal welfare, a clear indication of how seriously they regard it;

• 72% have published formal improvement objectives for farm animal welfare;

• 87 companies (79%) have made commitments on the crucial issue of avoiding close confinement in one or more of the major markets in which they operate. The most common corporate commitments relate to the elimination of cages for laying hens and the elimination of sow stalls for mother pigs.

“Smart businesses know that consumers and investors will no longer tolerate cruelty to farm animals” says Ben Pearson, Senior Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection New Zealand & Australia. “Any company that has farm animals in its supply chain needs to develop a credible animal welfare policy and have it benchmarked using BBFAW.”

Recent polling from the Responsible Investment Association of Australasia found that of the top three things people want to avoid investing in, animal cruelty was number one (69%). Whilst globally, the BBFAW convenes the world’s first investor collaboration on farm animal welfare, which now has 19 institutional investors representing more than 1.9 million trillion pounds in assets under management.

World Animal Protection welcomes Fonterra’s ongoing involvement in BBFAW but calls on the company to work towards improving its ranking. Fonterra has been at Tier 4 – “making progress on implementation” – for the last three years (since its first inclusion in 2015 BBFAW Report). The Report ranks companies in tiers 1 to 6, with tier 1 being the best and tier 6 being the worst.

“We welcome Fonterra’s involvement and their efforts on animal welfare” says Pearson, “but as one of New Zealand’s largest companies and a major force in the global dairy industry, across four continents, we’d like to see the company make enhanced efforts to improve its ranking.”

Instead of information on farm animal welfare being spread across CSR reports, press releases, customer FAQs and wider discussions about issues such as food and sustainability, the BBFAW offers companies a logical framework for organising corporate policy, commitment and reporting on farm animal welfare and for presenting information in a form that provides consumer groups and investment organisations, with a robust basis for engagement with them.

“The BBFAW will always encourage better disclosure of companies’ standards and encourage others to act. Fonterra therefore has much to gain by moving up the benchmark ranks in 2019,” concludes Pearson.


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