An exemplary commitment

Unilever, a leader in household and personal care products, is also one of the world's top five manufacturers of packaged food products. 


The company has employees in 100 countries and sells its products in 190. Governments around the world are seeking to combat obesity, which, according to the World Health Organization, has almost tripled since 1975[1]. The regulatory framework promotes healthier eating, as do consumer trends.Unilever plays an important role in setting global standards and best practices for the industry.

Despite the company being a leader in nutritional transparency, Candriam and other investors believe that the industry as a whole has been slow to improve its products and reporting practices.Unilever has published and tracked targets, such as the quantity of salt and sugar in its products, using its own nutritional profiling model, but it's not certain that it complies with government-approved standards and regulations. Candriam and other investors . The Access to Nutrition Initiative (ATNI) calculated that only 17% of Unilever's food and drink products worldwide could be considered "healthier"[2]. Unilever was ranked second in its sector.

Since 2018, Candriam has been a member of an ATNI working group, engaging with Unilever to improve the company's nutrition practices and transparency. We have also made an individual commitment to Unilever since 2019, on the subject of sugar in its food products. Nutrition is linked to health, with economic implications in terms of productivity and budget costs, leading countries to introduce regulations and taxes to promote healthier eating, supported by consumer expectations of nutritional transparency.

In 2021, we joined forces with the Healthy Markets investor coalition, led by ShareAction, to table a shareholder resolution on nutrition targets and transparency, scheduled for the 2022 AGM. We chose Unilever, among others, for its influence in a competitive sector, its size, the length of its supply chain and the importance it places on positive nutrition, health and well-being in its mission statement.

In March 2022, Unilever announced its decision to make the performance of its product portfolio, and of sixteen specific markets, public. It was the first food company to make such a commitment. As a result, the shareholder group withdrew its resolution.

In October 2022, Unilever put this into practice.

This was a great success! Unilever worked with its shareholders and "raised its game". In addition, and as expected by active investors, two other global companies in the top five manufacturers of packaged food products – Nestlé and Danone – have since followed suit, raising the quality standards by which the sector is judged.

Nestlé: although the company leads the global ATNI index rankings from 2018 to 2021 and is committed to greater transparency, we continue to engage with Nestlé on its product reformulations and strategies to improve the proportion of sales  of its healthy products.

Danone: while the company has revised its nutritional targets and information reports, (for the UK and Ireland only), we are continuing our collaborative engagement to encourage Danone to support the extension of its nutritional targets to the whole company globally.

Other companies in the food sector, including US firms Kraft Heinz and Kellogg, publish their nutritional information using their own criteria. We would prefer them to report according to standards that shareholders and stakeholders can easily compare.


What's next?

We continue to work individually and collectively with packaged food companies. We prefer to be partners, helping companies to improve their practices and transparency. Working with Unilever and its peers, and spreading the best practices of a market leader to other industry players, creates a virtuous circle, which has an impact on the whole market and supply chain.Rather than setting a definitive standard, our intention is to commit ourselves, our investors and society as a whole, to a long-term process of improvement.


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[1] WHO, June 9, 2021. Obesity and overweight (
[2] ATNI, report on Unilever, 2021. Unilever - Access to Nutrition.

  • Sophie Deleuze
    Lead ESG Analyst, Engagement and Voting