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    Oghma questions ShareAction for putting pressure on Unilever over ‘healthiness’ of products

    Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images

    A finance advisory firm has criticised ShareAction for forcing Unilever to put a resolution to all shareholders which would require it to publish more information on the “healthiness” of its food and drink products and set itself a target for improvement.

    ShareAction, a coalition of small investors and larger institutional investors said it has succeeded in reaching the threshold necessary to force the resolution on the company, which will be obliged to put it to all shareholders at its annual meeting in May.

    Commenting on ShareAction investors putting pressure on firms to combat “unhealthy” food, Mark Lynch, Partner at corporate finance house, Oghma Partners, said, “Whilst we think that the aims behind the initiative to publish details on the ’healthiness’ of the product portfolios of FMCG companies is an attempt to improve this metric, the gambit will face stiff opposition. 

    “Opponents will see the natural logic being that companies like Lindt stop selling chocolate or Diageo alcoholic drinks – no shareholder is going to vote for that – a simpler approach would be to sell your shares and invest in another business. If the approach is to encourage companies like Unilever to run a campaign like ‘Drink Aware’ or in this case ‘Food Aware’ warning consumers that eating ice cream should be done in moderation then it might stand more chance of success. 

    “However, with plenty of information around fat and sugar content on food labels already in circulation, is more labelling really necessary? In summary the initiative may prove difficult to get full backing for.”

    The campaign was orchestrated by the activist group ShareAction, which last year forced a capitulation from Tesco, which agreed to a more rigorous programme of targets to reduce levels of sugar, fat and salt in the products it sells.

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