2016 Access to Nutrition Index (ATNI) launch for Academics and International NGOs. The Wellcome Foundation, London
Friday 15th January 2016
I attended the Gates-Wellcome-CIFF-funded ATNI index that was created by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) in 2012 and scores major food corporations such as Nestle, Danone and Unilever. (CLICK HERE) for our Press release of the first Index in 2013.
The new criteria used by the Access to Nutrition Index (ATNI) consider all formulas for older babies to be covered by the International Code and Resolutions and the reports are now, not based merely on what companies ‘say’ they do but on monitoring in two countries. (ATNI no longer refers to IBFAN’s monitoring)
IBFAN has many concerns about ATNI. Below are some examples:
- ATNI claims to be “an independent benchmarking tool that measures companies contributions to good nutrition against international norms and standards.” ATNI’s claim of independence does not stand up to scrutiny and conflicts with WHA resolutions such as WHA 49.15 (1996) that requires “monitoring …[to be] carried out in a transparent and independent manner, free from commercial influence.” ATNI works very closely with all the companies it is monitoring. On the ATNI board are Mark Van Ameringan of GAIN and Paulus Verschuren, former Senior director of Unilever Global Helath partnerships and former Ex Director of industry-funded ILSI Europe. ATNI is largely funded by GATES which still has large investments in food companies.
- ATNI rewards a range of practices that are highly problematic and conflict with WHA Resolutions: sponsorship (of health professionals and nutrition education), promotional claims and the promotion of Public Private Partnerships, influencing governments and policy makers. (All the corporations rated by ATNI are selling the highly processed foods that most health advocates was should be avoided.)
- Even when problems are uncovered (and ATNI’s monitoring did find many problems) ATNI reports them with a ‘spin’ that the largest companies can live with. See how Nestle’s does this: Access to Nutrition Index: Nestlé leads on breast milk substitute marketing, comes second overall http://www.nestle.com/media/news/nestle-leads-access-to-nutrition-index-breast-milk-substitute-marketing
- ATNI rewards companies for embedding its policies into its management and advocating/lobbying governments. ATNI overlooks the weakness of the corporate policies – 90% of the Nestlé violations IBFAN finds are in line with Nestlé’s policy….. “Although all companies still have a long way to go, Unilever, Nestlé and Danone have clearly embedded a commitment to addressing global nutrition challenges into their core business models; commitments are translated into practice and reported on publicly. This is commendable. It should be regarded as an example of best practice and as a guide to improvement for other companies.”
- ATNI is designed for investors – with the aim of encouraging voluntary action by the world’s most problematic corporations and rewarding them through investments. This is a very different approach to the one taken by IBFAN. We provide governments with the objective reports that they need to inform public health policies making and help bring in effective regulations. We believe this is the only way to stop bad practice in the long term. Voluntary action lasts only as long as it suits the companies.
The launch started with a presentation by Martyn Jones – investment Analysts Equity Investment of Alliance Trust Investments. His presentation illustrated how ATNI approach is focused on incentives – the ‘carrot’ rather than the stick approach. He explained how investors see regulation as just one ‘driver’ and are far more interested in ‘consumer perception,’ what captures ‘hearts and minds’ and how people ‘vote with their wallets. ’ Investors don’t just look at risk. They see opportunities. For example, are shares going up in malnutrition, health and wellness foods? Products that are ‘natural’ or ‘free from’ are taking 27% of the market – even though no-one can tell you what ‘natural’ means.
(Apparently manufacturing a rose petal essence ‘naturally’ would place far too much pressure on the environment because thousands of kilos of rose petals would be needed.)