A group of powerful investors managing $1.25 trillion in assets have joined forces to get global food companies such as Kraft Heinz, Nestlé, Unilever, Tesco and Walmart to account for their sustainability strategies.

The campaign is launched to promote sustainable food production - especially in animal production.

The investors, which include several Swedish state pension funds, Folksam and Nordea, wrote the food companies ultimo September 2016 urging them to respond to the "material" risks of industrial farming and to diversify into plant-based sources of protein.

Hetal Damani Hetal Damani, Senior Analyst at Nordea Asset Management

In dialogue with companies

Hetal Damani, Senior Analyst at Nordea Asset Managements team for Responsible Investments, explain why Nordea have joined the alliance:

- We have joined the initiative as part of our commitment to climate change. A significant part of global warming is due to agriculture, which accounts for 15% of total CO2 emissions. Half of this comes from animal husbandry, she told Danish independent food industry journal FødevareWatch.

- As part of our engagement strategy, we go through various forums of cooperation in dialogue with companies on issues that are essential for the companies' future development. These include the issue of climate change. The goal is to urge companies to improve their policies and processes, if necessary. It’s about ensuring that they are well prepared to meet future challenges in the field of sustainability, she added.

Growing profit from plant-based protein

Jeremy Coller is founder of the Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return (FAIRR) initiative, organizer of the investor group. He’s more than convinced that changes need to be done.

- The world's over reliance on factory farmed livestock to feed the growing global demand for protein is a recipe for a financial, social and environmental crisis, Coller told Reuters.

- Investors want to know if major food companies have a strategy to avoid this protein bubble and to profit from a plant-based protein market set to grow by 8.4% annually over the next five years, he said.

The campaign follows an Oxford University study stating that $1.5 trillion in healthcare and climate change-related costs could be saved by 2050 if people reduced their reliance on meat.