The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light some big weaknesses in the meat and dairy industry, and the head of a big activist group is looking to capitalize on that increased visibility to prompt changes to risky practices, tackle climate change and shift to plant-based meat alternatives.
The meat industry has been hard hit by COVID-19 as the pandemic has exposed frailties in everything from supply chains and production processes and associated greenhouse gas emissions levels to worker safety, said Jeremy Coller. Coller founded the industry activist group Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return, or FAIRR, and he talks to us in the latest episode of ESG Insider, an S&P Global podcast about environmental, social and governance issues.
Coller warns that the meat industry needs to make big changes quickly or risk heading in the direction of the ailing U.S. coal industry, which is being left behind in the clean energy transition. FAIRR is a network of investors with a combined $25 trillion under management that aims to expose the considerable financial risks posed by large-scale animal farming and prompt the industry to address those risks. The group is also pushing for greater adoption of plant-based meat alternatives.
"Investors are asking more and more challenging questions, and you're seeing the response by these meat and dairy companies as they change their names to protein companies and are spending more and more on investigating alternative proteins," Coller says in the episode.
READ MORE: See our coverage of the risks the meat and dairy industry face regarding their emissions, pollution impacts, and operating practices.
Coller also acknowledges that the meat industry is only at the early stages of addressing the emissions associated with mass meat production, especially compared to changes occurring in the energy industry, where utilities are moving to decarbonize their systems.
"Meat and dairy has only just started on this long road," Coller says.