Those in the business of fast‑moving consumer goods (“FMCGs”) are likely aware of the plethora of environmental and product stewardship regulations applicable to the FMCG sector. These laws are set to increase and expand in application. What FMCG companies also need to get to grips with are a range of broader (and also fast‑moving!) environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) developments and consequent risks and opportunities. Companies need to understand how the new world of ESG impacts their supply chains, key ingredients and components, consumer choice and confidence, competitive advantage, market accessibility, and marketing.
Designed as a ‘primer’ for FMCG companies, in this piece, we cover a range of key trends in the emerging UK and EU ESG legal landscape as relevant for the FMCG sector, from farmers to Food Business Operators (“FBOs”) and from manufacturers to retailers. We also discuss some key legal and reputational risks; as well as pointers to help companies decipher and prepare for the ESG storm.
We focus on the UK and the EU (first movers on many ESG issues), but the landscape in other jurisdictions (including, for example, the US) is also evolving and becoming more complex.
Key ESG Issues for FMCGs
We think there are four categories of key ESG developments for FMCGs to watch: (I) corporate reporting and disclosure regimes; (II) green/sustainability claims and labelling; (III) supply chain obligations; and (IV) product packaging and presentation.
Many emerging ESG frameworks cut across sectors. This may be efficient for regulators, but can make identifying sector-specific risks and opportunities more challenging. We have sought to do that below.