Businesses throughout the food and drink sector are lagging off the pace when it comes to reporting on corporate sustainability issues.

According to a survey from business advisory firm KPMG, exactly half of the food and drink businesses within the Global Fortune 250 (GFT250) publish some form of corporate sustainability report - whether it be on health and safety, sustainability, environmental or social issues. However, this still means that it ranks tenth out of the sixteen industry sectors represented within the GFT250.

Outside of the GFT250, the figures are worse. The survey examined the reports of the top 100 companies in 19 different countries across the world*. Out of the 126 food and drink businesses included, only a quarter were found to produce a corporate sustainability report - ranking the sector ahead of only the engineering, retail, finance and construction sectors.

These are the findings of a comprehensive survey of corporate sustainability reporting published by KPMG's Global Sustainability Services, in collaboration with the Graduate Business School of the University of Amsterdam.

Maria Sillanpaa of KPMG's Global Sustainability Services said: "The performances of both the food and drink sector and the retail sector are intrinsically linked. The retail sector has performed poorly on sustainability reporting because other issues such as ethics and integrity in supply chain management are more actively dominating the thoughts of senior execs. However, this constant scrutiny of their supply chain has caused many retail suppliers to be more open and honest on social, environmental and ethical issues than ever before. This pressure has been felt particularly acutely in the food and drink sector, with public concerns escalating over GM foods, BSE, foot and mouth, animal welfare, use of chemicals on food stuffs etc. In addition, more demands are being made to demonstrate support for local farmers and in general for sustainable agricultural policies."

"All of this has meant that more food and drink businesses than ever before are experiencing these reporting pressures. While these pressures are prompting more food and drink businesses to produce sustainability reports, the overall picture is not great with three out of four businesses still not reporting. However, those companies which have found the time to improve their communications have realised that the strategic use of reports can help to better protect and position their brand."

"Across all industry sectors, we have seen an increase in corporate reporting since our last survey three years ago because people are realising that, in order to sustain competitive advantage, non-financial performance is becoming more and more important. Additionally, analysts are realising that the information available from financial reports is not sufficient to fully understand a company's performance and value."

"It is essential that the underlying management and assurance processes are robust so that reporting is focused, relevant and credible. As companies begin to realise the business implications of their social and environmental performance, sustainability reporting is moving from a "nice to have" to a "need to have" status. Companies failing to see this will miss out on the benefits of good reporting."