Vegan ESG Investors Want Plant-Based Food Options in America’s Hospitals

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Larger push would make plant-based meals default in hospitals, schools, and prisons

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing continues to reshape America’s private sector. It may soon help dictate the food served at a hospital near you.

The boards of directors for several major American healthcare companies have been sent shareholder proposals from proxy-holders of U.S. Climate Vegan ETF, an exchange-traded fund from the vegan investment firm Beyond Investing. Launched in 2019, it marked the first vegan ETF on Wall Street. Its website states that it maintains “rigorous ESG standards.”

An ambulance drives by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, part of it will be a COVID-19 testing site in Boston, Mass., on March 7, 2020. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

What do vegan impact investors want? In this specific case, plant-free food options in hospital cafeterias and vending machines, as well as for every meal served to inpatients.

A press release from Beyond Investing states that their firm hopes “these proposals will be included in the proxy statements that these companies will circulate to shareholders in anticipation of their 2023 annual meetings.”

Centene, Elevance Health, HCA Healthcare, Molina Healthcare, and United Health Group were the healthcare companies contacted.

“We call on other shareholders in these companies to support our proposed resolutions and bring about better health outcomes for patients and improve these companies’ bottom lines,” said Claire Smith, the CEO of Beyond Investing.

Beyond Investing’s website describes Smith as one of the “longstanding vegans and environmentalists” behind the firm.

Beyond Investing has about $65 million in assets under management. CBS reported in 2019 that the company has no connection to the well-known meat substitute company Beyond Meat.

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Beans, which can be eaten as part of a vegan diet. (Veliavik/Shutterstock)

Although Beyond Investing has targeted American companies, its principals reside in Europe.

The company’s website states that Smith “splits her time between Ireland and Switzerland.” The two other Beyond Investing team members list phone numbers in the United Kingdom and the island of Jersey, a tax haven located between Great Britain and France.

Broader Campaign to Make Vegan Food Default in Institutions

The latest effort from Beyond Investing comes as other plant-based food advocates seek to expand the availability of vegan options in hospitals and other large institutions.

The proponents of widespread veganism argue that meat is damaging to human health and hazardous to the climate–claims rejected by many other experts and commentators, including a pseudonymous champion of traditional diets who goes by Raw Egg Nationalist.

The push for plant-based hospital food has gotten publicity boosts from New York City’s mayor, Eric Adams, a self-described vegan who has admitted to sometimes eating fish.

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Eric Adams, mayor of New York City, speaks on stage during The 2022 Concordia Annual Summit at Sheraton New York in New York City on Sept. 19, 2022. (Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)

A September press release from the Office of the Mayor promotes a move by New York City Health + Hospitals to make “culturally diverse plant-based meals” the main dinner option available to patients at a number of facilities.

Plant-based meals are now the default lunch and dinner option in that system, which serves more than one million patients every year.

“It’s great to know that patients at our public hospitals will have further access to plant-based meals that will encourage them to integrate such recipes in their meals at home,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso.

New York City’s change is in line with a broader push to transition the world’s population away from meat, including by altering the food served in hospitals, public schools, prisons, and other large institutions.

British climate scientist Martin Maslin, a professor at University College London, predicted such a future to iNews in August 2021.

“If you get the incentives, the regulation and the taxes right, then you can shift a whole populations’ diet to a much more plant-based diet,” he said at the time.

The DefaultVeg campaign, led by the Better Food Foundation and other partners, explicitly seeks to “make plant-based food the default and give people the choice to opt in for meals with animal products.”

In 2019, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) resolved that K-12 schools, hospitals, and prisons should be made to offer plant-based meals to their students, patients, and inmates.

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Yet, even as players in academia and the nonprofit world seek to advance a plant-based future, the market’s appetite for meat alternatives may be sated.

Beyond Meat’s stock price has declined almost 78 percent since 2022 began. The stock price of Oatly Group AB, which produces oat-based dairy alternatives, fell just under 77 percent during the same period.

Both outpaced the S&P 500’s overall decline of more than 17 percent over that timespan.

The U.S. Vegan Climate ETF, touted in the media last year for out-performing the S&P 500, has fallen over 24 percent in 2022.

Beyond Meat Burger
A Beyond Meat Burger on display at a store in Port Washington, N.Y., on June 3, 2019. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

The Epoch Times has reached out to Smith, Beyond Investing’s CEO, for comment.

The Epoch Times has also reached out to Centene, Elevance Health, HCA Healthcare, Molina Healthcare and United Health Group for comment.

Nathan Worcester


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