Two years ago, at the age of 55, Jeremy Coller had something of a midlife crisis. One of the most successful figures in U.K. private equity, Coller is CIO of London-based Coller Capital. His most recent fund, Coller International Partners VII, raised more than $7 billion. With a team of some 160, including 15 investment professionals, and offices in New York and Hong Kong, $17 billion Coller Capital is the world’s largest asset manager dedicated to secondary-market private equity.
Yet despite his professional achievements, Coller felt that his biography was a snooze. While still committed to building the business he founded in 1990, he decided to also do something more interesting with his life.
Other people reaching the half-century mark and totting up the ledger of their accomplishments might buy a Ferrari or take off around the world. But when Coller sat down and thought about the future, he realized what he had to do. His goal is simple but ambitious: End animal factory farming within 40 years.
To do that he’s enlisting the help of the institutional investor community. For Coller, raising animals for consumption in factories rather than on pasture land isn’t just cruel — it’s a health, safety and investment risk. At the same time, the innovations necessary to sustain a growing global population, and to cater to changing diets as demand for meat increases in developing countries, offer attractive investment opportunities in areas such as venture capital and agriculture.
“This is not about vegetarianism,” insists Coller, now 57, who himself became a vegetarian at age 11 as a response to inhumane farming practices. Last year, with backing from his family’s Jeremy Coller Foundation, he launched an initiative called FAIRR, or Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return, to raise investor awareness.
Taking a page from the playbook of recent environmental activist campaigns over the financial risk that climate change poses to investor portfolios, FAIRR highlights the economic risk — as well as the environmental and health costs — associated with continuing to consume animals raised in factories. Fed on products such as soy and corn instead of being allowed to graze naturally, these animals use resources far less efficiently and cause much more environmental damage than their free-roaming counterparts. The Coller initiative has identified 28 risk factors associated with the production and consumption of factory-raised meat.
FAIRR is encouraging investors to join its effort and sign up to three principles: Consider farm animal welfare an environmental, social and governance (ESG) issue in investment decision making, consider including it in investment monitoring, and support transparency on the matter by portfolio companies. Among those that have taken the pledge: Scottish financial services firm Alliance Trust, European asset manager and financial services provider Allianz and Boston Common Asset Management, a U.S. socially responsible investment firm. In December, Dutch asset management giant Robeco became one of 16 major institutional investors to join the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare, a London-based nonprofit that Coller helps support, which pushes companies to treat their animals better.
Coller acknowledges that animal welfare is not an obvious priority for most investors. But as he likes to remind his audience, “People are also animals.” Pigs, cows, sheep and chickens can’t stand up for themselves — all the more reason to fight harder for their, and investors’, best interests.
Follow Imogen Rose Smith on Twitter at @imogennyc.