The food industry is perceived to bring the most value to society, benefitting from an external audience ranking its value higher than data shows, a new study by Portland has revealed.

Portland’s inaugural Total Value Index, launched today, measures the value that organisations create, analysing nine sectors, on a range of measures including profits and dividends, R&D levels, employee diversity and satisfaction, records on corporate tax and the environment. It also tests the findings against how an external informed audience, including journalists, policymakers, business leaders, academics and influential consumers, thinks the different sectors are doing and why.

The Index found the food industry gained better recognition for the value they bring, across every pillar, than publicly available data shows they are actually contributing overall. This compares to the other sectors surveyed in the Index which, on the whole, fell short of being given the recognition for the value they create. The retail industry was the only other to be overvalued.

As one of the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, high levels of capital investment and innovation have boosted the perception of the industry as a producer of goods and services and are seen to be a valuable sector to invest in. Food waste management, advocacy for local farmers and job creation were also positive drivers for how the industry is perceived as an employer and citizen.

Despite the sector’s positive sentiment, key issues were highlighted by the external audience. Junk food and obesity, plastic consumption, minimum wages, retail consolidation and job losses due to Brexit were all thrown up as challenges for the sector.

The index was produced in the context of rising expectations of businesses in Britain. Customers, voters and policymakers are increasingly demanding business leaders use their resources and expertise to play a part in providing solutions to global challenges.

“Our Total Value Index shows the food industry is getting credit for how they have responded to external pressures put on them,” said Mary Pollard, partner and head of purpose at Portland. “The challenge now is how all businesses within the industry keep up with the high performance and expectations of the sector and respond to issues such as obesity and plastics which continue to dominate the news agenda.”