The humane treatment of farm animals is being advocated by 18 institutional investors, including three based in Boston, Mass., the non-profit advocacy group, Compassion in World Farming, announced Monday.

The institutional investors, most of which are located in Europe, control $2.17 trillion in assets. The three in the United States are Walden Asset Management, which is part of Boston Trust and Investment Management Company; LWCO Trust; and Trillium Asset Trust.

The institutional investors are part of the growing socially responsible investing movement. Each of the investors has signed the Investor Statement on Farm Animal Welfare and pledged to take the treatment of farm animals into consideration when analyzing food companies and making investments.

“Farm animal welfare is potentially material to long-term investment value creation in the food sector,” the investor statement says. They will use the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare as a framework for investments in food companies.

“This is the first time that institutional investors have supported a formal public statement on farm animal welfare. It is a clear sign that farm animal welfare is transitioning from being seen as a niche ethical issue to one that is recognized as an important source of business risk and of opportunity,” says Nicky Amos, program director of the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare.

Dr. Rory Sullivan, advisor to the Business Benchmark, adds, “The Business Benchmark has played a catalytic role in changing investors’ views on farm animal welfare. It provides investors with a robust, independent and credible assessment of corporate practice and performance on farm animal welfare, and is presented in a way that enables these to be incorporated into investment models and to underpin engagement programs.”