02 February 2017

Why should businesses invest in better nutrition? It's smart, sustainable and the right thing to do.

Earlier this week I was invited by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to give a presentation to a gathering of CEOs of companies located in India on how to make businesses and markets work for nutrition. 

I structured my talk around answering 2 questions: 

Why bother to make markets and businesses work for nutrition? and What do CEOs need to do?


First, why bother?

1.     It is the smart thing to do

·       The medium term market opportunities are enormous.  The Business and Sustainable Development Commission’s new report estimates that globally about $1 trillion of business opportunity is embedded within 4 areas

* Develop food markets that help low income households get access to nutritious foods
* Reformulate products for enhanced micronutrients, lower sugar, salt and transfats
* Reduce food loss in the supply chain
* Reduce consumer food waste in the home

India would be home to a significant chunk of the $1 trillion.

·       The short term wins are significant. Improving nutrition environment in the workplace will

* Reduce absenteeism and presenteeism by about the same percentage
* Reduce staff turnover also

In a highly competitive environment, these margins are highly significant

2.     It is the right thing to do

We know that healthier and more productive consumers will purchase more goods and services, so there is a smart rationale for businesses to invest in nutrition.  But there is also a moral case.  

Malnutrition is very high in India as the Global Nutrition Report notes.  

* Poor diets are the number one cause of the global burden of disease and a top 5 factor in India
* 38% of Indian under 5’s are stunted
* 48% of Indian women suffer from anaemia
* 22% of Indian adults are overweight or obese

This is too much for the government or foundations or international development partners to address on their own—responsible businesses have an obligation to add their know how, resources and skills to the fight.

3.     It is the sustainable thing to do

* Making businesses and markets work for nutrition is a way of rebuilding trust in CEOs. International evidence suggests that it is at an all time low

* There is evidence from Unilever and others that brands with a social purpose command higher margins

* Whichever country you are in, the pressure from consumers, health professionals and governments is going to lead to more regulation, taxes, and subsidy removals—all in the name of better nutrition.  For example, see Mexico and the UK on soda taxes.  The CEOs that quietly get ready for these changes will have a competitive advantage.

So if making businesses and markets work harder for good nutrition is the smart, right, and sustainable thing to do, how to do it?

1.      Be champions for improving nutrition: better nourished citizens are better customers

2.      Work with peers in business to get governments to create a level playing field at the sector level by developing:

* Standards: e.g. promulgating and enforcing standards on food safety and quality around large scale food fortification for example

* Policy: e.g. reducing import duties on fortificants and reducing taxes on companies that are developing healthier products

* Finance: e.g. blended financing instruments, e.g. preferential credit facilities for more nutritious foods, matching funds

3.      Incorporate nutrition goals into your corporate strategies

* Be aligned with the way the world is moving: be on the right side of history
* Make the ideas of creating shared value a reality
* Walk the talk, get consumer sentiment on your side, attract value investors

So, making markets work for nutrition is the right thing to do, but it is also the sustainable and smart thing to do.

As an international NGO, this is one of GAIN’s core goals, and that is why we are delighted to work with organisations like the host, FSSAI under the strong leadership of their CEO Mr. Agarwal.

2 comments:

Ahmadwali Aminee said...

thanks for posting the important issue, about the sustainability according to my opinion , since ideally every business working for making profit rather then pay attention to the nutrition status of people (e.g production and sale of fast foods) , and the key actor for sustainability is the acting of governments , if the governments not able to regulate the implementation of standards, regulation and safety procedure at any time, the companies will not take care about producing of nutritious food which mostly less pay off than non-nutritious foods.

Ahmadwali Aminee said...

thanks for posting the important issue, about the sustainability according to my opinion , since ideally every business working for making profit rather then pay attention to the nutrition status of people (e.g production and sale of fast foods) , and the key actor for sustainability is the acting of governments , if the governments not able to regulate the implementation of standards, regulation and safety procedure at any time, the companies will not take care about producing of nutritious food which mostly less pay off than non-nutritious foods.