There will be a before 2020 and after 2020! It’s clear that there is now a profound disruption happening in our society. The pandemic has caused a dramatic shift in both our expectations and perceptions, and health has been thrust into the limelight. Health is what matters – health of people and our planet – and the need for more inclusive economies has never been so obvious. COVID can and must be a turning point in our history to ensure a genuine reset. I believe companies need to reinvent their models to demonstrate their contribution to society. Companies with a positive footprint will thrive, chosen by employees, consumers, investors and partners.

These are challenging times, no doubt, but I have a lot of hope. We know the next generation is craving change, and they already account for one-third of total consumption. They are begging for authenticity, honesty and purpose. 98% are looking for brands that are doing good in the world. Their act of consumption is becoming an act of voting for the world they want to live in. This is true of our own people too. 90% of millennials want to use their job skills to create a positive impact. So yes, the next generation is becoming activists for a better world. The time for us to change how we live and act has to come. There is a movement taking place; it’s now way beyond a niche for businesses to be purposeful.

However, how can one company address these issues alone? In truth, it can’t, no matter how good your intentions. This is where collaboration can be so powerful. We need the power of collective action to achieve this genuine reset. More than ever before, The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) is the place where we can act at the speed and scale we need to transform our industry and progress towards the UN SDGs.  


How Collaboration For Healthier Lives is Acting Around the World

When we started the Collaboration for Healthier Lives journey three years ago, we wanted to impact healthier lives through business actions. We realised the cause we served was too big to be achieved alone: we needed one another. This is why we created an ACT TANK, a Coalition of Action to empower people to live healthier lives while creating shared value, for our businesses and the communities we serve.

The question is no longer about the WHY; it is about the HOW. How do we make this happen? How do we impact and ensure that we make our actions the core of our business model? To answer these questions, we built a strategy anchored in the CGF’s uniqueness to make a meaningful impact: a CEO led organisation, collaboration between retailers and manufacturers, and a global footprint around the world.

WE ACT LOCAL by joining forces locally. We created a movement, a movement of more than 160 organisations – manufacturers, retailers, NGOs, academics, local health authorities and other stakeholders – acting in 14 countries to impact healthier lives. We have engaged more than 50 million consumers already, and it’s only the beginning!

In Latin America, we started the journey in Colombia, thanks to generous and courageous leadership, bringing businesses together for healthier baskets. In 2020, in Mexico, we used digital channels to engage more than eight million people to help them make healthier choices and increase the consumption of healthier products.

In the UK, we enjoy our most advanced collaboration with academics and local authorities. We are working with the London Food Board and the University of Oxford, who have helped us to analyse and report on the positive impact witnessed as part of the in-store activations taking place in the London Boroughs. We have published two progress reports, enjoyed good media coverage and co-produced a documentary short with BBC Storyworks. For 2021, we will start phase 2 in the spring and have clear pathway to roll out nationwide.

In Turkey, we developed a data-driven basket. The team created personalised recommendations and incentives based on the gap between consumers’ purchasing habits and the Turkish Ministry of Health’s guidelines. We had amazing success, with more than two million people reached and 300,000 engaged. We reported on the key impacts around healthier baskets and category growth.

In China, we have created a coalition with the support of the Chinese Nutrition Society. In 2019 & 2020, a series of in-store activations and online initiatives, including live streams, were launched in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Hangzhou and Shenyang. Phase 2 is also now underway.

We are demonstrating that it is possible. But it is just the beginning. We believe in the power of collaboration and we are moving the needle step-by-step and are setting new business standards.

However, it’s also important to remember it’s not just about the consumer. We need to think about our own people too. Implementing a culture of health and wellbeing has always been core to our agenda. But, in a time of COVID-19, it has become our number 1 priority. Companies have implemented extraordinary measures to protect and support their employees, especially their frontline workers. Companies are doing their best, having head office employees helping in stores and in distribution centers, recognising the amazing work done by the frontline workers to ensure business continuity and providing mental health support hotlines.

Health, wellbeing and happiness at the workplace is a clear objective for CGF members. It is about caring; the role of proximity management is critical.  It does create a sense of belonging and ownership. In that space, and our coalition is making great progress, with a webinar series to share best practices, the alliance with GAIN on nutrition and KPIs are being set up to create a reference for employee wellbeing.

Keys to Rethink Collective Success & Sustainable Business Models

As you can see, initiatives are happening around the world. There is no magic bullet to embrace healthier lives while setting new business standards. It’s a learning journey for all of us. Let me share what I have learned.

1. Adopt healthier lives as a business model to drive growth

Contributing to healthier lives is now becoming a growing interest from companies around the world, as it is now people’s number one priority. CEOs are starting from a personal conviction that healthier lives can be the cornerstone of business success and engine of growth.

2. Aim for a holistic impact on behaviour change

Our responsibility as the consumer goods industry is to help consumers and employees make better choices, meaning healthier and more sustainable choices for themselves, their families and the world at large.  

3. Be anchored in digital and data

The only way to win is to ensure appropriate levels of data sharing and the use of digital to unlock new business models and drive the impact at scale we need.

4. Leverage partnerships and engage stakeholders to unleash capabilities and positive change

Our collective action is not static; we learn by doing. However, engaging with other stakeholders is also critical to success. Business cannot solve this alone. Our movement engages with the stakeholders that matter most (governments, academics, NGOs and local health authorities) to push the boundaries of positive change and help us become part of the solution.

5. Dare to create new ways of doing business to define future standards

Together we are reinventing the way manufacturers and retailers interact. Going from a transactional only to more collaborative approach and by creating shared value, for our businesses and for the communities we serve.

A Call to Action for Leaders to Build Healthier Futures

CEOs sponsorship is essential, but this is not enough. We need to harness the power of people to make it happen, we need people implementing and supporting on the ground. We need local GMs, growth and innovation, public affairs and communications leaders, Human Resources experts, and we need even more partners and stakeholders. We need progressive leaders who are obsessed with making their business a force for good. Only through this generous and committed support can we make this goal a reality.

So, the question to you, as a leader: Are you doing enough? Do you have the courage to do what’s right, to go beyond the “business as usual” approach to enhance the full operationality of this vision? How can we push the boundaries by joining forces? This matters more now than ever. It matters for you. It matters for the next generation. It matters for your business. If not now, when?


This post was written and contributed by:

Isabelle Grosmaitre
One Planet. One Health Catalyst, Danone
and Co-Chair of the CGF’s Collaboration for Healthier Lives Coalition