I recently had the pleasure of speaking at the UN Food Systems Pre-Summit in Rome on the topic of nutrition. The event helps to set the stage for the culminating global event in September by bringing together diverse actors from around the world to leverage the power of food systems to deliver progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), many of which I’m glad to say The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) members, through our Coalitions of Action, are working on. One such Coalition, Collaboration for Healthier Lives (CHL), has been playing a key role in supporting Track 1 of the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) and is helping to raise the bar on workforce nutrition, a key theme within the Summit. Personally, I was delighted to be involved in the event, because we recognise the workplace as an optimal point of intervention to contribute to the improved health and wellbeing of individuals and 2021 needs to be about implementing actions that deliver positive impacts.

2021 is a critical year for so many reasons. Not only is it the one-year anniversary for all of our Coalitions at the CGF, but there is also the UNFSS, Nutrition for Growth Summit and it marks the halfway point in the UN’s Decade of Action on Nutrition. It also marks the anniversary of our collaboration with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) in creating the Workforce Nutrition Alliance. As we continue to drive our efforts with key partners and stakeholders, it is important for the CGF to align with global organisations such as the UN and GAIN to help pave the way for discussions and actions in working towards the Sustainable Development Goals, while tackling some of the biggest challenges facing our industry and the world today.

Of these global challenges, health is among those at the forefront. There is significant pressure on existing health care structures, which is even further heightened by global economic burdens. The Covid-19 pandemic has intensified these challenges, and people in communities across the globe expect not only the public sector, but also the private sector to play their part in addressing these crucial issues. Now more than ever, health and wellbeing are top of mind worldwide, and the numbers are staggering. One in three people around the world are malnourished, and over two billion of the world’s population are overweight or obese. Most of the world’s 3.4 billion workers are unwell, with 76% reporting they are struggling with their wellbeing. Not only do we need to take action, we need to act with urgency.

When the CGF joined forces with the GAIN to co-launch the Workforce Nutrition Alliance, we aimed to support employers to adopt and build better workforce nutrition programmes, that ensure a healthy workforce today, and strong competitiveness into the future. In July 2021, the Alliance supported the organisation of a UNFSS Pre-Summit Affiliated Session, bringing together leaders from government, civil society, the private sector and non-governmental organisations, to delve into the topic of access to nutrition through the workplace. More specifically, the event aimed to address how the private sector can be leveraged to tackle global malnutrition, exploring the key role of workforce nutrition programmes. The session marked an important opportunity for the CGF to champion private sector action and the work of the Alliance, in a multi-stakeholder conversation on an influential global platform.

Employers often struggle with how to begin the process of enhancing nutrition for their employees, what steps to take, and where to access information and knowledge. The Workforce Nutrition Alliance fills this gap by offering tools and resources that any employer can use to make the process simple and easy. By covering the four pillars of workforce nutrition: healthy food at work, nutrition education, nutrition health checks, and breastfeeding support, the Alliance aims to positively impact three million employees in their organisations and supply chains by 2025.

Today’s consumer goods retailers and brands are important employers within communities around the world. There is a clear case for our industry to play an active role in supporting employees to live healthier lives, with close to 60% of the world’s population spending one third of their time at work during their adult life. We at the CGF therefore understand the value for our members in investing in the wellbeing of their employees, including their nutritional health. Poor diet leads to low concentration, absenteeism, staff turnover, low productivity and accidents, and poorly fed employees cost employers up to 850 billion dollars a year. Whereas, for example, evidence shows an at least 3:1 return on investment for employers through cost savings, when investing in workplace breastfeeding support programmes. So, investing in workforce nutrition is not only the responsible thing for employers to do, it also leads to healthier business. It is a clear win-win.

The global workforce has never been in greater need of health and wellbeing support and we need to ensure that our industry continues to play our part to enable a culture of health and wellbeing, including nutrition. My hope is that more and more CGF members and beyond will leverage the free tools and resources available to build their capacity and strengthen their ability to enhance their workforce nutrition programmes. We look forward to further driving collective efforts to help employees across the globe pursue healthier lifestyle choices and diets, while in turn, driving healthier businesses and a healthier world.

You can also learn more about our work at the upcoming Sustainable Retail Summit, where CHL and workforce nutrition will be high on the agenda.

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