The World Benchmark Alliance has today announced the results of its 2021 Food and Agriculture Benchmarks, which evaluates the performance of 350 keystone companies – those with a disproportionate impact on the global food system – on key environmental, nutritional and social inclusion topics. It found that an overwhelming number are falling short on meeting key benchmarks, including those related to workforce nutrition in a sector that employs 23 million people directly and another 500 million through its supply chains.
Workforce nutrition is comprised of four pillars – the delivery of nutrition education, healthy food at work, nutrition health checks and breastfeeding support and is recognized for bringing significant benefits to both a company and its employees.
In launching the Food and Agriculture Benchmarks today, Viktoria de Bourbon de Parme, Lead Food and Agriculture Transformation, World Benchmark Alliance said, "Workforce nutrition can have a very direct impact on helping people to improve their diets, and it is encouraging to see that nearly 90 companies have implemented at least one of the four programmes that is suggested by the Workforce Nutrition Alliance, and it actually demonstrates that this is an area where companies can rapidly improve their efforts."
Of the 350 companies evaluated, none or 0% have a workforce nutrition programme that includes all four, or even 3 pillars. Just 17, or 5% are implementing 2 pillars; while 72 or 20% are implementing just one pillar; and a dismal 261 or 75% do not disclose having any workforce nutrition pillar in place at all.
Meanwhile, poor diets are the main contributor to the global burden of disease. Approximately 3 billion people cannot afford a healthy diet, and more than 3 billion people suffer from at least one manifestation of poor nutrition.
"A workforce nutrition programme can have great impact, not just as an entry point to sensitise management, boards and shareholders about nutrition, but also for employees," said Michael Ojo, Nigeria Country Director for the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN).
"The fact that none of the 350 companies evaluated in the Food and Agriculture Benchmark has in place a comprehensive four-pillar workforce nutrition programme in place, and only 89 out of the 350 companies are implementing just one or two pillars, represents a significant opportunity being missed by these companies," added Ojo. "Workforce health schemes have a benefit-cost ratio of 6:1 in terms of economic benefits, and when linked to living wages, can enable employees to invest more in their own nutrition by buying and consuming more nutritious foods – it’s a clear win for employers and employees."
A workforce nutrition programme can have great impact, not just as an entry point to sensitise management, boards and shareholders about nutrition, but also for employees.
The benchmark’s aim is to stimulate the most influential food and agriculture companies to apply sustainable business practices throughout their operations as well as use their influence to encourage value chain partners to do the same – and do so my providing robust evidence of companies showing leadership and stewardship and those that are lagging behind.
In the area of workforce nutrition, companies that have begun to show positive engagement and leadership, include: Unilever, Fonterra and Firmenich - and all appeared in the overall list of top 10 companies, with Unilever ranking number one.
For those companies that have not yet begun to develop a workforce nutrition programme, the Workforce Nutrition Alliance provides technical support as well as the tools and resources to do so. It was established by GAIN and the Consumer Goods Forum in 2019, with the aim of bringing access to and knowledge about healthy nutrition to +3 million employees in member organisations and supply chains by 2025.