Asia High on Global Health and Wellness Priorities: FIA Speaks to TCGF

Senior representatives from global retailers, manufacturers, service providers and other stakeholders will arrive in Singapore next week, to join The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) Health and Wellness Steering Committee Meeting that will be hosted by FIA in Singapore from 18-20 March 2014. This is the first time this Committee is meeting in Asia and reflects the growing importance of this region in the global health and wellness priorities of the CGF.

The FIA Secretariat had the opportunity to speak to the Co-Chairs of the Health and Wellness Committee, Mr Onno Franse of Royal Ahold and Mr Sanjay Sehgal of Nestlé. During the conversation, the Co-Chairs emphasised the importance of Asia and how collaboration with organisations like FIA is vital to the CGF's agenda.

FIA: How is the CGF addressing health and wellness globally?
Franse: Health and wellness is a core strategic focus for the CGF globally. Our key priority is to empower people around the world to make healthier product and lifestyle choices to improve their health and wellness. The CGF is focused on enabling its member companies to play a leadership role to educate consumers and shoppers and help them make informed choices. We also want to support collaborative industry action, and forge strong public-private partnerships, where appropriate, to encourage a whole-of-society approach to the health system.

Our Committee drives the implementation of the CGF Health and Wellness Resolutions, which were approved by the CGF Board of Directors in 2011. These resolutions demonstrate our members’ commitment to providing access to a broad range of products and services that support the goals of healthier diets and lifestyles; providing transparent and fact-based information to help consumers make informed product choices; and using communication and educational programmes to raise consumer awareness on health and wellness.

Alongside these resolutions is a recommended framework of actions outlining how members of the CGF and the Health and Wellness Committee can work together to support healthier diets and lifestyles. A survey of 50 CGF board companies showed that 100% of these companies have established policies and activities programmes on at least one of CGF’s Health and Wellness Resolutions while 70% of respondents have established policies in all three areas.

Sehgal: With the adoption of the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Action Plan on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) last year, the Committee is now focused on maximising the potential of our diverse membership to support the implementation of the proposed measures globally, regionally and at a community level.

The CGF Health and Wellness resolutions provide a framework for how the voluntary targets outlined in the Global Action Plan can be achieved with support from the private sector. For example, many members of the CGF are continually reformulating their products to reduce the overall content of sodium, sugars, saturated and trans-fat content in foods and beverages to support the goal of healthier diets. This is the behaviour we aim to encourage and support within the industry, through our framework of actions.

FIA: How significant is Asia to the Committee’s global agenda?
Franse: A quarter of our member companies are in Asia and health and wellness is a key focus for policy makers in the region. The double burden of malnutrition and overconsumption is acutely apparent in some parts of Asia. The World Health Organization revealed that 18 million children in Asia are now affected by obesity problems and the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is on the rise.

These issues cause considerable hardship to vulnerable communities and place a large socio-economic burden on over-stretched health budgets. Through our Health and Wellness Committee meeting next week, we want to better understand these issues and look at how the private sector can use its resources to develop tailor-made solutions to assist governments and policy makers as they address these challenges.

Collaboration with organisations such as FIA is critical to this. Our relationship with FIA so far has enabled the Committee to enhance the exchange of knowledge in their own companies and support local implementation of our resolutions in the region. We hope to deepen this working relationship further following our meeting in Singapore.

FIA: Are there any examples of how the Health and Wellness Resolutions are being adopted in the region?
Sehgal
: The industry in Asia has made great strides in promoting and implementing the actions outlined in these resolutions.

For example, FIA member companies in India, Thailand, The Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia have all adopted marketing to children pledges in which Pledge signatories commit to only advertise products that meet specific nutrition criteria to children under 12, or not advertise to children under the age of 12 at all. These pledges seek to reinforce messages on balanced diets and healthy lifestyles.

In other parts of the region, nutrition education programmes are being introduced to increase nutritional literacy to enable consumer to make more informed food choices.

We have also seen companies work proactively with academic institutions in Asia to better understand the needs of consumers and to reformulate their products or expand their product offering, providing access to a wide range of products that support healthier, active lifestyles.

The food and beverage industry in Asia is making good progress. Our goal is to accelerate this work and support the development of stronger public-private partnerships in this region, by working with FIA and other partners.

FIA: What have been some of the hurdles in promoting health and wellness globally and in Asia?
Franse: The lack of harmonised standards between countries is often a barrier to achieving consistent outcomes, as each country within Asia has a different approach to addressing their health and wellness issues. There is also a lack of good consumption data and research, across the region, which can provide an accurate picture of the health and wellness issue and inform a science-based approach to public health interventions.

There is a need to further demonstrate that the private sector is making genuine efforts to contribute to the overall health ecosystem and that it can be part of the solution. There are promising opportunities to build stronger relationships with key partners to health and wellness, especially in developing countries. Solving issues such as malnutrition and obesity in the region requires a multi-stakeholder, whole-of-society response. The industry has been working hard to demonstrate to policy makers, non-governmental organisations and community groups, that we are committed to improving health and wellness in the region and we have a role to play in the solution.

FIA: Moving forward, how does the Committee envision collaborating with FIA on health and wellness matters?
Sehgal: Collaboration with regional partners like FIA helps to ensure that global health and wellness initiatives are relevant to national priorities and can be easily adopted by companies at a country level.

Through our collaboration with FIA, we wish to accelerate engagement with our members in the region and urge them to engage in public-private partnerships to drive the widespread adoption of the CGF Resolutions. We also want to work together to develop new programmes with global commitments while encouraging local actions to meet those commitments.

Through these programmes, we hope to show that our members are dedicated to being part of an overall multi-stakeholder approach to reduce the critical health issues in the region and to improve the wellbeing of the global community.



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