To perform well in this Category, companies should:
Nestlé India scores the highest in this Category for monitoring the engagement on nutrition issues with external stakeholders. Marico, assessed in the 2020 India Spotlight Index for the first time, is the best performing India-headquartered company. Among companies which were also assessed in 2016, three companies have shown considerable improvements in their score: Mother Dairy increased by 4.9 points, PepsiCo India by 4.6 points, and Britannia Industries by 4.1 points. Overall, the average score of this Engagement Category has increased from 1.5 to 3.3 points. In 2016, this was the Category of the India Spotlight Index where companies showed the lowest scores.
Companies’ interactions with respect to directly influencing public and government policies is not legally regulated in India. However, there are opportunities and channels for local and international food and beverage companies to engage with the Indian government and other policymaking bodies at various levels to support the national nutrition mission and help address India’s most pressing nutrition challenges. These challenges remain a serious threat for the country to reach its full potential as shown by the results from the first phase of the fifth and the latest round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), conducted in 2019-2020. The data indicate a decline in nutritional status of children under 5 years, and anemia among women remains a major cause of concern. Obesity among adults is increasing. Companies for instance, can provide support through interest and advocacy groups (or individuals), the internal public affairs division, industry associations, think-tanks, etc. with whose help companies can facilitate and maintain their interactions with the government. In addition, companies can support and positively engage with regulatory bodies such as the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the apex government body mandating food regulations, on all issues concerning food and beverage manufacturers.
In recent years, FSSAI has strengthened the regulatory environment and encouraged and supported improved compliance of companies with its regulations. For example, in December 2017, FSSAI established a self-regulation platform, the Responsible Food Companies Score for food companies, retailers stocking packaged food, and fast-food restaurant chains.
At the same time, FSSAI withdrew all old cases of non-compliance against food business operators, including food manufacturers that were deemed redundant to its revised standards. Since then, engagement between the food regulator and major food companies has led to improved dialogues. Food and beverage companies therefore have a crucial role to play in voicing their support towards policy efforts that improve public nutrition.
Effective stakeholder engagement and partnerships are also vital to integrate food and beverage companies’ work in order to have an impact on the wider-nutrition agenda in India. According to a report published by Global Corporate Governance Forum, poor stakeholder engagement has business and reputational risk. In contrast, a long-term, strategic approach that consists of a clear objective, thorough consultations, a focused-plan and greater understanding of stakeholder needs and priorities, can support sound business results, innovation and better nutrition. In this regard, national governmental and non-governmental organizations, such as the National Institute Nutrition, Tata Trusts (specially, with their India Nutrition Initiative), as well as other national/international institutions, such as Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP), Save the Children, etc., are some of the key organizations working on nutrition issues in India. Companies can solicit input from them to guide their commercial nutrition strategy and practices.
• In addition, companies could harness the collective power of the food and beverage industry by leading or joining industry-wide initiatives to address COVID-19-related nutrition challenges. For instance, companies were seen engaging through the support of trade associations, such as the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the US India Strategic Partnership Forum and the All-India Foods Processors’ Association, to gain ‘essential service’ status in order to maintain uninterrupted food supply to Indian consumers when the initial lockdown in March 2020 was announced and there were persisting ambiguities surrounding the lockdown restrictions for large food and beverage companies.
The India Spotlight Index 2020 research did not include indicators to score and rank companies’ responses to the COVID-19. But ATNI did talk to companies about their initial coping strategies and responses to the pandemic between March and June 2020 and ATNI has been tracking publicly available information on industry’s response globally to the COVID-19 crisis, including in India, and reported on trends, best practices and areas of concern in separate reports. Read more about how companies can positively contribute to addressing the global nutrition challenges in ATNI’s COVID-19 Project.ATNI Covid-19 Project
Nestlé India’s Council for Nutrition Affairs and other multi-stakeholder initiatives
Nestlé India aligns with its globally applied Policy on Transparent Interactions with Public Authorities 2017. The Governing Principles of such interactions include supporting public authorities in tackling societal issues such as malnutrition and diet related chronic diseases. Through this, the company commits to engage with policymakers, regulatory authorities and relevant public bodies for the development of public policies designed to address malnutrition. Nestlé India is also a member of the Confederation of Indian Industry National Committee on Nutrition, created in 2017. This National Committee works towards policy advocacy, building a consumer-connect, capacity building and knowledge creation in the area of nutrition. The Committee works in partnership with key stakeholders, such as National Institute for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), FSSAI, various ministries, NGO’s and micro, small and medium enterprises, on aligning its actions with the National Nutrition Strategy and contributing to tackling the problem of malnutrition.
In addition, Nestlé India has established an extensive engagement with internal and external stakeholders to improve its commercial nutrition strategy, and to support the development of public strategies aimed at tackling the problem of malnutrition in India. Through the Nestlé Council for Nutrition Affairs, established in 2012, the company incorporates external professionals from the field of nutrition and administration to periodically advise on its nutrition strategy and programs. Moreover, the company organizes stakeholder meetings with top-level management and external stakeholders in the field of nutrition. Nestlé India also works with stakeholders across its value chain – from farmers and suppliers to trade associations and local communities – to improve the productivity and quality of produce and to create awareness regarding water and nutrition.
Marico’s nutrition-related stakeholder engagement
Marico is the best performing India-headquartered company in this Category for its overall approach towards engaging with government bodies and stakeholders on nutrition-related issues. Marico indicates in its Annual Report 2018 that it contributes to regulatory and operational development, and other areas that affect industry and government bodies, for instance by working with FSSAI on food safety and consumer awareness. The company elaborates further in its Sustainability Report 2018 that it has engaged with FSSAI on various occasions, such as partnering with them (for 11 years) on Food Safety Training and Certification, a program that works towards capability development of government officials and working with them on school outreach programs in urban and rural areas on issues concerning nutrition and food safety (impacting more than 18,000 students).
Marico also has a well-structured approach to engaging with its various stakeholders. The Sustainability Report states that Marico engages with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, both internal and external, and with its approach rooted in principles of accountability and inclusive growth. The company further explains that it engages with each stakeholder group to work towards specific goals, one of which is related to developing its business strategy. The report goes on to present a list of key stakeholders the company has engaged with: investors, government and regulatory bodies, third party manufactures, supply chain partners, local community and NGOs. With their involvement, Marico developed a materiality matrix to identify the most important business (including nutrition issues) for the company and its stakeholders and established focus areas to set sustainability goals with measurable targets to be achieved by 2022. Some of the areas identified were in product responsibility with elements of ‘customer health and safety’ and ‘marketing and labelling’. The company further states that it has developed a vision to ensure adherence to all consumer health and safety standards and promote consumer wellbeing (mainly surrounding heart-health and nutrition awareness).
To increase transparency and positively engage with government and policymakers to impact consumers’ access to nutrition, food and beverage manufacturers in India are encouraged to:
To improve and accelerate their engagement with stakeholders in order to impact consumers’ access to nutrition, food and beverage manufacturers in India are encouraged to: