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Making POSHAN Abhiyaan a Jan Andolan: Businesses and CSR have a Key Role to Play

By Sweta Chakraborty and Bhomik Shah On 28 May 2019
Making POSHAN Abhiyaan a Jan Andolan: Businesses and CSR have a Key Role to Play

India has taken a giant leap as economic powerhouse in last one decade and its per capita income has grown over 60% since 2010. Despite a glorifying story at economic front and satisfactory upward movement on many social performance indicators, India has a long way to go towards addressing the malnutrition challenge. With over 2/3rd of world’s malnourished children, India has to adopt a multi-level, multi-sectoral approach to get things on track. India’s businesses, with over 60 million employees (conservative estimate) and around INR 15000 Cr. annual CSR fund, have a key role to play in solving problem of hunger, malnutrition and undernutrition in India.

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A child and his mother being briefed about nutrition by health professional

A majority of us will agree that private sector has played a key role in the success of ‘Swachh Bharat’ and making it a Jan Andolan in true spirit. While Swachh has both tangible and aesthetic appeal in realising the change through one’s interventions, efforts towards nutrition may not have those key factors to attract the attention of a larger section of the private sector. However, this should not undermine the role of businesses in making POSHAN Abhiyaan(National Nutrition Mission) a Jan Andolan.

We have seen a lot of zeal and action-based approach from the government’s end and a lot is being done using the existing government machinery and foot-soldiers in the Panchayati Raj Institutions. This machinery and institutions have been there for long, and were deployed for decades to address India’s basic health problems but it failed to create a huge difference. What really is required is to create an ecosystem to take the nutrition off the bookshelves and research reports and make it a household term, from food-plates to brain-cells, from grocery-stores to factory canteens, everything needs to be in sync to ensure we have Jan’s (people) engagement in this crucial movement.

We, at CSRBOX, tried to look at how businesses looked at nutrition through CSR lens, and the numbers are really encouraging to give us hope that we are moving in the right direction. We analysed CSR projects of large 710 companies having prescribed CSR of above INR 0.50 Cr in the financial year 2017-18. The analysis shows that almost 30% of the companies have implemented or supported at least one CSR project that has nutrition interventions as either primary focus or secondary focus of the project. This is truly amazing as this number is of pre POSHAN Abhiyaan year. We are sure that when we will have numbers for the year 2018-19 in the next few weeks, the picture will be bigger and larger than this. Coming to the CSR fund, these companies (over 200 in number) spent 4.40% (INR 476 Cr.) of their entire CSR spent on nutrition-related projects.

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A vendor in the vegetable market

An investment in nutrition is one of the most compelling economic investments with the most substantial humanitarian returns: for every $1 invested in nutrition, a country can get $16 in returns (GNR, 2016). CSR leaders and decision-makers need to look at projects from the lens of social return on investment (SROI) along with prioritization in-line with the Country’s requirement to cross the barriers and gaps in achieving some of the crucial Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Pitching a nutrition CSR project vis a vis a traditional education or healthcare project to the CSR Committee and the board members is much difficult, and getting a go-ahead is definitely more challenging than it appears.  But this board-room nutrition literacy needs to be pushed from policy level approach to media awareness generation, from political leadership to economics of nutrition, to ensure we have both pull and push factors for businesses engagement in POSHAN Abhiyaan.

In this entire process of building blocks for nutrition-centric and nutrition integrated CSR projects, we should constantly keep in mind that we make it less technical, and more of a way of life to ascertain sustainability of outcomes and impacts at the smallest unit of the society-i.e. the family. Experiences and data show that nutrition projects do not require intensive funding, and hence the task at hand is more about using the existing resources and ongoing programs to integrate the element of nutrition. The questions that arise are ‘how we take the first step’ and ‘where are the guiding resources’.

With 60 million employees in private sector, businesses have immense pool of resources to create a nutrition-literate society. As the idiom goes ‘charity begins at home’, businesses need to engage their employees;  first to make them nutrition literate and secondly, to nurture nutrition ambassadors and champions among them who can shoulder the responsibility of pushing the agenda of nutrition awareness and healthier society to the next level.

This World Nutrition Day (28th May 2019) may pass without getting much attention from our media, policy-makers, social media champions, business leaders and influencers, but let’s make sure that in 2020, we have a reason to celebrate this day and a few significant achievements to glorify the cause that the ‘World Nutrition Day’ signifies.

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Children enjoying mid-day meal

We, at CSRBOX, take pledge on this day, to make at least one public place breastfeeding-friendly in the next 45 days to ensure new-age mothers get ample private space to feed their child. This is our baby-step towards making the POSHAN Abhiyaan a Jan Andolan. What is your pledge?

Write to us about your ideas and projects on POSHAN Abhiyaan at sweta@csrbox.org or post your initiatives with #We4Poshan

Tag : Nutrition CSR We4Poshan CSR Impacts CSR in India

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