In 1974, Henry Kissinger, then US Secretary of State, famously declared at the world’s first food conference that, within ten years, no child would go to bed hungry. Today, one in three people across the world suffer from diet-related malnutrition, and – if the trend continues – this will become one in two.
Furthermore, 155 million children under the age of five exhibit stunted growth and will never reach their full biological potential. Clearly, malnutrition is still a global issue that has far-reaching consequences in both developed and undeveloped countries; everywhere, vitamin deficiencies and dietary inadequacies are increasing healthcare costs and hampering economic growth.
One of the companies combating the issue of food security and malnutrition is Royal DSM, the world’s largest maker of vitamins. Ranked no. 2 on Fortune’s 2017 list of companies that are changing the world, the Dutch multinational is active in health, nutrition and advanced materials, and has developed a range of strategies, partnerships, and solutions aimed at improving diets around the world.
In particular, for over a decade, DSM has been an active advocate at global platforms for increased action on improving nutrition, and has partnered with the United Nations World Food Programme to fight malnutrition around the world. “At DSM, we’ve been working with partners such as the World Food Programme to get nutrients to more than 31 million people a year,” says Sucheta Govil, Chief Marketing Officer at DSM.
One example of DSM’s work to tackle malnutrition is the Africa Improved Foods initiative in Rwanda.
Together with the government, local farmers, and other partners, DSM has created a local, sustainable food production system. A new factory, which sources from mostly female farmers in the region, was opened to make a fortified porridge that can help local people, in particular mothers and infants, to get the nutrients they need. A scale-up of the initiative is being planned for other African countries.
“Malnutrition is not just a problem in Africa and Southeast Asia, though,” says Angelique Paulussen, Senior Vice President Communications & External Affairs at DSM. “In the US, the top vegetable served to children under one is potatoes – in the form of French fries. Too many kids, both underweight and overweight, in the developing world and in rich countries, are missing out on the vitamins they need. We’re working on a range of solutions together with our customers: think food fortification and natural preservatives for nutritious fresh food.”
The causes and effects of malnutrition intertwine with other social issues; it is not a stand-alone matter.
“The Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization sums it up well,” says Angelique. “He says, ‘There is no peace without tackling food security and eliminating hunger, and there’ll be no food without tackling climate change’. In line with this, DSM is working on reducing greenhouse gas emissions through its Clean Cow project. Clean Cow is a new feed ingredient that can be added to cows’ diets to significantly reduce the methane they emit through burping, effectively battling climate change one cow at a time.”
What’s more, as a global science-based company, DSM is leveraging its scale and expertise to help find key solutions to the issue of malnutrition. “As the biggest nutritional ingredients-maker in the world, you can imagine the amount of data, studies, fieldwork and intelligence we’re dealing with,” says Sucheta. “Through the use of artificial intelligence and big data, we’re speeding up the processing of that data to deliver custom solutions for very particular markets faster than ever.”
“Nowadays, businesses have a lot of influence,” says Angelique.
“With that influence comes responsibility beyond your own bottom line. As our CEO says, ‘you can’t be successful or call yourself successful in a society that fails.’”
The interview was filmed with Sarah Lockett, Business Correspondent of The Business Debate and Angelique Paulussen, Sr. VP, Communications & External Affairs, and Sucheta Govil,Chief Marketing Officer, DSM.