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Business joins the fight against malnutrition in Sri Lanka with the support of the SBN

  |   SUN Business Network

© WFP

The SUN Business Network (SBN) brought together thirty leading Sri Lankan businesses to pledge their support for three important agendas: improving workplace health and nutrition efforts; producing healthy food; and promoting healthy food consumption.

The SUN Business Network (SBN) in Sri Lanka was launched in March 2019, amidst calls from private and public sector stakeholders to increase business engagement for nutrition within the country. They called for a more collaborative approach between government and the private sector to address the country’s nutrition issues linked to both under- and over-nutrition, including their role in food production and fortification, consumer demand for good nutrition, strengthening market linkages for nutritious crops and products, and how workplaces can be leveraged to improve nutrition.
Recognizing the critical role of the private sector in providing solutions to health and nutrition issues, WFP helped establish SUN Business Network in March 2019 to address the gap between rapid national economic growth and stagnant malnutrition rates.

Shanelle De Almeida, Group Wellness Manager of Hemas Holdings PLC and the lead of the workplace health and nutrition workgroup said: “The SUN BN is a great initiative to bring together likeminded organisations and people who are passionate about creating a healthy food culture in our community. The network provides a communication bridge for positive change”.

Expanding on the role of the SBN, Brenda Barton, WFP Representative in Sri Lanka said: “WFP is happy to facilitate this platform for businesses in Sri Lanka. The network connects the private sector, governments, civil society, the United Nations, and academia in a collective effort to improve nutrition in Sri Lanka. Convening, assessing and advocating for nutrition is more important than ever before with the country facing a nutritional ‘double burden’ — undernutrition rates unchanged for over a decade in addition to soaring rates of overweight and obesity.”

Since the time of the launch, 30 businesses have signed up as SBN members, with all members encouraged to participate in one or more of three SBN working groups that drive the agenda of the network:

  1. Workplace Nutrition and Well-being
  2. Production of Nutritious Food
  3. Creating Awareness on Nutrition and Nutritious Food

Each of these groups is led by a local business leader, and convenes on a quarterly basis to plan and report on the execution of its workplan, which was developed by members in alignment with the priorities defined within the (draft) SBN Strategy. Members also include stakeholders from NGOs, donor and UN Agencies, and key government representatives. Each team drives the key initiatives contained within its respective workplan. Working group highlights include:

  • Development of a new instant rice meal product using fortified rice by an SBN member
  • Formation of a new collaborative partnership between two SBN members to provide healthy meals to employees at their canteen
  • Interest in the use of fortified rice among several large garment manufacturers that provide free meals to employees

Since its establishment, stakeholders have positively indicated that the SBN has created a strong platform to build communication between the private sector and government officials around matters of nutrition, something that was not available previously. Further, the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FCCISL) of Sri Lanka, which works with SMEs across the country, is playing a strong role within the network and working groups, as it is envisioned that FCCISL would be a good potential long-term home for SBN. FCCISL will also support to reach out to SMEs in the next phase of the SUN Business Network where Sri Lanka hopes to reach out to sub-national level organisations.

More information

• SBN Sri Lanka: A Governance Structure that drives Business Engagement – SUN business Network

• Leading business pledge support to tackle Sri Lanka’s high malnutrition – WFP Sri Lanka

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