Nutrition is finally getting the attention it deserves in the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Goal 2, which focuses on hunger, calls for an end to all forms of malnutrition by 2030 and highlights the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women, and children under 5 years of age.

This goal is particularly relevant in countries such as Bangladesh, where, among other nutritional challenges, four in 10 pregnant women suffer from anemia. Anemia causes fatigue and reduces concentration and productivity; an estimated 7.9 percent of Bangladesh’s gross domestic product is lost due to anemia alone. It also has an intergenerational impact, as anemic women give birth to babies with low birth weight and impaired growth and brain development.

The ready-made garment (RMG) industry in Bangladesh employs 4 million people—80 percent of them women—and has an opportunity to develop and test scalable solutions to reduce malnutrition and improve well-being of workers and their children.

To better understand the landscape on food and nutrition in the industry, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) funded and provided technical expertise to BSR and Change Associates to conduct a situational analysis in 15 RMG factories, which is launching today. Key findings from "Current Practices in Food and Childcare-Service Provision in Bangladesh’s RMG Factories" include:

  • Just under half (42 percent) of the workers interviewed had poor knowledge and misconceptions on what constitutes a nutritious diet.
  • In factories that provide hot meals, 97 percent of young adults and 93 percent of older workers preferred food to a food allowance, as it relieved them from the chore of meal preparation and meant they had time to eat breakfast.
  • Managers in some factories that provide hot meals found that there was a relationship between serving food and increased productivity, but the causality was not properly documented.

 These findings, among others in the paper, demonstrate that there are needs and benefits for both workers and management for nutritional education and nutritional food provision in factories.

 That is where we and our partners come in: BSR and GAIN are implementing a pilot project in Bangladesh to improve the nutritional status of female workers with the suppliers of two multinational clothing retailers. Building on the HERproject model, GAIN’s technical expertise will allow us to strengthen the nutrition components of HERproject’s curriculum, and we will provide a platform for GAIN to test its fortified foods and nutrition supplements. Additionally, a rigorous impact evaluation by international research organization icddr,b will inform the scale-up phase and gather evidence for more investment in workers’ health and nutrition in global supply chains.

Nutrition is a multidimensional issue that demands multistakeholder, cross-sector collaboration, and the rewards for people, sustainable development, businesses, and governments are clear. Join us to improve the lives of women in Bangladesh and drive progress toward Goal 2.  

Download BSR and GAIN's report, "Current Practices in Food and Childcare-Service Provision in Bangladesh’s RMG Factories."