Consumer goods giant Unilever is set to introduce nutritional labelling on foods in all its canteens by the end of the year, in a major employee health initiative.
The manufacturer, which has long been a pioneer in linking health, nutrition and productivity at work, has completed a year-long pilot project among 175 workers, including offering regular health and weight checks.
At the start of the trial, 104 workers underwent health checks, which found that 48, or 80%, were deemed obese. By the end of the trial, when 42 returned for a second weigh-in, this had fallen to 16, or 38% – a 9% reduction overall.
A similar experiment with the remaining 71 staff was carried out at Unilever’s Port Sunlight factory in Merseyside, where half of the office workers and nearly half of the factory workers taking part agreed that the project had improved the quality of their diet.
The ‘Fit Business’ scheme will now be expanded to all the company’s 7,500 UK workers, with advice also being offered on better diet and exercise, Alan Walters, vice-president of HR, Unilever UK & Ireland, told Occupational Health’s sister title Personnel Today.
“Through taking some simple measures, major employers have a real opportunity to help employees live healthy lives – quickly, on a sufficiently large scale, and with no impact on public spending,” he said. By offering information about calories, sugar, fat and salt, the company was able to help staff make more informed decisions, he said.
“We saw some real changes. Of the people in a factory environment, 19% were taking salt into account. For our business to perform at its best, we want our people to be performing at their best. There are benefits to employees and the business,” said Walters. “By rolling out Fit Business across all of our UK & Ireland sites and sharing our insights into complex behaviour change, we hope to play an important role in helping tackle the rising challenge of obesity facing the UK,” he added.