Obesity in the United States has reached crisis proportions. Is this yet another societal problem to be loaded onto the shoulders of business leaders? For several reasons, the answer is yes — and some companies are already showing what can be done to turn the tide.
Since the 1980s, the percentage of obese Americans has risen from one-sixth of the population to nearly one-third — and the problem is particularly acute among children and adolescents, where the obesity rate has tripled in 30 years. While this problem is certainly, in the first instance, one of personal responsibility and self-control, business leaders should be concerned, too — for at least four reasons.
The first reason is simple self-preservation: Food and beverage companies could find themselves in the trial lawyers’ crosshairs. The second reason is closely related to the first: The food and beverage industry is the target of the public’s increasing ire over portion sizes and unhealthy ingredients. Third, companies will not be able to function efficiently if a significant proportion of their current and future employees suffer from obesity. And finally, opportunity knocks: Companies have the chance to develop new products and create a positive brand image that will fatten the corporate bottom line while simultaneously helping obese Americans shed dangerous pounds.
The authors explain how several companies are actively pursuing several strategies to help solve America’s other “energy crisis” — too much consumption and too little movement.