MAP Insights


Malnutrition and management

written by Ms. CHIT U. JUAN - August 8, 2023

Pundits may ask why the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) is into solving malnutrition and hunger. I personally believe that management not only involves present-day management but also looks after sustainability in terms of the present-day workforce, a future workforce, and how to ensure their company’s sustainability with human resources (HR).

Should it be just a problem of HR or should not managers be involved in ensuring we have enough brain power in the future? This is why I commend the active committees in MAP who are working on why malnutrition should be the problem for every manager to solve.

When we became members of MAP, we knew we would learn from our peers, and we could share with our peers the new concepts and ideas that develop and evolve as we go about our ways in managing this already chaotic business environment. Though there are immutable management principles we learned in University — Planning, Directing, Organizing, Controlling —these have been complicated with the onset of Digital, ChatGPT and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Further, there is also a change in the culture of the workforce.

There are new challenges to employee retention and even recruitment. There are challenges to how you hire a Marketing team, where more freelancers offer services and agencies are hard-pressed to keep their most brilliant minds in tow.

In Finance, the developments happen every day to make payroll remote, make simple payments bank-to-bank, and the management of financial products have become more digital. Even stock placements are now done online and it almost removes the messenger and the runners of yesteryears.

When I look back at what we learned in school, and the management principles we were made to digest and almost memorize, I can just smile and think: yes, they helped me learn a thinking process that managers ought to practice. But where is all that now? At a recent briefing we had on ChatGPT with the NextGen Organization of Women Corporate Directors (NOWCD), a new company called Thinking Machines (I love the name) explained to us the simplicity and complexity of AI and ChatGPT. These young entrepreneurs, mostly 26 and maybe younger, were teaching us 55-year-olds and up in age about how to “prime” ChatGPT or a similar program that they made using AI. Same principle as the 1970s computer revolution: garbage in, garbage out. It helped us understand that AI is good if you feed it the correct data you have. Wrong or skewed data will generate bad results.

And this is what managers and corporate directors ought to think about today. How can I use my academic background to be the foundation and add the new ingredients — ChatGPT and AI, digital banking, fintech — and become the manager or board director armed with “future ready” information and ideas?

While NOWCD attempts to share these new ideas with its members, MAP on the other hand must keep thinking of the core of business — its employees. And this, I believe, is the key for every manager to know. As MAP also has started recruitment of its NextGen members and has managed to lower its average membership age to 60 (it used to be 67), we also must think about who our teams will be 20 years from now.

Companies who wish or plan to survive the next 20 years and longer have to start thinking of the future workforce now. And this is a good move on the part of MAP to harness the power of NGOs and experts in finding solutions to stunting and wasting amidst the food crisis where we need to import almost every staple because the Filipino farmer failed to plan his succession. Children of farmers do not want to be farmers. So, as they say, for the farmer, it’s the end of the line. Who will grow our food? Thank God there are new farmers in our midst who have taken a love for the soil and are now planting vegetables, albeit in small farms for specialty markets, like organic and natural food markets. The mainstream vegetable market still must contend with lower farm gate prices and is still in a precarious situation. As a manager, is your solution also to scale production?

Food security and malnutrition are joined at the hip. You cannot think of one without thinking of the other. So why is MAP thinking of solving malnutrition? Because food security is connected to it and since we are not agriculturists, but managers, we can manage what we know or think we can know. Food security is more complex in that it requires a decision of doing scale versus backyard production. I personally am for Slow Food — good, clean, and fairly produced food like what our forefathers used to do. You may check out to get more ideas on how small farmers are doing small but safe food production. Or you can promote scale and be victim to chemicals and pesticides, GMO seeds and hybrids — and feed the world bad food. And serve the multinationals who produce the world’s food — there must be only six of them producing all of the world’s food, by the way.

So, you see, it is not as simple as managing a malnutrition program. It involves political will and management skills. Do you go slow food, or fast and unhealthy food? Do you want healthy workers in the future or workers who will be prone to sickness and have a lot of sick days? There is much to think about if we want to see a healthy workforce 20 years from now.

Or even if there is a workforce to speak of.

Yes, people will look for work but are they the people who we fed with healthy or bad food today? So, tell me, why should managers get involved with malnutrition and stunting? The answer is simple. Sustainability of a company hinges on a continuous throughput of a healthy workforce — today and a generation after.

Chit U. Juan is co-vice chair of the MAP Environment Committee. She is president of NOWCD, president of the Philippine Coffee Board, Inc., and founder of the ECHOstore Sustainable Lifestyle. She is a member of the global Slow Food community promoting good, clean, and fair food.