I attended a meeting this week to discuss how stakeholder groups (civil society, governments, private sector and funders) can address Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #2 (End Hunger) by engaging in climate smart agriculture, increased productivity and advancing food security for smallholder farmers. There was plenty of talk of government engagement via their commitments to various World Bank efforts, and of course civil society actors were keen to share the work they are doing to advance efforts around smallholders.
What was clearly missing was a strong sense of what the private sector is doing to advance SDG2. In fact one participant mentioned a poll his organization had led with some of the biggest food and agriculture companies. SDG2 was third to LAST in terms of priorities.
The entire room was concerned.
How can we advance SDG2 if the private sector isn’t engaged, nor do they see addressing food security and climate resilience through agriculture as pivotal to ending hunger?
As it turns out the same poll showed that private sector companies ranked responsible consumption and production (SDG 12) as one of the top priorities. To me, that is encouraging. See if businesses want to prioritize investments in responsible consumption and production, that means that they see value in sustainability commitments (social AND environmental) that positively impact their supply chains. To positively impact their supply chains, companies have to consider how their actions (read: investments) affect those imbedded within, which means for many brands, they must look out for smallholder farmers. Smallholder farmers produce almost ¾ of the world’s food. Without them, our food and beverages can no longer be produced. Ignore their needs and companies' ability to make and sell product is stymied in a big way. These companies must consider how to improve food security, productivity and resiliency for small farmers.
There's an opportunity here to take advantage of the efforts already made by some of the world’s biggest companies to advance the SDGs. Sure more is needed. But let's focus on what IS happening. For example, the United Nations Global Compact, the private sector faction trying to advance some of the world’s biggest problems in concert with members of the United Nations, is already working on efforts to align corporate reporting, calculation of return on investment, and programs like B Corp Certification with the SDGs. Seems we simply need more alignment between these efforts and those of the governments, civil society and donors supporting advancement of the SDGs through the broader UN and multi-stakeholder systems.
I’m ready to push for that engagement, and help the private sector advance their efforts in line with the SDGs, since I am a firm believer that without the private sector, our efforts will be more diluted.
Who’s with me?