How can business harness the SDGs for greater impact in smallholder agricultural value chains?

Since September 2015, when nearly 200 United Nations member states adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), many companies have been analysing their sustainability targets and strategies to better understand how they can contribute to the delivery of shared global development priorities. 


Through agricultural value chains and smallholder sourcing programmes, the private sector has an opportunity to contribute to a number of SDGs and targets, including those aimed at reducing poverty, doubling agricultural productivity, creating decent work, and promoting women’s empowerment. As a start point, many companies operating in this area have undertaken extensive mapping exercises to clarify how their existing strategies and programmes align with relevant SDGs—primarily to inform internal engagement and dialogue with external stakeholders.


Whilst this foundational work is important, a growing number of companies are now asking themselves and their partners how they can harness the SDGs to spur even greater impact for the business and for smallholders. To provide answers to this challenge, Business Fights Poverty has teamed up with the Sustainable Food Lab, Mars, SABMiller and DFID to develop guidance for businesses with smallholder sourcing strategies on how to harness the SDGs for greater impact. This online discussion aims to inform the development of this guidance by exploring the following questions:   


  • What role can the SDGs play in helping a business think about its impacts on agricultural value chains and smallholder farmers?  Practically speaking, how can a business use the SDGs to spur more development impact for smallholders in agricultural value chains?


  • What are the most relevant SDGs in a smallholder sourcing context and how should businesses prioritise their engagement?


  • How can business best measure and communicate its contribution to the SDGs in the smallholder supply chain context?

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Welcome to this online discussion!

Can I start by asking our panellists to introduce themselves.

Hi, I'm Kate Wylie, Global Sustainability Director at Mars Incorporated.  I lead the development of our sustainable sourcing strategy.

Hi there! Emily Shipman here from the Sustainable Food Lab. Great to join you all.

I also think that business sector should also focus on energy use and energy poverty related to agriculture.. production of energy using agricultural waste, to process agricultural produce; use of energy saving cooking stoves for parboillig paddy and rice etc..Achieving  universal  access  to  modern  energy  services  by  
2030  is  a  goal  set  by  the  UN,  which  declared  2012  as  the
Year  of  Sustainable  Energy  for  All

Thank you very much Zahid. I'm Gianluca Nardi, Senior Women's Economic Empowerment Adviser in CARE Int. UK and CIUK lead on Women in Value Chains. I'm a gender and a VC specialist and I work with various CARE Corporate partners around their VC interventions.

Hello, I am Nicole Carta, from the UN's International Fund for Agricultural Development. I work on global private sector partnerships mainly focused on inclusive value chains with smallholder farmers

Hi everyone

Bianca here from SABMiller. I have been looking at the SDGs and how they intersect with our business for over a year - I find the topic fascinating, challenging and inspiring. Discussions like these are enormously useful for surfacing best practice and identifying shared problems. Looking forward to it. 

Hi, my name is Uwe Gneiting. I am a Research Advisor with Oxfam's Private Sector Department based in Washington DC

please start. waiting to interact and learn

Let's kick with the first question:

Q1: What role can the SDGs play in helping a business think about its impacts on agricultural value chains and smallholder farmers?  Practically speaking, how can a business use the SDGs to spur more development impact for smallholders in agricultural value chains?

The SDGs can be important for helping a business think about it impacts from different stand-points or to promote specific aspects of it: as an analytical framework, leveraged for increasing internal buy-in on specific goals, and a measurement, communication and coordination tool.

  • The SDGs could help thinking about the different dimensions of the VC impact, beyond the most obvious ones of income and productivity by going through all the goals that could be relevant for the target group, and in dimensions that can be very relevant like gender, the environmental and Climate Change dimensions.
  • Non-traditional aspects of the corporate value chain sustainability can become part of the corporate priorities or could climb towards the top of the agenda leveraging the SDGs, although it is difficult to say how much some of the movements that are happening (e.g. gender mainstreaming) are the effect of the SDGs agenda or other broader trends.
  • The SDG can also offer a useful framework to measure and communicate the different dimensions of the corporate impact on smallholders producers internally and externally.
  • The SDGs can be a common framework and language to coordinate among institutions, with the civil society and especially with the host governments, who often set up spaces of multi-stakeholders dialogue for this purpose, like in Ghana and many other countries. The private sector should contribute to these SDGs coordination spaces through its VC programmes.

Hi, Matti here from Christian Aid as well, I'm our advisor on private sector.   To answer the first question:

  • SDGs play an important role in better focusing efforts on the most marginalised producers and producers who can reach them in order to fulfil the ‘leave no-one behind’ promise included in the SDGs where no goal or target is reached until all groups and statuses also achieve it.  This means a differentiated approach towards those who may be left behind.

  • SDGs also bring out new issues such as decent work and inequality as SDG targets, which is different from the MDGs that focused more on poverty, specific health access issues and primary education, allowing businesses to track their impact on wider business risks

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