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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Hi there - an additional benefit we have found is that aligning our strategy or programmes to the SDGs can help illustrate to senior management the significance of the work within the broader global context.  It demonstrates that the efforts within one company form part of a far larger cross sector, global movement.

I recently heard the SDGs described as the greatest challenges of our time – I believe the point here is that while the targets and indicators are useful, the focus needs to be on how any organization  – business, NGO, government, funder or other – is aligning its efforts to meet one or more of these great challenges, and that by doing so in a more coordinated way, we can, as a global community, find the gaps and areas that need greater focused attention.  Businesses can find the value addition in their own, sustainable business approach, and feed into that SDG and its related targets.  Whether it be SDG2 and committing to invest in local, rural based agri-processing facilities, thereby enabling job creation, more secure local markets for farmers, and improved nutrition, or SDG 3 by offering healthcare and health education to workers in your company’s factory in a developing country because healthy workers are productive workers, link your commitments and KPIs – that speak to core business - to the SDGs/targets and indicators and it can serve to reach greater success together.


Gianluca,

Regarding your comment: "...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."

What are your thoughts on how the business community might attribute its activities to the SDGs in an aligned way?


Gianluca Nardi said:

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.

I think most importantly the SDGs raise the bar for what we want to achieve. They set a renewed ambition around spurring development impact people living in poverty – including smallholders. As a result, the SDGs can fundamentally change how business approaches its sustainability work.

Business can ‘use’ the SDGs as a framework to overcome some of the existing obstacles to creating impact for smallholders by:

-          Providing a more comprehensive approach to assessing a business’ impact on smallholders. This includes 1) an assessment of baseline responsibilities in the form of their human rights impacts, 2) an impact scan across the 17 SDGs, and 3) an identification of priority areas based on the most significant area of impact.

-          Create and find new areas of collaboration with peers and other stakeholders. The SDGs provide a new shared purpose for transforming the contours and impacts of agricultural supply chains to the benefit of people living in poverty. Achieving this purpose requires a collective endeavor and requires collaboration – including between competitors. There are hopeful signs in businesses engaging collectively but the extent and ambition of these collaborations could be expanded. 

-          The SDGs also provide new momentum for transparently communicating a business’ impact, its planned actions, and progress. Setting clear time-bound targets will allow businesses to focus their efforts and become more likely to deliver on the SDGs. It will also require the sharing of information in order to coordinate efforts and ensure that we are transparent about our progress.



Zahid Torres-Rahman said:

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?

Jamal - Looking forward to having you join the conversation!

Jamal Uddin said:

please start. waiting to interact and learn

The first, obvious, point to make is that each country will have different priorities within the SDGs. A business needs therefore to look at the SDGs from 2 different angles: those goals which are a priority for the country I'm operating in, and those goals which will have a material impact on my operation. 

Having established this, it then makes sense to ask the same questions at target level. That's the point at which you will start to understand where the impacts are likely to be. 



Zahid Torres-Rahman said:

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?

Hi Emily, I believe that it is a matter of multi-sector coordination among different actors around the SDGs agenda. Such spaces exist in different countries, I'm aware about Ghana for instance, and they are opportunities to demonstrate impact and share learning. Of course it will be fundamental being able to measure that impact.

Emily Shipman said:


Gianluca,

Regarding your comment: "...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."

What are your thoughts on how the business community might attribute its activities to the SDGs in an aligned way?


Gianluca Nardi said:

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.

On agricultural value-chains in particular - the 'Leave no-one behind' agenda could lead to looking at SME development strategies, and SME enabling environment, and working with marginalised producers who don't currently have access to financing, or business and enterprise development support, many supply chains don't reach the smallest farmers at the moment. 

So we've formed some non traditional partnerships for example in Bolivia between social enterprise incubator agencies, and in a number of countries (Bolivia, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Rwanda) we've launched an impact investment fund together with a consortium of 5 NGOs called Access to Capital for Rural Enterprise (ACRE) which aims to invest in rural enterprises in the bracket of 200k to 1 million USD, and provide business support prior to investment through grant aid.  

Hi Emily - I think there is a real opportunity for business to act as a catalyst to ensure we continue to drive towards an aligned approach to measurement.  Identifying common metrics for each SDG, leveraging work already developed, for example on smallholder performance measurement through COSA and Sustainable Food Lab.  Through an aligned measurement approach we can compare notes on strategies, share best practise and benchmark our progress.

 
Gianluca Nardi said:

HiEmily, I believe that it is a matter of multi-sector coordination among different actors around the SDGs agenda. Such spaces exist in different countries, I'm aware about Ghana for instance, and they are opportunities to demonstrate impact and share learning. Of course it will be fundamental being able to measure that impact.

Emily Shipman said:


Gianluca,

Regarding your comment: "...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."

What are your thoughts on how the business community might attribute its activities to the SDGs in an aligned way?


Gianluca Nardi said:

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.

Thank you! These examples are very helpful, Gianluca.

Any more detail on how the multi-sector coordination on the SDGs is playing out in Ghana would be valuable.

Gianluca Nardi said:

Hi Emily, I believe that it is a matter of multi-sector coordination among different actors around the SDGs agenda. Such spaces exist in different countries, I'm aware about Ghana for instance, and they are opportunities to demonstrate impact and share learning. Of course it will be fundamental being able to measure that impact.

Emily Shipman said:


Gianluca,

Regarding your comment: "...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."

What are your thoughts on how the business community might attribute its activities to the SDGs in an aligned way?


Gianluca Nardi said:

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 Nardi,

your discussion seems to be very interesting to me. SDG working to aware private sector to sustanable development goals. It is obvious that every country don't have the similar opportunity to maximum utilization of local agro production. How SDG play role to scale to control loss of post harvest wastage of agro crops in developing countries?

Gianluca Nardi said:

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.

Thanks for all the great points!  Let's move onto the next question:

Q2: What are the most relevant SDGs in a smallholder sourcing context and how should businesses prioritise their engagement?

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