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 - my name is Samina Jain, a corporate responsibility and sustainable development professional with a deep interest in agricultural value chains, although my most recent experience has been in energy and water services.

I agree with the panelists' comments, but in my experience, senior managers with budgetary authority are not as aware of the SGDs, versus the subject matter experts within the company.

What advice do you have of linking the SGDs with the business case and raising awareness of the SGDs, beyond a one-off powerpoint explaining them to your senior executives?

Thank you.

I don't have many specific details from personal experience, but you can check online some of the main consultations that happened here http://www.ghana.gov.gh/index.php/media-center/press-release/1958-t... 

It's probably still early to say how the coordination is playing out


Emily Shipman said:

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.

Through our analysis we think these are the most relevant:

Goal 1 :

1.1

By 2030, eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day

1.5

By 2030, build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters

1.a

Ensure significant mobilization of resources from a variety of sources, including through enhanced development cooperation, in order to provide adequate and predictable means for developing countries, in particular least developed countries, to implement programmes and policies to end poverty in all its dimensions

 

Goal 2 :

2.3

By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment

2.4

By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality

 

Goal 8 :

8.3

Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services

8.8

Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment

That's great, Kate.

For those interested, links to the metrics alignment work you refer to are here: http://www.sustainablefoodlab.org/initiatives/smallholder-performan...

It could be useful to look at how these align with the SDG targets: http://unstats.un.org/sdgs/indicators/indicators-list/

Kate Wylie said:

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.


Hi Samina,

My advice is that making the business case is critical to senior management.  SDGs provide signals of where governments are likely to focus in terms of their government spending, but also in terms of industrial policy as areas like climate change and decent work are SDG goals and targets. So there will be new business opportunities if you consieder that there is now a greater likelihood of some of these goals being met (and MDG period does show that the goals / targets do drive policy).   Besides policy guidance, now the SDGs are supposed to provide a road map for the private sector as well - so expect other busineses to align with the SDG framework, and this creates new investable opportunities that you'd need to map in a number of countries.  


Samina Jain said:

What advice do you have of linking the SGDs with the business case and raising awareness of the SGDs, beyond a one-off powerpoint explaining them to your senior executives?

A question to the panel from me and I'd love to hear answers based both on real experience as well as expectations:

To what extent are the SDGs being integrated into and aligned with national development priorities? Clearly there will be a huge variation across different countries but are there any particularly good examples? Smallholder agriculture is an area where you would hope to see significant alignment pretty quickly. 

Kate - is your expectation/hope that these metrics might also be aligned to some degree with national indicators, or at least endorsed by national governments?

Kate Wylie said:

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.

Hi Kate,

IFAD hosted an event a few years ago on land rights, and I heard one of the panelists --- who was a sustainable sourcing exec at a major consumer goods company -- comment that while he and his peers understood the need for more socially inclusive and sustainable sourcing, the C-suite executives were still looking for clear and straight-forward business strategies on how get it done so to speak.  He was struggling with how to explain to his senior leadership that much of this work is not as straight forward as new business expansion planning for example, and how to convince them to go in it for the long run, and perhaps even at a loss in the first years.  Do you find that the SDG agenda is providing enough entry points for business in a truly meaningful way, which also addresses the real need for business to make a profit while at the same time doing so in a more inclusive and sustainable manner?  (Open to all thoughts from panel and participants of course!)
 
Kate Wylie said:

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.

Hi Jamal, thank you very much for your comment. I Believe that multi-sector coordination around Goal 2:  End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture should definitely help achieving that goal. The SDGs can also play a role in supporting advocacy initiatives and sensitizing national governments as well as the private sector around the issues that you are mentioning. Post harvest waste is also a huge missed business opportunity, so the perfect field for the Private Sector to act.

Jamal Uddin said:

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.

The connection between smallholder producers and some of the SDGs is pretty obvious in some cases, while in other cases there is an indirect or optional relationship:

  • Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere and Goal 2:  End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture are probably the most obvious connection in terms of impact on the direct beneficiaries, the smallholders.
  • Goal 5:  Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls represents a marked difference with the previous set of MDGs and an additional opportunity to achieve an SDG and at the same time having a huge impact in the VC in terms.
  • Goals 3,4, 6 and 7 (access to education, healthy lives, WASH, energy) can be linked to the community development dimension of the community level interventions across the VC. This is not a component that is necessarily part of the VC development strategies, but can be part of more holistic interventions.
  • Goal 8:  Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and Goal 10:  Reduce inequality within and among countries represent a macro level dimension of the possible impact of the business in a market system, especially.
  • Goal 16:  Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development is an interesting dimension of using inclusive economic development’s tools like the VSLAs to build social capital.
  • Other SDGs (e.g. 12, 13, 15) can also offer additional options of tremendous impact in the environmental  dimension, sustainable patterns of production and consumption and climate change dimensions through working with smallholder producers.

The issue of prioritization is a difficult one as obviously interventions cannot address many SDGs at the same time with limited resources. The prioritization depends on the companies’ internal priorities, on the best opportunities of achieving impact on the ground, and on the partnerships that can be put in place to join forces and expertise around specific topics. Work in partnership should be a key strategy to reach scale of impact and broaden its scope. (e.g. consider the holistic approach of Mondelez’ Cocoa Life partnership) and also a way of contributing to SDG 17.



Zahid Torres-Rahman said:

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?

That would be fantastic, the more we are all aligned the more effective the conversation will be.
 
Bianca Shead said:

Kate - is your expectation/hope that these metrics might also be aligned to some degree with national indicators, or at least endorsed by national governments?

Kate Wylie said:

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.

The question of SDG prioritization is a key issue. I understand the tendency of businesses to identify low-hanging fruit in terms of engaging with the SDGs. However, I would also argue that if we are serious about achieving the SDGs, then we need take impact (not opportunities) as our starting point (I have also seen people contrast an inside-out with an outside-in approach – i.e. priorization based on external needs/problems, not internal considerations).

That being said two issues stand out in a smallholder sourcing context that might not be on everybody’s radar:

  • Goal 13 : Climate change - the agricultural sector is one of the most vulnerable to climate change with millions of smallscale farmers are at risk. Following the Paris agreement, businesses with agricultural supply chains should undertake robust climate action (happy to elaborate)
  • Goal 10 : Inequality  - inequality remains the orphaned SDGs but represents a key issue in agricultural value chains given the skewed distribution of value away from smallscale farmers and their struggle for a living income. A starting question here is to analyze how value is distributed across different actors in the supply chain and what explains this distribution.



Zahid Torres-Rahman said:

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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