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 Matti, Interesting info. about ACRE. Any plans to upscale the fund to other countries/projects like India and some agriculture related technologies like rain-water harvesting based unique irrigation technology that I am working with. Can share more details if needed!
Matti Kohonen said:

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.  

Dear All, I am a development practitioner working for two social enterprises, both focused on Agriculture. In the first one we harvest rainwater and secure it underground in big volumes for small & marginalized farmers to make them water self sufficient. Our unique technology named # Bhungroo has won many international awards and laurels including the prestigious UNFCCC Climate Change Mitigation Award and World Bank's Development marketplace award. Our work is directly in tandem with SGD Goals 1, 2, 5 and 6.

In my second venture we work with farmers to improvise their agri-practices through Digital Solutions made by us addressing their pain-points. Our work here directly corresponds to addressing SDGs 2, 12 and 15. Both of these ventures are for-profit ventures and we have differentiated business models to work with farmers/farmer support organizations on one hand and the donors (Govt./CSR/International Funding Agencies) on the other. As a business we are quite conscious of making our impact known through varied mediums including beneficiary testimonials, national/international publications and word of mouth through partners, fellow development professionals and agencies. Moreover we are now aiming to secure impact investment funds for our expansion and growth purposes and for achieving bigger scale of our impact. Collaborations from like-minded agencies and professionals are most welcome in this regard.   

The SDG Compass is a great resource. 

For SDG1, a fundamental measurement is the poverty status of households that companies are working with or impact.  A quite simple way to measure poverty of smallholder farmer households is the PPI - It has been incorporated into a number of measurement frameworks including the Food Lab's and COSA. 

Simon Winter said:

In response to Zahid's third question - one of the key things that needs to happen is to develop a more systematized and standardized way of both measuring and communicating progress against the SDGs - the SFL measurement framework is a great step forward on this - but is not comprehensive across all SDGs yet (Emily correct me if I am wrong).

Last year UNGC/Oxfam developed a framework to align use of poverty footprinting to the SDGs at light touch to deep levels depending on business appetite and resource availability etc..  In the process an extensive exercise was done on metrics and measurement.  That can be adapted and used in a variety of ways that is broader than developing poverty footprinting exercises alone.  It languishes at the moment as I understand it due to a lack of resources.

And then UNGC also has the SDG Compass and there are a number of other attempts at standardized ways of measuring.  

The main challenge is how to get away from the urge to splurge on new systems every time a new organization sees this need but to create convergence - I welcome thoughts about that.


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