Scaling Up Nutrition Business Network (SBN) celebrates 10 years of engaging with the private sector to improve nutrition

Press Release

1 in 3 people worldwide suffer from some type of malnutrition, every country has a problem with at least one type of malnutrition and the vast majority of countries suffer from more than one. The private sector is an important stakeholder in addressing this pressing issue as the major producer and distributor of food globally. Established in 2012 by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), the Scaling Up Nutrition Business Network (SBN) is one of four global networks under the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement. SBN’s overall vision is to reduce malnutrition in all its forms by bringing together the private sector, government, and other stakeholders to take joint, practical actions to accelerate private sector contributions to improved nutrition.

SBN celebrated its 10 year anniversary in an online event that sought to mark SBN’s successes in     engaging in improving private sector action in nutrition and to share its strategic vision for the future. The event was expertly facilitated by Feike Sijbesma, SBN Advisory Group Chair and Honorary Chairman of DSM, who welcomed attendees by empathising SBN’s key role in supporting scalable private sector interventions that can secure the nutritional needs of especially vulnerable populations.

SBN’s achievements over the past 10years were captured by SBN Global Co-coordinator, Ritta Shine, who noted that SBN has shown rapid growth from being perceived as an initially novel concept. Ritta stated that ‘SBN now has a membership of over 1500 members, who are predominately Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). These members that have signed up to join national networks across Africa, Asia and Latin America and through strategic partnerships, SBN have implemented capacity building initiatives for its members including facilitating access to technical assistance and finance, whilst also advocating for an improved enabling policy environment for SME investment in nutrition.’

The SUN Movement Coordinator, Gerda Verburg expressed her delight at the progress made by the network over the past 10 years. She stated that ‘the private sector is needed to create more private-public partnership where companies can make profit for reinvestment in nutrition.

The anniversary event also included a panel discussion of national network coordinators and members that highlighted their challenges, successes, and plans for harnessing private sector investment in improving nutrition in their countries. Moderated by Lawrence Haddad, GAIN’s Executive Director, stated the need for increased stakeholder buy-in and strong collaborative efforts to sustainably enhance contributions to nutrition with a focus on safe, healthy, and affordable diets, the session featured SBN Sri Lanka member, Shea Wickramasingha, Group Managing Director of Ceylon Biscuits Ltd; SBN Bangladesh member, Suleman Anwar, the Chief Strategy Officer of Shazday Fruits Pvt Ltd in Pakistan; Charles Opiyo, SBN Coordinator in Kenya; and Lilly Musaya, SBN Coordinator from Malawi.

Despite the current food inflation challenges in Sri Lanka, Shea said the major challenge is how to present nutrition at an affordable cost. ‘We are working with the government to produce high protein products for the market. It’s challenging times here in Sri Lanka and it is important for the private sector as a whole to be completely involved’. This point was further underscored by the SBN national coordinators from Kenya and Malawi who noted that SBN was key in repositioning the private sector to deliver more on nutrition by helping them to understand the importance of innovating to increase the nutritional value of their products, whilst being compliant to regulatory food standards.

The SUN Business Network also unveiled its strategic plan of action for the next three years. According to Emily Heneghan, SBN Global Co-Coordinator, ‘this strategy will focus strongly on supporting SMEs to scale up their business operations, developing targeted services to women- and youth-led businesses, advocating for improved policies and legislation for the private sector, increasing consumer awareness on the need to demand for nutritious foods and leveraging on the expertise of large corporation to build SMEs capacity’. SBN’s youth and gender strategy was also launched by Margaret Wambui Ngetha, the SBN African Regional Manager & Technical Lead for Youth and Gender. She highlighted the key strategies that will be deployed by SBN national networks to meaningfully involve and support youth and women in food system transformation.  

The anniversary event also recognised the efforts of two businesses that have demonstrated positive and impactful nutrition actions within their business models, operations, or CSR initiatives. On behalf of Apon Wellbeing Ltd, Yasir Arafat accepted the Nutrition Action Business Award (national category) for the company’s innovative workforce nutrition intervention for garment factory workers.  On behalf of Nutriset Group, Adeline Lescanne  accepted the Nutrition Action Business Award (global category)  for its innovative business models in bringing together a group of businesses under the Plumpyfield project to develop different products used as a means to fight malnutrition. Representatives of both organisations expressed their delight in being honoured as an awardee, with a pledge to increase their commitment to improve nutrition.

In his closing remarks, Manasseh Miruka, Department Head for GAIN’s Nutrition Enterprise Unit and a member of SBN’s Operations Committee, charged the private sector with a call to action on the need to work together with SBN as they navigate emerging issues including mitigating the effect of climate change. 

The SUN Business Network is committed to continue to serve as a key platform to engage and convene the private sector around nutrition and broader food systems issues.

About SBN

Established in 2012 and co-convened by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) the SBN shares its vision with the overall SUN movement; By 2030, a world free of all forms of malnutrition. As the only dedicated platform that convenes the private sector around nutrition across SUN countries, the SBN’s overall vision is to reduce malnutrition in all its forms by bringing together the private sector, government, and other stakeholders to take joint, practical actions to accelerate private sector contributions to improved nutrition.