Business Accountability: more alignment needed for better nutrition

Business Nutrition 1st May, 2019

With the next Global Nutrition Summit taking place in Tokyo in 2020, and a growing focus on how businesses can report on progress against the SDGs, this is an important moment to review the mechanisms holding business to account for their commitments to addressing malnutrition in all its forms.

In November 2018, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) commissioned a review of business accountability mechanisms on nutrition, led by the SUN Business Network (SBN). The SBN gathered the leading business and nutrition accountability mechanisms together in Paris to review progress to date and identify gaps and areas for collaboration.

Why? The world’s leading businesses claim the world of nutrition and accountability is too messy – different methodologies, standards and multiple initiatives confuse and frustrate business – while at the same time, it’s hard to truly hold their feet to the fire if accountability mechanisms are too scattered and diluted.

The Access to Nutrition Index (ATNI) presents the most thorough and widely respected initiative but is limited to the 20 largest food companies. Whereas, the newly launched World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) promises to track actions across the world’s largest 2,000 companies. So how can we align these initiatives – and also ensure a framework of commitments and actions which governments across emerging markets can rally behind?

Before asking for new commitments from business in Tokyo 2020, it is critical to ensure we effectively track and assess those initiatives that already exist. We need a pragmatic approach to ensure better business accountability on nutrition.

Business accountability nutrition
Report: A Review of Business Accountability Mechanisms in Nutrition

The report (“A Review of Business Accountability Mechanisms in Nutrition”), published by GAIN following the meeting in Paris, noted that:

  • A new mechanism looking at business’ impact on nutrition is created every two years on average, and
  • The Global Nutrition Report 2018 indicates that the private sector is consistently the category with the lowest reporting rates on their Nutrition For Growth (N4G) commitments.

Overall, more needs to be done to better hold business to account on their nutrition impact to understand and foster the role of business in improving nutrition.

GAIN’s report recommends that ahead of the upcoming Global Nutrition Summit in 2020, current accountability mechanisms should collaborate:

  • To share and align data collection
  • To build on each other’s data analysis
  • To agree on main business commitments and/or areas for commitments

This will potentially increase levels of trust amongst the public and the private sector by making the reporting exercises less burdensome for companies and by clarifying the status and trends of business impact on nutrition for all.

But this pragmatic approach should not stop at making current accountability systems simply more efficient, it should also look to the future of business accountability on nutrition:

  • How do we assess business impact beyond big business?
  • How do we provide similar levels of indexes and benchmarks in all geographic areas including emerging economies?
  • How to consider all parts of the food value chain when holding business accountable? (E.g. the report notes that the retail and out of home sectors are overlooked when it comes to accountability mechanisms).

The SUN Business Network wants to continue cooperating with partners to design and endorse pragmatic solutions for better business accountability on nutrition. GAIN’s report is a first step to achieve this goal – watch out for more progress as we continue to advocate for greater alignment on accountability at this year’s EAT Forum and onwards to Tokyo.

Read the full report here.


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