SBN Independent Evaluation 2019: Key Findings and Recommendations

11th February, 2020

Foreword to the SUN Business Network Independent Evaluation (2019). By Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and Lauren Landis, Director of Nutrition, World Food Programme (WFP). 

In 2017, the SUN Business Network (SBN) formalised its theory of change and revised its purpose and programme of activities at global and national level to mobilise business to act and invest in nutrition in support of SUN Country nutrition priorities – by increasing the availability and affordability of safe, nutritious foods.

As co-convenors of the SBN, GAIN and WFP commissioned an independent evaluation of the SBN’s progress in 2019 which has concluded that:

  • The SBN’s purpose largely makes sense, but its model is not always so clearly operationalised at national level.
  • The role of business in improving nutrition is a contested issue, while the political economy of SUN Countries is complex. The political barriers for the SBN’s progress, such as the need for a conducive enabling environment to incentivise responsible business actions, could benefit from broader non-business stakeholder support. This will require greater collaboration with SUN Civil Society, Donors, Government and UN Networks.
  • Despite these challenges, the SBN has achieved notable successes in delivering against expected outputs. Where there has been more progress, there have been strong two-way linkages between the SBN’s global and national level teams and activities.
  • The SBN model is flexible in structure and gives National SBN coordinators and stakeholders room to contextualise it while also prioritising interventions that respond to evolving needs at the national level.
  • Progress towards impact has been uneven at the national level. Several challenges continue to face the SBN such as the effectiveness of coordination with other SUN Movement networks in-country, the need to improve the systematic tracking and reporting progress in country, and ongoing debates about the level of ownership of country networks by the private sector. In addition, funding predictability remains a major challenge for many of the networks at country level.

The evaluation draws the conclusion that without SBN there would be limited organisation of business around nutrition in low- and middle-income countries – this is testament to the long journey that SUN and SBN has embarked upon. While we recognise that we do not have all the answers and that there is much to learn around business and nutrition, we are encouraged that the SBN has made demonstrable progress to date. We are committed to SUN’s principles of transparency and accountability and have published the full report and will be widely disseminating our learnings within and beyond the SUN Movement.

The findings and recommendations in this report have been reviewed and endorsed by both GAIN and WFP. We plan to integrate a number of the recommendations as we develop the SBN’s new strategy, which will inform and align with the new phase and strategy of the SUN Movement (2021-2025). We would like to thank the independent evaluators for their hard work and relevant insights which will improve a growing and vibrant SUN Business Network in support of SUN Countries within the SUN Movement.

The SUN Business Network Global Team will now consult with National SBN coordinators and other SUN stakeholders to consider next steps and follow-up actions, which will be published by the end of April. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the evaluation please contact Jonathan Tench ( and Emily Heneghan (


Read the SBN Evaluation (Vol. 1).

Read the SBN Evaluation (Vol. 2).

Read the SBN Evaluation Executive Summary.


Note: An evaluation team from Mokoro Ltd and The Partnering Initiative were awarded the bid to lead the evaluation through an open tendering process and conducted the research from April through October 2019. The evaluation included desk reviews in 10 National SBNs and in depth case studies of 3 long-established SBNs, as well as over 100 key informant interviews.

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