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How can business help tackle undernutrition?

By Matthew Freeman, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition Business Alliance

How can business help tackle undernutrition?

There has been much talk over the last decade of the role of the private sector in development. In the beginning, we debated fiercely over whether there even should be a role – in fact this debate still rages on. But for many it became clear that excluding the private sector was not practical and so we set out to partner. The debate then shifted to semantics – what do we mean by “the private sector” and, more importantly, what do we mean by “partnership.” Each of these terms is still wildly interpreted, but certain themes have emerged which allow those of us in the public-private-partnership community to speak intelligently to one another on the topic. The private sector is business, be it the smallholder farmer or the multinational corporation – and partnership is action around a common agenda. And so the debate raged onward, over what defines a “common agenda” and whether the for-profit motive inherently conflicts with development. We have been debating these issues for more than ten years and we will continue to debate them. But, the need for health and economic growth and good governance is too great, and the demand for development too strong to just talk about these issues. As we work through the theory, we must also be focused on impact.

On November 9th, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) hosted some of the world’s largest multinational companies (including leaders from food & beverage, health and wellness, and vitamin & mineral manufacturers), alongside representatives from government, civil society, academia and international entrepreneurs. This 5th Forum of the GAIN Business Alliance, convened in Vienna to coincide with the Global Social Business Summit, was the perfect opportunity to debate the role of the private sector in development. It was an opportunity for each stakeholder group to stand on opposite sides of the aisle and lament the mutual mistrust or accuse one another of myopic viewpoints. It was the perfect opportunity –and as a group of almost 80 global leaders the opportunity was soundly rejected. For the event presentations, videos and outputs, click here.

Instead of debate, there was a sense of action and a drive for impact: more than 2 billion people around the world suffering from undernutrition. The theme of the Forum, “Driving Business and Impact” was palpable throughout the room. Conversations were centered on real opportunities to align existing programs, to invest in groundbreaking new initiatives, and to come together to identify new challenges and jointly create new solutions. Participants were encouraged to look across their programs and product lines to find opportunities which can have a positive impact on nutrition and to openly and honestly share the barriers they are facing to implementation and scale. It became clear over the course of the day that the challenges would require innovative solutions – across product development, agricultural tools, distribution channels and consumer engagement. The most fascinating part, and the part that bodes well for the future, is that many of the participants found potential solutions from unlikely partners. The room was full of people who have made development their business and who were truly open to learning from one another’s experiences, successes and failures.

We all know that development is a complex issue – more than 50 years of investments have told us so. We know that scalable and sustainable progress will only come from engaging with actors across a variety of sectors at the local, regional and international level. We don’t yet know all the investments that we’ll need to make to truly drive this change. We can and will continue to debate which ones offer the greatest impact and who the right stakeholders are – but in the meantime we must also act. There is a great opportunity to strengthen the communities that we live and work in today, and the new markets of tomorrow. Let’s continue the momentum, stop meeting to debate and start meeting to drive impact.

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2 Responses

  1. Hello Matthew Freeman, nice post and we would like to help.


    Firstly we feel that there should be a global body overseeing the “charitable organizations out there who claim to feed the hungry, if we donate x amount per child per day, as we know that so many people are donating to these feed a child foundations, yet not enough money goes to actually feed these kids, sad very sad.

  2. Dear Sir,

    I must hereby reiterate our full agreement on common vision of impact development of integrated action within Governments & Private Sector as joint effort and impact improvements in the practice fields, however international partnerships & memberships of financing & investment are required to identify within objective development projections goals to be reached, addressing all MDG to eradicate hunger, which is one of the vital pillars of life and own sustainability of rural development improvement, improving nutrition levels.

    We have elaborated complete Global Development Programs that address nutrition programs chapters, ever implemented, due to lack of such international partnerships committed to make a difference in development improvement impacts of common success for all parties roles and key stakeholders including trade markets of food production exports, and regretably todate, ever met the right partnerships interested to cooperate with strong financial capacity and back up within business partnership proposal, as our financial partner to capitalize all our intellectual input of think tank policies, nowadays we are addressing to UK, because believe that sterling qualities can be met through UK partnerships with common vision perspectives of development projections in the sphere of international business and humanitarian assistance concepts, criterias to be implemented sucessfully.

    In God we Trust.

    Highly appreciated and thank You.


    Yours Respectfully,

    Maria Cristina Guttendorf Cipriano

    International Business Assistance,Lda





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