The huge political momentum generated this year has elevated the involvement of business in scaling up nutrition towards the top of the global development agenda.
Arguably, there’s never been a better time for business to scale up its efforts to combat undernutrition. The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement has just welcomed the 41st country to its ranks. In the last year alone, 13 countries have joined SUN. On top of that, just a few weeks ago, 27 companies joined the UK and Brazilian Governments, Donors and 15 Developing Countries, in making brand new commitments to scale up nutrition as part of the G8’s Nutrition for Growth summit, worth $19 billion between now and 2020. As if that wasn’t enough, behind the scenes the debate around the Post-2015 Development Agenda has firmly picked up the role of business and doesn’t seem to be letting it go.
The need to act on nutrition, and act fast, is great, as this year’s landmark report from The Lancet reveals “Undernutrition is the largely preventable cause of over a third—3·5 million—of all child deaths. After age 2 years, undernutrition will have caused irreversible damage for future development towards adulthood’’.
The SUN Business Network
Building on this momentum, the SUN Business Network, is recruiting business, of all shapes and sizes, in support of the SUN Movement. At the core of the movement are nationally owned and ambitious plans to scale up nutrition, supported by four global networks, Donor, Business, Civil Society and UN agencies.
There are plenty of challenges for the SUN Business Network, not least fostering a greater understanding between business and governments on how to work effectively together.
But if the need to scale up nutrition is great, then so is the opportunity.
The private sector is where most people access products and services to meet their needs. Governments are increasingly recognizing the importance of market based solutions to scaling up nutrition and the potential of harnessing business’ expertise to improve nutrition. Business can have a direct impact on nutrition through food fortification, promoting infant and young child feeding practices and promoting complementary feeding, through to indirect impacts such as improving access to clean water and improved sanitation and hygiene. Business also knows how to change consumer behavior – if we want to inform mothers and children about the importance of nutrition, companies can offer us some of the best insights in how to promote healthier choices.
Investing in nutrition makes sense from a market growth point of view, but increasingly, businesses are recognizing the value of improving the nutrition of their own workforces, and the communities in which they work, in order to drive productivity. Further initiatives are being developed around pre-competitive research and innovation in nutrition which will offer greater insights to companies on how to scale up nutrition in their business models.
For businesses, large and small, local and multinational, working in these areas, the SUN Movement offers a huge opportunity to work with governments and partners to develop new ideas, new products, new ways of working – as well as benefitting from the expertise of governments, civil society, UN Agencies and others. SUN Business Networks have already convened in Kenya and Nigeria, with more country-level business launches in the pipeline this year.
The SUN Movement recognizes that no one single sector or actor can scale up nutrition alone. The need to break what the Lancet calls ‘’intergenerational cycle of undernutrition’’ requires a new way of working. A strong enabling environment to foster partnerships between business, government and UN Agencies, and a strong civil society that holds all to account is essential.
Through joining the SUN Business network, business can join this new way of working – in partnership, and take a leading role in national debates on a joint approach to scaling up nutrition. There’s never been a better time to do it.