There are currently some 500 million small-scale farmers, representing 90% of farmers worldwide, and producing about half of the world’s current food requirements. Feeding the projected 9 plus billion inhabitants of our planet in mid-century will require raising overall food production by some 70%.
Companies in the agribusiness sector are using diverse inclusive business strategies to productively engage smallholder farmers at various stages in the value chain (production, trading, processing, export and retail). They develop these ventures in order to deliver long term return for the company, in the form of improved quality, traceability, volume and reliability of supply. Meanwhile, the farmers also benefit: via higher prices, but also through improvements in yield, security, market access, or farm planning.
On February 12 and 13 in Amsterdam, I participated in a workshop organized by the Seas of Change Initiative, which is stewarded by the Wageningen UR Center for Development Innovation and the Sustainable Food Lab. The event gathered some 60 practitioners from companies, NGOs, development organizations, and research institutions to discuss what works and what doesn’t on the pathway to scaling up these types of ventures. In essence: how to strengthen business competitiveness and increase social impact in rural areas, and how to do it at scale?
Participants included representatives from Heineken, Unilever, Arcos Dorados, Syngenta, Lindt & Sprüngli, Ben & Jerry's, Oxfam, Ford Foundation, GIZ, Oxfam, and many other organizations. They shared lessons learned and challenges with one another over the course of the two days.
Discussions centered around topics such as guidance documents, frameworks, and cases that could be helpful in either building internal buy-in, engaging suppliers, or implementing initiatives on the ground. A significant element of the workshop was also the topic of performance measurement – what does “success” look like, and how to measure improvements in livelihoods from more inclusive business? There is a move toward developing common indicators that could provide greater consistency in language and metrics and better learning across supply chains. Other interesting topics centered on how to make in-depth research more useful for business, and business needs in the context of public-private partnerships.
In Amsterdam, I highlighted via a short presentation (available here) the recent work we completed at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) on identifying a series of solutions aimed at overcoming internal barriers to scaling up inclusive business ventures. I explained how we clustered the range of possible internal organizational barriers into three categories: opportunity cost of investment; strategic and operational misalignment; and capability gaps. And I laid out how, for each of these three categories of barriers, we put together a range of solutions (a dozen in total) illustrated by company examples – from obtaining the support of senior leadership and establishing centers of excellence, to bringing core capabilities in-house, adjusting performance targets and quantifying the total value created by inclusive business ventures.
The organizers have compiled a briefy synopsis of the workshop, outlining their intentions and providing an overview on the points discussed. They also lay out key areas of interest that were highlighted for the road ahead.
Many thanks to Don Seville (Sustainable Food Lab) and Joost Guijt (Center for Development Innovation of Wageningen UR) and their respective teams for hosting and organizing this successful workshop!
Author: Filippo Veglio is the Director of WBCSD's Social Capital Focus Area. He is based in Geneva, Switzerland. (WBCSD - Inclusive Business Perspectives - 14 Feb 2014 http://www.inclusive-business.org)
Engaging senior representatives of member companies across various industry sectors, business organizations, multilateral institutions, NGOs and academia, Filippo manages the WBCSD’s program promoting business solutions towards enabling greater social inclusion and equitable growth.
For more information and to read the full article go to http://www.inclusive-business.org/2014/02/smallholder-sourcing.html#more