As part of a new initiative led by key international organisations, 42 companies have pledged a promising US$345m to contribute to ending global hunger. The Zero Hunger Private Sector Pledge1 is a game-changing solution emerging from the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) Action Tracks. It recognises that governments cannot eradicate hunger alone and need more private sector involvement, with investments aligned to the highest impact areas. To date, pledges have been made in 34 priority countries.
Global hunger is rising unabated with up to 811 million2 hungry people in the world in 2020 – that is one in ten people suffering because they did not have access to a most basic need and fundamental right of food3. COVID-19 measures have made the issue even worse. However, there is a roadmap to end world hunger. Additional investment in ten high-impact areas can put hunger in the history books.
“Today, one in 10 people go to bed hungry and millions are right on the brink of starvation. This is happening in a world that has enough food to feed everyone, everywhere. It’s time to end this suffering. But to succeed, WFP and the entire community need the creative drive, energy and commitment of the private sector. Through the Zero Hunger Pledge initiative, businesses around the world can join us and truly make a difference – giving food, hope, and a better future to those who need them most,” said David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme.
Although this financial investment must mostly come from governments, public spending will not be sufficient. That is why the UNFSS came up with a game-changing solution to mobilise more private sector investment, as a catalytic contributor to achieving zero hunger. The Pledge is launched in advance of the UN Food Systems Summit.
“Increasing private sector investment towards small food producers in geographies with high burdens of hunger is essential to changing the lives of millions of people and making nations food secure. The pledge enables food companies to provide a strong, united front with governments to make hunger a thing of the past by 2030,” said Peter Bakker, president and chief executive officer of WBCSD
The Pledge requires companies to make a financial commitment in at least one of the ten high-impact intervention areas identified in the Ceres2030 findings, and in at least one of the priority countries or regions4. Pledgers include a range of companies, from large corporations to SMEs, each having committed to uphold internationally accepted principles including, but not limited to: the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS-RAI), the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes, the Principles of the UN Global Compact, and the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights.
“The private sector in Africa is absolutely key to Africa’s agricultural development agenda. We are committed to mobilising businesses – big and small – to deliver concrete outcomes on the ground,” said Ibrahim Gourouza, chief operations officer of Grow Africa
Pledging companies will then coordinate with implementing organisations or partners. They agree to being assessed by the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) and to the assessment being published publicly.
Commitments can come in the form of core business investments, subsidised contributions, cash contributions, and in-kind contributions. They focus on three key areas:
- Empowering the excluded – giving marginalised populations and small producers the resources to learn and benefit from successful agricultural interventions
- Investing in food producers – encouraging more sustainable on-farm practices and interventions to improve environmental conditions
- Reducing losses and supporting SMEs – assisting small-scale producers and SMEs to increase their productivity and income
“What we are seeing with the Pledge is the private sector stepping up to be a bigger part of the solution. This is a game-changing approach to solving one of the most pressing yet oldest challenges humanity faces,” said Lawrence Haddad, executive director of GAIN
With a level of commitment so far amounting to $345m, the implementing organisations are confident more companies will join in the fight against zero hunger. The Pledge will be officially launched on 21 September, 10am EDT/4pm CEST.
1 FAO, WFP, GAIN, NEPAD, Grow Africa, Grow Asia, WBA, WBCSD, and IISD
2 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI 2021) report
3 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 25: right for adequate food and to be free from hunger
4 Enabling participation in farmers’ organisations (I); creating vocational programmes for rural youth (I); scaling up social protection programmes (I); investing in extension services in R&D programmes (II); intervening to support sustainable practices (II); supporting the adoption of climate-resilient crops (II); increasing research on water-scarce regions (II); improving the quantity and quality of livestock feed (II); reducing post-harvest losses by combining interventions (III); investing in the assistance needed to support SMEs (III)