How galvanizing the private sector is key to achieving Agenda 2030
IFAD Asset Request Portlet
How galvanizing the private sector is key to achieving Agenda 203012 July 2016
Sunny Verghese – Cofounder and Group CEO of Olam International – has first-hand experience on how the private sector can positively influence rural communities, having built a global agribusiness that is committed to acting ethically and sustainably.
Rome, 16 February - Agenda 2030 gives an inspiring vision of what the world could look like in the future. At the heart of it are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that provide a framework for development activities for the next 15 years.
But what role can the private sector play in achieving the SDGs?
Sunny Verghese – Cofounder and Group CEO of Olam International – may just have the answer.
This week Verghese will be a panellist at IFAD's 39th Governing Councilto discuss how the private sector can work together with governments to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture throughout the world.
The panel will be moderated by Babita Sharma, an internationally renowned journalist and presenter.
Verghese has first-hand experience on how the private sector can positively influence rural communities, having built a global agribusiness that is committed to acting ethically and sustainably.
His company, Olam International, based in Singapore, currently operates in 70 countries to provide food and raw materials to nearly 14,000 businesses.
Olam has won a number of awards for its measurable approach to improving the well-being of smallholder communities through its Olam Livelihood Charter (OLC).
OLC brings together vocational training, and educational, health and environmental initiatives to help move farmers from subsistence to commercial farming, thereby supporting long-term global supply.
According to Verghese, his global organization has humble roots, and began by exporting cashews in 1989 as a way to keep Nigerian businesses running during an economic downturn.
"What started off as a cashew business became a broader, edible nut platform," says Verghese.
Olam became more involved in the value chain—working in processing, spreading to different locations, and linking its products to customers and the market—while expanding its area of expertise to other products such as peanuts, almonds and pistachios.
When companies have strong relationship with communities and small farmers, everyone benefits
Though Olam has grown quite substantially, Verghese firmly believes that a company can be a fierce competitor in the marketplace and please shareholders, while also simultaneously contributing to sustainable development and the environment.
"The only way to be an enduring company is to work responsibly," says Verghese. "We at Olam believe that the only way that we can sustain our growth over the long-term is to be able to do it in an ethical way, a responsible way, and in an environmentally sustainable way."
When a company has a good relationship with the community they operate within, everyone benefits. When Olam is interested in expanding into a new country, Verghese says, this could come off as an intrusion of sorts.
Whilst a company may have all of the legal licenses to operate, if it does not work with the community, it will not be granted the ‘social license to operate’ and so potentially lose the respect and trust of the community, local employees and local farmer suppliers.
When farmers are respected, they produce better and more consistently. Olam provides microfinancing, access to training in good agricultural practices, and works in other ways to level the playing field for small farmers.
Verghese says Olam is committed to continuing this approach by addressing four of the SDGs which are at the heart of Agenda 2030.
He believes that businesses have the potential to impact the goals directly.
"The private sector's role is that we have to make choices about how our business model and concentration of access can create the most impact."