Launched in 2018, the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) identified seven transformations needed to take place to put society and the worldwide economy on a more sustainable path aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To support the transformations, WBA has developed, or will be developing, a series of benchmarks assessing 2,000 of the world’s most influential companies to measure the companies’ contributions to the SDGs. Data will be publicly available.
WBA’s food and agriculture baseline assessment evaluates the commitments of the world’s 350 most influential food and agriculture companies on fourteen main topics, with each having a set of sub topics:
- Air and climate
- Nature and biodiversity
- Sustainable food production and sourcing
- Sustainable water supply for human use and ecosystems
- Reduce food and packaging waste
- Ethical animal production systems
- Availability of healthy and sustainable foods
- Accessibility and affordability of healthy and sustainable foods
- Promote healthy eating
- Healthy and sustainable diets in the workplace
- Food safety worldwide
- Labor rights and decent work
- Decent standard living for smallholder farmers
- Resource rights
The majority of companies fail to demonstrate a comprehensive set of commitments in one or more dimensions, according to the findings. Below are four key takeaways:
The food industry is insufficiently aligned with the sustainable development agenda
About 25% of companies assessed do not commit to tackling environmental, nutritional and social challenges. An estimated 75% of companies disclose some commitments; however, only twelve companies demonstrate leading practices across the three dimensions: Arla Foods, CNH Industrial, Danone, Heineken, McDonald’s, Nestlé, OCP, Orkla, PepsiCo, ThaiBev, Unilever and Yara.
The road to realising the Paris Agreement is long
Half (50%) of companies assessed do not disclose targets or report on progress to reduce GHG emissions, while only 7% demonstrate holistic commitments needed for comprehensive environmental stewardship. While most companies across the food value chain are working on reducing water use, with 64% showing some form of commitment, only 25% consider their supply chain in water-stressed areas.
Improving nutrition poses the biggest challenge
The majority of companies assessed struggle to identify how they can contribute to improving nutrition in society — nutrition had the smallest number of commitments across the three main dimensions. Sixty-three percent (63%) of agricultural input companies demonstrate no commitment to nutritional targets, while downstream, consumer-facing companies fall equally short on commitments.
Companies are not driving social change
Despite their large number of employees — about 1 billion people are employed in the agriculture sector — one-third (33%) of companies assessed have no public commitment to eliminate child and forced labor in their own operations and supply chain. By adopting the SDGs, the international community committed to ending child labor by 2025 and forced labor by 2030. The findings further reveal that companies seem to focus primarily on legal obligations rather than proactive actions to drive transformation.
Search the full set of 350 companies to see how each is performing on its commitments to food systems transformation.