SUN Business Network Announces New Members
As you know IBFAN has expressed many times its concern about the Scaling Up Nutrition Initiative (SUN). (CLICK HERE for our comment) We now see that “The SUN Business Network is also beginning its support to help SUN Countries to engage with business through a multi-stakeholder approach to scaling up nutrition”.
This is before SUN has sorted out its own conflicts of interest policy and the guidance that it is developing for SUN countries.
The pledges by the members of the SUN Business Network illustrate clearly that a whole range of food and supplement companies are lining up to exploit the poor in "The Business of Malnutrition" and we know that the focus will be on the first 1000days.
We believe that its is critical that SUN recognises that the problem lies with the conflicts of interest in its own Lead Group (that sets SUN's strategy) and also with all food companies, not just with the baby feeding giants who sell breastmilk substitutes. Companies such as DSM, Ajinomoto, GSK and others are developing fortified supplements and other products for pregnant and lactating mothers and young children. Such products are invariably expensive and undermine confidence in real home-produced foods and can undermine the confidence of breastfeeding mothers, especially if marketed or presented as essential for succesful breastfeeding.
CLICK HERE for the SUN Business Network.
CLICK Here for a report on Fonterra and its promotion of milks for mothers.
Above is a slide taken from a presentation by PA International, a lobby group that claims:“PA International integrates its networks with those of its sponsoring companies in reaction to humanitarian disasters"
This slide shows much more clearly than usual how the food industry views NGOs (the last column) as distributors of packets of foods to poor children.
.Here's the text from the SUN Business Network Website:
The first group of companies to join the SUN Business Network have unveiled their commitments to scaling up nutrition. Combined, these companies have pledged to reach over 120 million undernourished women and children in developing countries each year, by 2020, with direct and indirect nutrition interventions.
The SUN Movement recognizes the important role of responsible business in addressing under-nutrition globally, and the SUN Business Network has been established to support the movement, and the 43 SUN countries, to engage with business and build a multi-sector approach to nutrition.
Ajinomoto, BASF, Britannia, Cargill, DSM, Nutriset and Unilever are the first group of companies to announce their commitments to scale up nutrition. Specific commitments include:
Ajinomoto will aim to improve the nutrition of 500,000 pregnant and lactating mothers and children by 2017.
Unilever will reach 500,000 mothers in developing countries with their handwashing with soap behavior change programme to improve the nutritional status of children under-5.
Britannia aims to increase the reach of their Iron Fortified biscuits to one million vulnerable children by 2016.
Through its involvement with Partners in Food Solutions (PFS), Cargill will work with General Mills, DSM and Buhler to support small and medium sized (SME) food producers in improving the nutrition of their products. By 2015 PFS aims to reach more than 200 SMEs in sub-Saharan Africa.
DSM will ensure they reach 50 million pregnant and lactating women, as well as children and adults with their micronutrient powder and multivitamin tablets and other products each year by 2020.
BASF will work with partners to provide access to affordable fortified staple foods for an extra 60 million people each year, in developing and emerging market countries from 2012 to 2015.
Nutriset will increase the reach of their ready to use therapeutic foods to 9 million vulnerable children each year by 2018.
Company commitments can be viewed on the SUN business network website. To join the network, companies must commit to tracking their targets annually through the SUN Business Network.
SUN Business Network Manager, Jonathan Tench explained: ‘This is just the beginning for the SUN Business Network. We are working to align our network with other global business initiatives on nutrition so that we can create one common platform for business to engage with the SUN Movement.
These commitments from business are also just the tip of the iceberg, SUN Business Network will support these companies to work with partners to further increase their reach – and add more companies to the network.
In January 2014 at the World Economic Forum in Davos we will announce our next membership milestone. We will continue to reach out to local businesses in SUN countries and non-food companies in our quest to create a wide and diverse network in support of SUN.’
The SUN Business Network is also beginning its support to help SUN Countries to engage with business through a multi-stakeholder approach to scaling up nutrition.
SUN and Conflicts of Interest:
IBFAN is concerned about the non-transparent process (discussions under Chatham House Rules) chosen by SUN to address conflicts of interest. This process has led to the development of what is now known as a ‘Reference note on CoI’. This process has been led by the Global Social Observatory (GSO), funded by GATES Foundation. GSO, it is a Geneva-based think tank. Its CEO is Katherine Hagen, Principal Consultant for Hagen Resources International, the parent organization of GSO and the Council for Multilateral Business Diplomacy. The latter organization claims to be “A responsible voice for business in international affairs”, i.e. represents the interests of business in the international arena. This brings GSO’s independence into question – especially for a process which is meant to develop a policy guidance to deal with conflict of interest within SUN where the major concerns are around the food industry’s potential conflict of interest in working on public nutrition policy. Moreover, it is impossible to determine from the GSO website for which clients the group works. Interestingly, when Lida Lhotska met with David Nabarro in October and pointed this out to him, Mr. Nabarro admitted that “They [GSO] were not necessarily seen as independent but as a group that ‘perhaps could do something useful.”
The outcome so far of this GSO-led process is not reassuring:
A review of thepenultimate draft of this Reference Note (almost adopted in the GSO meeting, 16 October 2013) shows that it is not very likely to be of much assistance to governments in SUN countries:
1. The Reference Note has not been clearly prepared by any expert on COI. It shows poor understanding of the CoI concept, mixes CoI with conflict resolution, uses concepts such as ‘mutual accountability’ that assigns governments roles not compatible with democratic processes etc.
2. The focus of the Reference Note is solely on countries, leaving out the SUN Lead Group and the SUN Secretariat that have, since 2010, determined SUN direction and strategy. This approach, furthermore, completely ignores the WHA 65.6 Resolution (2012) which requires COI to be addressed at all levels, not just to Member States and country level.
3. The Reference note is not evidence-based. No reference is available for the sweeping statements it contains, such as “there is more to be gained by engaging all groups that are working to improve nutrition”.
The SUN website list some of the commitments of the members of the SUN Business Network. The network is hosted by a group called “Business Fights Poverty: the world's largest community of professionals harnessing business for social impact.” Yet there is no transparency about which corporations are involved. This is a reason for caution especially since when visiting the “Business Fights Poverty” Nutrition Zone, one finds a blog by Chris Johnson, Nestlé Executive Vice President and Head of Zone Americas (AMS), entitled “Meeting Nutrition Commitments in Latin America.” This is basically an “advertorial” for Nestle products in Latin America. Another piece entitled “Barbara Wettstein: Nestlé report sets out forward-looking commitments.
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