Being able to track and measure the impact of business on food and diets is critical. Business is both part of the problem and the solution to the current food systems challenges. By increasing the effectiveness of tracking we will be better positioned to ask and assist businesses to be agents for positive change.
To better assess the impact of the private sector actions, an increasing number of accountability mechanisms have been created. These ‘accountability mechanisms’ engage in measuring and reporting business impact on nutrition and can take different forms: bringing companies around a table to collaborate, creating peer accountability, encouraging companies to set and track progress towards goals and even ranking company performance against objective criteria.
‘A Review of Business Accountability Mechanisms in Nutrition’ is an insightful new report describing the different mechanisms and how they fit into the wider nutrition landscape. It is a laudable step to better understand the limits and opportunities of the current landscape assessment of business impact on nutrition.
The key findings of the report are the following:
– The number of accountability mechanisms – 21 (considered in the report) – looking at business impact on nutrition is high and increasing. Companies find it difficult to manage this crowded landscape and efficiently prioritizing their accountability reporting. We could simplify this.
– Accountability mechanisms often collect similar data. By cooperating on the process of data collection, mechanisms could provide comparable and complementary analysis. Data sharing is a way to streamline.
– The entirety of the food systems should be assessed if we want to identify the levers for improvement. The current focus on manufacturers and processors is too limited. The role of retailers and out-of-home sector has been overlooked. We need to broaden the footprint.
The report highlights the need to strike a balance: between overcomplication which deters clear reporting, and too loose, failing to responsibly reflect performance. There is an optimal level of accountability and we clearly have some way to go to achieve that.