Cargill and the private sector’s role in reaching the SDGs

Cargill is advancing sustainable supply chains. Small-scale farmers like Carolina Balbino from Brazil are key to creating a food-secure future that nourishes people and protects the planet. Photo by: Cargill

A global food and agriculture company with nearly 150,000 employees in 70 countries, Cargill has emerged as a strong voice from within the private sector in contributing to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.
Over the past few years, the company has set a strategic vision to be the most trusted source of sustainable products and services. It has made a number of commitments — from signing the U.N. New York Declaration on Forests to setting goals on energy efficiency, greenhouse gas intensity and renewable energy use.  
“At Cargill, our work is at the intersection of food security, sustainability and nutrition. We focus on these topics as part of everything we do. It's integral to our business; it's not additive,” Taryn Barclay, Cargill’s director of corporate responsibility and partnerships, told Devex.
Through initiatives like the Cargill Cocoa Promise, which seeks to strengthen cocoa-producing communities through farm development, farmer training and broader community support, Cargill is showing how traditional CSR activities can benefit both local populations and businesses.
“Some of our research shows that helping to build community investment and build community capacity is contributing to that economic base,” Barclay said.
Cargill has also forged various partnerships with global and local organizations in both low-income and high-income countries, including work with organizations such as CARE, TechnoServe, Feeding America and the World Food Program USA to increase its impact in the communities in which it operates.
Here are more highlights from our conversation with Barclay about the role of the private sector in reaching the SDGs, and the future of cross-sector partnerships.
How do you combine your breadth of activities and international presence with local engagement?

“It’s about leveraging the unique skills and expertise of each of the partners to make a positive impact, because we know that we can do a lot more in collaboration with others than we can do by ourselves.”
— Taryn Barclay, Cargill’s director of corporate responsibility and partnerships

We work across borders and with community leaders to drive results. It’s about setting some very clear frameworks and focus areas for the things that we want to achieve in our local communities. We balance that international presence with local engagement as we partner with large, global organizations such as CARE. Our partnership is working across eight countries to improve food security and economic opportunities for people in communities where we operate.
We're reaching more than 300,000 people through that collaboration. It's a global partnership, but it's working to achieve significant local impact. For example, in India, we reached around 40,000 children to improve their nutrition and access to education.
Because we have this framework and these focus areas that we want to operate in, it also gives our businesses the opportunity to strengthen the local market. India is a really good example of that, because we have a number of consumer vegetable oil products in the country — we're reaching around 30 million consumers with our brands. A few years ago, we took the decision to fortify all of those oil brands with vitamins A, D and E, which has improved the nutritional benefits of these products.
How do you engage with local communities to get them on board with your projects?

In every location where Cargill operates, we make a concerted effort to connect with local communities. We do that in a number of different ways. Our employees are great ambassadors for Cargill, and many of them come from those local communities. We have more than 300 Cargill Cares Councils, which are employee-led groups that engage in the community. Employees become advocates and volunteers — they also help design and shape some of the community outreach plans and volunteer to have a tangible impact.
Often, we will work with partners to help us implement local community activities. We recognize that a lot of the issues in the community may also be quite complex, and we want to make sure that we are having a positive impact. We have very large global partnerships such as TechnoServe, but we also encourage our businesses to work with local organizations as well, because often they are very well established community groups, they have an extensive local  presence, and they are achieving significant impact.
Can you talk about some of the cross-sector partnerships you’ve been involved in? What has the experience been like and what are the lessons learned?
Like any relationship, it takes work and it takes effort. The article we co-authored with CARE for Devex last year highlighted some principles of partnerships between the private sector and NGOs.
We have a project in Nicaragua with TechnoServe to support sorghum farmers, called IMPULSOR. Over a four-year period, that program is providing technical assistance, market access and financial support to the farmers, the majority of whom are also first-time Cargill suppliers. So we're integrating them into Cargill's supply chain and, by creating a new market for these farmers, Cargill is helping these producers to commercialize their crops and increase incomes. It's a really good example of the things that we do in partnership with others that's completely linked to our business.
We definitely see the value of collaboration. It’s about leveraging the unique skills and expertise of each of the partners to make a positive impact, because we know that we can do a lot more in collaboration with others than we can do by ourselves.
How do you envision cross-sector partnerships evolving in the future?

We  have an opportunity to be more creative — to look at new ways of working together, whether that's new models of funding mechanisms or new types of collaborations that may capitalize on the unique skills of each of the organizations. We also need to focus on impact, collectively define success and adopt core measures across the priorities that we're trying to achieve.
We see that changing already, where there's a lot more emphasis on the impact measures being agreed and decided on much sooner in the process. We want to increase common measures of success to minimize impact.
Lastly, we want to look for solutions that are scalable. That's going to be key with the ambition of the SDGs. We have to be focused on things that are scalable and can really have a significant impact.
What are you looking forward to during Devex World?

We have an ambitious agenda ahead of us, and Cargill is looking forward to learning and sharing best practices at Devex World. We are eager to find ways to work together towards smart, scalable solutions, and with new trends emerging as a result of unusual collaborations, we look forward to uncovering new opportunities for partnerships.  
For example, we’d like to explore the ways a global food and agricultural organization such as Cargill could work with small and large development organizations to share technical expertise and leverage our combined geographical presence. That’s why we’re building an interactive map for Devex World where participants can visualize their impact around the world and on the ground. We hope this may be a way to drive change at an even faster pace.
Follow Focus On: Devex World for more conversations emerging from the global development event of the year.

About the author

  • Richard Jones

    In his role as Editorial Director Richard oversees content for digital series, reports and events, leading a talented team of writers and editors, conducting high-level video interviews and moderating panels at events. Previously partnerships editor and an associate editor at Devex, Richard brings to bear 15 years of experience as an editor in institutional communications, public affairs and international development. Based in Barcelona, his development experience includes stints in the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Ecuador, as well as extensive work travel in Africa and Asia.