Opinion: How partnerships can propel the SDGs forward

Footballs with sustainable development goal icons. Photo by: Eivind Oskarson / FN-sambandet / CC BY-NC

Partnerships offer a pathway to success in both programs and policies, and they can take many forms. Partnerships in the more traditional sense allow us to directly engage communities around our workplaces as well as growers, farmer cooperatives, and industry groups to identify new opportunities for growth and market access.

We’ve seen the tremendous impact that open markets can have in developing countries and the impact that we can have by joining with others who share our vision and purpose.

Take for example our partnership with CARE International. It started more than 50 years ago and it melds Cargill’s expertise in food and agriculture with CARE’s decades of success in community-led rural development.

Partnering with CARE enables us to address critical social and sustainability issues in areas where we operate — the same communities where our employees live and where their children attend school. It directly connects our social responsibility and business interests. I believe this has been critical to its success.

In the past 10 years alone, Cargill and CARE have reached 2.2 million people building resilient communities in 10 countries. Among those who have benefited are women who have developed microenterprises or joined village savings and loan programs resulting in increased financial security.

Trade has an important role in sustainable development. Cargill's Devry Boughner Vorwerk explains at Devex World 2018.

Partnerships allow companies to gain critical external insights, expanding our viewpoints, and understanding of key issues. Importantly, they also connect competitors, peers, governments, and NGOs to tackle complex challenges together, build systemic change, and unlock change at scale.

Cargill has a rich history of working with others to identify solutions to shared challenges — from improving nutrition security and reducing food loss and waste, with partners such as Gastromotiva, the World Food Programme, and food banks around the world; to protecting forests in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and World Resources Institute; to advocating for women’s empowerment and gender equity with ONE and, of course, CARE.

When it comes to addressing issues such as food insecurity or women’s empowerment, we won’t get there alone. Sustainable Development Goal 17 calls on us to encourage and promote effective public, private, and civil society partnerships. It creates a true connection between each of the SDGs and each of our organizations. Without partnerships and collaboration, none of the other SDGs will be realized.

“Partnerships allow companies to gain critical external insights, expanding our viewpoints, and understanding of key issues. Importantly, they also connect competitors, peers, governments, and NGOs to tackle complex challenges.”

— Michelle Grogg, vice president of corporate responsibility and sustainable development at Cargill

Reflecting on the last decade of collaboration with CARE, three key themes arise in terms of what’s made it a success:

1. Impact: It’s natural to get caught up in a specific program design or output, but we’ve been most successful when we focus on the end goal and leverage our collective expertise to figure out the best way to get there. Strategic partners such as the one with CARE help us think broadly but practically so that we can collectively move the needle on significant issues in a systematic way.

2. Local voices: Around the world and with our partners, we include local community members in our planning process so their voices are represented and they are part of, and often lead, the process. This ensures long-term commitment at a local level but also helps to identify the most viable solutions — which can differ greatly from community to community based on local infrastructure, market access, or culture.

3. Partner relationship: Like any successful engagement, the people behind the programs are key. We really took the time up front to develop our relationship and ensure our goals were aligned. Something as simple as terminology can throw a conversation off-track, so we’ve taken time to understand the other’s language and behaviors.

Why is trade so critical to achieving the SDGs? Cargill's Devry Boughner Vorwerk discusses.

Looking forward

As we look ahead to further collaboration, I encourage us all to continue to evolve our partnerships by exploring new ways of working, including unique funding mechanisms, uncommon collaborations, and utilization of technology to scale our work even further. Long-term, sustainable impact requires collectively defining what success looks like; determining the role and expertise various partners can play, including NGOs, governments, donors, industry and, most importantly, local community members and beneficiaries; and agreeing on a common set of measures to track progress. It also requires a willingness to learn, adapt, and change course when necessary.

There’s power in partnerships. Now, it’s up to each of us to embrace it and work together — across sectors, geographies, and industries — to drive the SDGs forward. Because when we drive the SDGs forward, we make critical progress on our chief ambition: To help the world thrive.

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About the author

  • Michelle grogg

    Michelle Grogg

    Michelle Grogg joined Cargill in 1998 and currently leads the company’s global corporate responsibility practice and is the executive director of the Cargill Foundation. She is responsible for managing and directing the company’s global corporate and foundation giving programs. Grogg also leads the development and implementation of global partnerships and programs with select non-governmental and international development organizations to improve food security, nutrition, and sustainability in Cargill communities around the world.