We’ve just witnessed the member countries of the U.N. agree to 17 Global Goals that will, all going well, transform our world by 2030. These Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have three ambitious aims over the next 15 years: end extreme poverty; fight inequality and injustice; and fix climate change. They will replace the Millennium Development Goals and will be measured by 169 indicators. The hope is that these goals and indicators will frame national policies and agendas, starting now.
This is an exciting moment in history, when positive change in the lives of millions of people around our world could at last be in our grasp.
So, the next question is: How? How do we translate these goals into practical action? The idea of public-private partnerships (PPPs) is not a new one, but they could not be more relevant now. No one individual, organization or government is able to tackle the SDGs. But effective partnerships can. Working together, governments, NGOs and the private sector can pioneer the kind of innovative, sustained and, most importantly, practical initiatives that can end extreme poverty or fight inequality. They can, for example, combine to raise awareness of what good hygiene and good nutrition mean, and encourage new habits that deliver them.
My company, Unilever, works with many partners to address issues like hygiene and nutrition (which are intrinsically linked) at scale. For example, 6.3 million children around the world still die before they reach the age of 5, and sub-Saharan Africa takes the greatest burden of this, accounting for over 3 million of these deaths. Sadly, many become victims of preventable illnesses such as pneumonia or diarrhea, and almost half the deaths are linked to malnutrition.
How does a public-private partnership work in practice to deliver on the SDG ambitions? Take Nigeria, for example, and the issue of malnutrition. Unilever’s brand Knorr has committed to help reduce the prevalence of iron deficiency anaemia, by making nutritious cooking more desirable, easy to understand and afford.
Knorr has set up an inclusive business model, “Gbemiga,” with several partners, such as the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and the Growing Business Foundation and Society for Family Health (SFH). By working together, they are able to improve living standards by training women to sell nutritious products and simultaneously reinforce the dietary changes that can help reduce the prevalence of iron deficiency in families across the country — and Unilever has successfully fortified its bouillon cubes with Iron.