Public private nutrition accountability

How do we translate multi-stakeholder approaches into accountability mechanisms for nutrition?

There is growing recognition that we need to take a multistakeholder approach if we are going to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with nutrition targets. The creation of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement; the Nutrition for Growth Summits; and SDG 17 are signs of our commitment to this approach* – but this has not yet been translated to accountability mechanisms for nutrition. To do this, we have identified three areas of action: 

Is is important for us to think about how to better design these mechanisms to track progress and impact for nutrition for three reasons:


The landscape for private sector accountability is crowded. 

A recent Review of business accountability mechanisms in nutrition published by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) shows that the number of accountability initiatives assessing business impact on nutrition is increasing, but there is insufficient alignment among them. Companies do not have the resources to input into all of these mechanisms so we do not have a clear or complete picture of businesses’ impact on nutrition. This lack of alignment is particularly problematic when looking at commitments, data collection and analysis, and assessment of the food value chain by segment.


We need a comprehensive approach for public private accountability.

We recognise the importance of having coordinated policies and actions from the public and private sector to improve nutrition, so we should also have coherent accountability systems that look at the impact of both sectors. To tackle the obesity epidemic, for example, we need to be able to hold governments accountable for implementing the necessary regulations, investing in nutrition education and establishing procurement policies that support healthy eating practices. At the same time, it is critical to assess the role of business in shaping diets, including formulating and reformulating products, labelling and packaging practices, investing in R&D, and marketing strategies


The 2020 Global Nutrition Summit in Japan is an opportunity to rethink accountability mechanisms for nutrition.

If we are going to rationalise our approach to accountability for nutrition we need to build on what we know through lessons learned, and create a comprehensive accountability system:

  • Duplication of accountability mechanisms results in a lack of understanding of stakeholders’ impact on nutrition.
  • Accountability should foster best practices and innovative action, not just focus on negative impacts and sanctions.**
  • We need indicators and reporting systems to further focus on rising malnutrition issues that we are currently failing to address, such as adult obesity or anaemia.***
  • Stakeholders should be held accountable for policies and actions across the food value chain, including retail.

Malnutrition is the leading cause of ill health and results in the loss of USD 3.5 trillion per year.**** To make progress, the public and private sectors need to be fairly and efficiently assessed. Governments and businesses should be held accountable for both good and bad actions, decisions and investments.

As GAIN’s Executive Director explained in the aforementioned report: “By increasing the effectiveness of tracking, we will be better positioned to ask and assist businesses to be agents for positive change.” We have the opportunity to multiply this effect by thinking about better accountability systems for both public and private sectors.


Laurène is the Senior Associate for Global Partnerships within the SUN Business Network team at GAIN where she manages the relationship with SBN global members and several strategic partners. Laurène has worked for the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, UNFPA, UNITAID, the French Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva, several NGOs and the private sector. Laurène has 8 years’ experience in global health and nutrition. She is a post-graduate in International and European affairs from the College of Europe and Sciences Po Grenoble.

Accordion Title

* “Since 2010, the SUN Movement has inspired a new way of working collaboratively to end malnutrition, in all its forms. With the governments of SUN Countries in the lead, it unites people—from civil society, the United Nations, donors, businesses and researchers—in a collective effort to improve nutrition.…

The next Nutrition for Growth Summit will be hosted by the Government of Japan in 2020. See more on the history of the N4G movement and past events here:

SDG 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

** The UK Institute for Government states that: “Ensuring accountability in public services has traditionally focused on holding government representatives to account and sanctioning their poor performance. Yet accountability can’t be a blame game alone. Effective accountability should provide support and reward for success while fostering learning and risk-taking.”,…

*** Executive Summary of the 2018 Global Nutrition Report: “no country is on track to achieve the adult obesity target, nor to reach the anaemia target.”…

**** Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. State of Food and Agriculture 2013: Food systems for better nutrition. 2013 Rome, Italy.