At an annual cost of $3.3 trillion, the global nutrition crisis is a clear example where increased cooperation and innovation across sectors and geographies is crucial to the sustainability of our planet. Five years on from the first Index, and two years since the second, the 2018 Global Access to Nutrition Index was published on 23 May, 2018. The index ranks the world’s 22 largest food and beverage companies on their contributions to addressing the global nutrition challenges of overweight and diet-related diseases and undernutrition. Whilst vast improvements across the board are still needed, the successes and gaps in the Index represent the pathways towards a more secure and heathier food system.

The need for the world’s largest food and beverage companies to make healthier, more affordable and accessible products to tackle the global nutrition crisis is laid out with precision. The Index seeks to measure, with much needed clarity, the performance of leading companies in a series of indicators; resulting in a powerful and accessible tool for all stakeholders – from consumers to investors, suppliers to retailers – to assess the impacts of the products they are buying and selling.

The Index shows that companies are listening, with average scores across the Index increasing by 32%. Nestlé led the ranking with a score of 6.8, up from 5.9 in 2016, followed by Unilever (6.7) and Danone (6.3) in third place. Companies are showed to have improved their activities, taking steps in the right direction through the development of new strategies and initiatives which not only aim to tackle undernutrition but strengthen commitments to responsible marketing. The Index is also able to generate new levels of corporate accountability through defining parameters supported by clear measurements.

The global impact of the companies included in the Index is estimated to be at $500 billion worth of annual sales. Their products play a substantial role in the lives of millions worldwide, highlighting the vital position of the private sector as an enabler of change. As Inge Kauer, Executive Director of the Access to Nutrition Foundation (ATNF), noted: “The results also show companies need to get better at ‘walking the talk’ and in particular to set clear and verifiable targets for improving the healthiness of their product ranges.”

As an organisation dedicated to the relevance of benchmarks within the sustainable development agenda, the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) are incredibly encouraged by the progress of ATNF. We are proudly in an alliance together and will continue to learn from each other’s experiences and findings. As Paulus Verschuren, Acting Chair of ATNF, has seen: “The difference between our analysis and companies’ own assessments shows the need for more transparency on how companies measure healthiness and set targets to improve it.” This need for transparency has featured consistently in all consultations and conversations of the WBA. We are therefore reassured to see and learn from the power of metrics within the 2018 Global Access to Nutrition Index in effectively linking global food and beverage companies with global health and nutrition levels conducive to us achieving SDG 2 Zero Hunger and SDG 3 Good Health and Well-being. For more information, please visit the Access to Nutrition Foundation website.