Assessing nutrition across the food value chain

WBA's Food and Agriculture Benchmark and aligning business reporting

In September 2021, during the UN Food System Summit, the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) Food and Agriculture Benchmark will publish a ranking of the 350 most influential food and agriculture companies. The benchmark will shed light on how companies across the whole food value chain – from seed companies to big restaurant chains – are performing on key sustainability topics. Find out more about the Food and Agriculture Benchmark

The methodology of the Food and Agriculture Benchmark is composed of 45 indicators across four measurements areas: governance & strategy, environment, social inclusion and nutrition. See here our methodology

Alignment with existing reporting frameworks and initiatives is one of the core principles of WBA. Our aim is not re-inventing the wheel. When building a benchmark methodology, we take the best available science and incorporate existing reporting standards.

Working on developing the nutrition indicators has been a challenging journey. There is still some ground to cover when it comes to defining key concepts like ‘healthy diets’ and discussions on the harmonization of these definitions are happening in multiple fora. Moreover, complex topics such as the affordability of healthy foods are hard to measure through simple indicators.

Nevertheless, promoting healthy diets for all is an absolute priority and the private sector plays a crucial role in addressing global nutrition challenges. Many companies are stepping up to take more responsibilities, but there is still a long way to go. Our baseline study has shown that many companies in the food value chain struggle to identify how they can contribute to improving nutrition. Thus, they lack a comprehensive strategy to address these challenges.

In the past years, there has been a proliferation of business accountability mechanisms within the nutrition area. As a result, companies have often expressed concern about the increased reporting burden.

Alignment and coordination among these initiatives are fundamental and the private sector is demanding assistance in navigating this fast-growing landscape of accountability mechanisms. These are the main objectives of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition’s (GAIN) initiative on ‘Aligning business reporting on nutrition‘. GAIN led consultative processes among several stakeholders – businesses, NGOs, academia, representative of accountability mechanisms – to identify the existing reporting tools and foster alignment. WBA has been part of this consultative process. Learn more about GAIN

The reports that summarize the discussions and solutions of these consultations have been a valuable resource for the development of the Food and Agriculture benchmark methodology.

Below an explanation of how the Food and Agriculture Benchmark incorporates the recommendations of the reports.

Product reformulation

Existing reporting framework/tool emerging from GAIN consultation: Health Star Rating (HSR) system (to be complemented by qualitative information or regional recognised methodologies e.g. Nutri-Score).

The Food and Agriculture Benchmark evaluates the performance of companies in different parts of the value chain, in different food sectors and geographical markets. While we fully encourage companies to use the HSR system to guide their product (re)formulation, we also track the adoption of any other existing government-endorsed, or widely acknowledged nutrient profiling systems or nutritional standards. The priority is encouraging all companies to work on improving the nutritional quality of products and increasing transparency around the definition of ‘healthy’. If companies set goals to increase the proportion of healthy foods in their portfolio, the Food and Agriculture Benchmark requires companies to use a transparent and robust system to evaluate the nutritional quality of products.

Marketing to children

Existing reporting frameworks/tools emerging from GAIN consultation: CFBAI Core Principles and EU Pledge.

Not all the companies in our benchmark scope sell products for children. Other companies have only limited influence on marketing activities. Nevertheless, the Food and Agriculture Benchmark identifies responsible marketing as a key nutrition issue. GAIN survey and latest report provided us with a list of the most relevant existing reporting tools to assess business responsible marketing practices. Because of our global scope, we encourage companies – particularly food and beverage processors, retailers and food service – to align with at least one of the following frameworks: EU Pledge, Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiatives (CFBAI), WHO Regional Nutrient profile model, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Advertising and Marketing Communications Code. Specifically, the benchmark measures whether companies have global policies on responsible marketing, in alignment with these initiatives, and demonstrate they are implementing activities to support these commitments.


Existing reporting framework/tool emerging from GAIN consultation: Codex Alimentarius standards on food labelling.

Labelling is considered key in the benchmark’s nutrition area, where it looks to assess the compliance with the Codex Alimentarius Standards on labelling. Where national legislations on labelling are not present, we ask companies to comply with the Codex Alimentarius when providing nutritional information on the product packages.

Workforce nutrition

Existing reporting framework/tool emerging from GAIN consultation: Workforce Nutrition Alliance Scorecard.

Workforce nutrition is a novel topic in the nutrition area and where companies show a considerable reporting gap. GAIN, CGF and NewForesight designed the Workforce Nutrition Alliance Scorecard, a reporting tool to support companies self-assess their workforce nutrition programmes. The Food and Agriculture Benchmark includes workforce nutrition as one of the six nutrition topics and uses the Workforce Nutrition Alliance Scorecard as the main point of reference.

Food safety

Existing reporting framework/tool emerging from GAIN consultation: Global Food Safety Initiative’s Benchmarking Requirements.

Businesses have been heavily monitored on food safety for decades, in some regions more than in others. Companies can go beyond compliance with national laws or international standards on food safety standards (e. HACCP) by adopting of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) benchmarking requirements. Given the broad scope of our companies, the Food and Agriculture Benchmark acknowledges that some businesses do not get audited by GFSI-recognised certifications. In those cases, companies adopt other internationally acknowledged and industry-specific voluntary certifications.

Food loss and waste

Existing reporting framework/tool emerging from GAIN consultation: FLW Standard (to be complemented by SMART global targets linked to SDG 12.3).

Food loss and waste is a key topic for food system transformation, affecting the environmental dimension through increased emissions and resource use, and the nutritional dimension by impacting food availability. The Food and Agriculture Benchmark assess companies, both upstream and downstream, on their efforts to reduce food loss and waste. This includes quantifying and reporting on their data through standards such as the Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard (FLW Standard) and setting reduction targets to reduce FLW across their own operations. In addition, the benchmark goes further to assess companies on their engagement and collaboration with value chain partners to help suppliers and customers to reduce food loss and waste. This includes initiatives such as the 10x20x30 by the Champions 12.3 that brings together over 10 of the largest food retailers to engage with at least 20 suppliers to halve food loss and waste by 2030.


In some nutrition areas, our general approach is to assess how companies comply and adopt robust and widely recognised reporting tools. However, the Food and Agriculture Benchmark’s nutrition indicators cannot be very prescriptive because of the diversity among companies and the broad geographical scope. Where there is a lack of regulatory alignment at the global level, businesses can show their progress by using existing national or international reporting tools.

The WBA Food and Agriculture Benchmark is working towards providing a reporting framework for nutrition. We aim to consolidate expectations from the private sector across the value chain and translate these into measurable tools.

Further progress is needed to strengthen business reporting on nutrition. Alignment among accountability mechanisms is a fundamental element. WBA is excited to continue working with GAIN and other stakeholders to improve business accountability in nutrition.

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