About the baseline research

With the 2021 global focus on food systems in sight, WBA’s baseline research assesses the extent to which the 350 most influential food and agriculture companies are committed to key topics underpinning the food systems transformation agenda. The assessed topics are based on the Framework that has been published in July 2020, after extensive expert and stakeholder consultations. The table below lists the topics that are part of the Baseline Assessment. The topics are divided into three dimensions: environment, nutrition and social inclusion.

Published in December 2020, the baseline assessment focuses on publicly disclosed corporate commitments and reports available during the September-October 2020 research period. As the research focuses on a global agenda with global stakeholders, only reporting in English was considered.

The valuation of a dimension as ‘on track’ means that a company has commitments and/or reporting in place for 75% or more of the assessed topics within that dimension.

The valuation of a dimension as ‘started the journey’ means that a company has commitments and/or reporting in place for less than 75% but more than 25% of the assessed topics within that dimension.

The valuation of a dimension as ‘room for improvement’ means that a company has commitments and/or reporting in place for less than 25% of the assessed topics within that dimension.

The valuation ‘no data found’ means that a company has no relevant publicly disclosed information in English.

Public commitments demonstrate a first step towards comprehensive action to realise the necessary food systems transformation. The Food and Agriculture Benchmark, building on the baseline research and due to be released in the second half of 2021, will assess corporate performance and impact on these key topics, on the basis of a pre-established set of indicators, giving companies the opportunity to provide data through an online platform. WBA will then assess and rank the 350 companies in scope, providing an accountability mechanism to measure progress in the decade ahead.

A five year development road map

For the development of the Food and Agriculture Benchmark, WBA follows a five-year roadmap. Throughout, it will align with relevant agendas of global platforms and initiatives so that the data, key findings and recommendations can be integrated into broader stakeholder actions and community outreach. A central moment in this five-year roadmap is the publication of the first Benchmark at the end of 2021. This Benchmark will identify clear frontrunners of the food system transformation agenda.

The Food and Agriculture Benchmark is one of the first global benchmarks that takes an entire value chain approach. The 350 keystone companies are selected as part of WBA’s SDG2000, the 2000 keystone companies that will be assessed within WBA benchmarks by 2023.

​The companies selected for WBA’s Food and Agriculture Benchmark were identified through the concept of keystone actors: these are companies across the food and agriculture value chain with a disproportionate impact on the structure and function of the system in which they operate. Most of these large companies work with thousands of business partners, through subsidiaries and their own production and distribution networks. The majority of companies are publicly listed, with the remaining a mix of private, state-owned and cooperative business models.

Methodology

The methodology for the Food and Agriculture Benchmark brings together the key topics and issues on which society expects companies to take action and is the result of WBA seeking extensive expert and stakeholder advice and consultations over the past two years. It describes the development process for the methodology, indicators, approaches to scoring and weighting, and timelines for the benchmark.

Go to report

Framework

Numerous recent publications have reiterated the link between food, the environment, health and well-being, as well as the urgent need for food system transformation. The framework focuses on three interlinked areas of the food system transformation: nutrition, environment and social inclusion.

For the private sector to play its part, we need consensus on how to get there and what is expected of businesses, in addition to better and more timely insights into actual performance. The framework is a first attempt to translate the food system transformation agenda into a recipe for change for the private sector. It sets out the critical areas where private sector action is needed and where companies must step up their efforts to collectively transform the system. WBA, its Allies and collaborating partners have identified the topics that are fundamental for change and translated them into meaningful and actionable activities, or ‘industry asks’.

The framework is intended to serve as a guide for companies in their efforts to formulate commitments and actions for the coming decade. It also lays the foundation for the next steps of methodology development for the benchmark.

Go to the framework

Value chain

The global food and agriculture value chain is a vast, complex and inter-connected network, incorporating stakeholders from the public and private sectors, from smallholder farmers to consumers, and reaching every country on earth. Based on existing frameworks and research on the structure and activities of keystone companies, for the purpose of the Food and Agriculture Benchmark, WBA has organised the food and agriculture value chain into six sub-sectors. These sub-sectors are also reflected in the methodology framework, which conceptualises and places key topics along the value chain and where they are most materially relevant in relation to company operations and supply chains.

WBA’s benchmark takes a food-centric approach; for this reason, commodities and industries such as tobacco, cotton and forestry (and consequently, companies within each) were not considered for inclusion, primarily due to a lack of alignment and contribution to health and nutrition, one of the three pillars of our methodological framework. Furthermore, while the value chain is largely sequential (with products and services passing from one segment to another), the system’s complexity is reinforced by the large amount of companies which are either horizontally or vertically integrated.