FAO distributes regional guide for proactive pursuit of high-risk private sector partnerships
15 abril 2023


Partnering with the private sector. In early April, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released the report “How to Identify and Mitigate Risks in Partnering with the Private Sector.” In the document, FAO recognizes that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 will not be possible without the support of the private sector. Therefore, in the quest for this international body to take a more proactive role in connecting with the sector, the paper argues that the organization will have to challenge itself to create partnerships with the private sector considered “high risk”, such as the fast food and sugar-sweetened beverages sector. To this end, this document is intended as a guide to direct the actions of FAO’s regional offices in this area.

The report explains that alliances with these companies should be made when the potential benefit of the alliance is of great magnitude, and implies proceeding with greater care when analyzing potential risks. In this regard, the report presents a five-step process for identifying and mitigating the risks of a private entity. Stage 1 is to identify whether the organization meets any exclusion criteria, such as engaging in activities that do not comply with UN sanctions or tolerating forced or compulsory labor. In stage 2, identify whether the sector is high-risk, such as fast food restaurants and sugar-sweetened beverage producers.

Stage 3 consists of identifying the potential risks that could arise from the partnership with the private entity and classifying them into different categories, such as operational risks, financial risks and reputational risks. In order to identify the risks, FAO representatives should consider, for example, whether the partnership could be considered “unfair” by the other industry players. In addition, the potential benefits of the partnership in terms of contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and FAO’s strategic objectives should be assessed. 

Finally, stage 4 proposes the preparation of a risk mitigation plan to implement actions to address the risks detected in the previous stage, while stage 5 prepares the ‘talking points’ to meet with the potential partner.

Next steps

Following the publication of this report, FAO offices in Latin America and the Caribbean are expected to use the document as a guide for risk analysis when establishing partnerships with the private sector, with special emphasis on the “high risk” sector, such as fast food restaurants. It is expected that the construction of alliances proposed to the private sector from FAO will be established under close scrutiny, without allowing companies to gain competitive advantages as a result of the alliance.

McDonald’s engagement opportunities

Although the guide prioritizes small companies and their partnerships to establish alliances, it does not rule out approaches with large companies. In the event that the FAO offers to establish an alliance with McDonald’s for the company to participate in the promotion of the 2030 SDGs, this could be based on the promotion of sustainable agriculture and livestock practices among its food suppliers; through the co-creation of strategies to reduce food waste in its restaurants and supply chains; in the development of healthier menus and the promotion of more nutritious food options in its restaurants.