046 Let's get down to business

Public-private partnerships for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals


  • Swedish FAO committee
  • Swedish Government
  • Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative
  • Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  • Tetra Laval
  • Vi Agroforestry /Danone Livelihood Fund
  • FAO
  • Stora Enso


The increased recognition that private sector actors have an important role to play in sustainable development work, for instance for responsible land investment and strengthening local value chains, is certainly true for large corporations, but it is equally true for smaller enterprises as well, many of whom are the ones working in rural areas. These local actors, are vital not only for the local economy but also for food security and nutrition. However, one element which is identified as necessary from both the private and public spheres, is the need for increased trust and confidence. At the heart of this are the challenges of risks and providing solid business cases on the one hand, and the role of profit making when dealing with public goods on the other.

The aim of this side event is to provide examples and lessons learned from when the private sector has engaged in rural development with positive results. With Sweden committed to the principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems (RAI), the work of big international companies with Swedish connections like Stora Enso and Tetra Pak will be highlighted as case studies of corporate social responsibility to strengthen local value chains. The side event will explore business models for multi-sectoral collaborations to reach the SDGs by bringing together representatives from the private sector, government, civil society and academia to discuss ways for building stronger cooperation.

Key speakers/presenters

  • H.E. Robert Rydberg, Ambassador of Sweden to Italy and Permanent Representative to FAO, WFP and IFAD.
  • Peter Fogde, Chief Operations Officer, Stora Enso, Laos.
  • Wangu Mutua, Deputy Director, Vi Agroforestry, Kenya.
  • Anne-Charlotte Malm, Senior Advisor, Sida.
  • Marcela Villarreal, Director of the Partnerships and South-South Cooperation Division (DPS), FAO.
  • Ylva Hillbur, Pro Vice Chancellor International Relations, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SLU.

Moderator: Katarina Eriksson, Project and Partnership Development Director, Tetra Laval, Food for Development.

Main themes/issues discussed

The benefits and challenges with public-private partnerships were discussed from different perspectives and exemplified with case studies:

-    The private sector emphasized a strictly commercial approach, leveraging benefits for sustainable development, gender equality and climate change mitigation and adaption. Stora Enso presented a successful partnership with the Government and forest communities in Laos, with the aim of creating an economically sustainable business venture while also contributing to local sustainable development.

-    The civil society called attention to the role of 15 farmer cooperatives in an innovative partnership between the Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming, Brookside Dairy and Vi Agroforestry, demonstrating the environmental, social and economic benefits integrated in the business. Through the cooperatives, the farmers are bulking their milk and engaging with the market together. The adoption of sustainable farming practices is also being monitored for carbon, where the carbon credits generated functions as returns for the investors in the Livelihood Fund, returns which are then being used to offset emissions from their companies.

-    The public sector perspective and role was demonstrated through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency’s instruments, methods and results. Sida’s collaboration with the private sector is guided by five principles of specific importance: catalytic, core business, cost and risk sharing, systemic change of markets and additionality.

-    The UN’s perspective was represented by FAO´s work to support collaborations where the mutual benefits derived from the partnerships support local, national and regional priorities. Partnerships that work in practice are key for inclusive, efficient food systems and value chains, and FAO as a policy-making forum and multilingual centre of knowledge and technical expertise depends to a considerable degree on the ability to work and develop strategic partnerships. The main principle is that food insecurity can be defeated through effective collaboration with governments, civil society, the private sector, academia, research centres and cooperatives making use of each other’s knowledge and comparative advantages.

-    Academia’s perspective: partnerships between researchers and local private sector is key to tailor the capacity building of youth, and universities and research institutions can thus help support a sustainable business environment by providing necessary links and skills. One example is the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (ITA, Nigeria) which runs an agripreneur training programme in collaboration with local agribusinesses; a public-private partnership involving authorities, academia and the private sector. The initiative has already created spin-offs in similar programs in other African countries.

Summary of key points

There are many good reasons why partnerships between governments, the UN, other development cooperation agencies, NGO’s  and the private sector should be encouraged:

  • Common goals – the development of value chains contributes to the creation of jobs and incomes, as well as creating markets for private sector goods and services.
  • Market linkages – increased outputs of products are not enough since there also must be a demand for the products. The private sector can assess market potential and enable access to the market.
  • Synergies – partnerships have the potential to make more efficient use of resources. In a public-private development partnership, all partners contribute with funding and/or resources in their respective fields of competence and expertise.
  • Sharing the burden of high initial costs – new models and concepts take time to establish and commercial viability may be many years ahead, owing to the introduction of new technology, high initial running costs per unit produced and time-consuming transfer of knowledge. Joint funding can help commercial entities to reach the production volumes and quality required for a sustainable and viable venture.

Key take away messages

  • Allocate resources for the development of partnerships and partnership projects as a core activity and not on a case-by-case basis.
  • Look for partnerships where partners’ core businesses and competencies are involved. Make use of the private sector’s ability to create necessary market linkages for long-term viability.
  • Respect partners’ different objectives with the partnership and identify the “sweet spot” where goals overlap.
  • Clarify partners’ different roles and responsibilities to avoid difficulties during implementation.
CFS Side Event 046- Let's get down to business