Beginning in 2015, Mars and the World Food Programme (WFP) have collaborated to support the global food supply and its logistics. This partnership has been tested by the impacts of COVID-19, but due to the existing relationship and commitment to share food safety knowledge, experience, and successful safety lessons, both organizations have been able to continue their mission.
Attendees to this webinar heard WFP’s Head of Global Private Sector Partnerships, Sandra Westlake, discuss the importance of existing partnerships and how WFP incorporates lessons learned from fellow relationships. Dave Crean, VP of Mars Inc. Corporate R&D and Chief Science Officer, shared the importance of bringing together key stakeholders in the global food supply chain, while also upholding food quality and safety expectations. This webinar was moderated by Samir Ibrahim, CEO and Co-Founder of SunCulture.
The number of individuals who experience food insecurity is predicted to nearly double to 265 million due to food supply disruptions caused by COVID-19, among other challenges. Reducing this number requires innovation and long-term commitment to partnership-driven solutions. Mars, Incorporated and the World Food Programme (WFP) are leveraging their five-year partnership in new ways to assure “safe, good food for all.” This partnership, originally conceived to address food safety in Mars’ supply chains and eliminate aflatoxin, has now resulted in enduring cultural shifts regarding the WFP’s internal positioning on food safety—rippling over to its other partnerships—and over $2 million in direct and in-kind contributions from Mars to the WFP’s COVID-19 response.
Crean and Westlake linked the success of this partnership to its strategy. Rather than either entity approaching the relationship with a specific and fully-developed solution that they were looking to put in place, both started with the articulation of the on-the-ground need. This allowed for both Mars and the WFP to together think through the range of resources they could integrate into the solution, and what could lead to the most enduring or widespread impact.
In order for this partnership to successfully evolve in response to the current pandemic, Crean and Westlake emphasized the importance of strong communication systems that allow for rapid adjustment and the ability to pivot from the original need without losing sight of the impetus for partnering. This can be more successfully done when partnerships are co-designed and conversations take place early on that clearly define both individual and shared benefits of partnering. These initial conversations can also uncover competing priorities that could derail partnerships; Westlake recognized that not all partnerships should be pursued due to the staff time and internal resources required to build a successful partnership.
Crean and Westlake laid out clear takeaways that are necessary to design partnerships that fundamentally address global food safety and security:
The current food system is broken. As Crean stated, “what we have today needs to be improved, it’s not fit for purpose.”
A partnership must be mutually beneficial to endure. For partnerships with the private sector, this includes recognizing and valuing business interests.
Food quality & safety is everyone’s business.
For more on this subject, please see:
Links to the World Food Programme’s COVID-19 work, situation reports, and opportunities to support their global work
Sign up for Concordia mailings if you don’t already receive them. Collaborative solutions to address and eliminate food insecurity will be a major theme of the 2020 Concordia Annual Summit (September 21-25, digital)