Olam CEO Sunny Verghese Joins the Business Commission

LONDON (12 September 2016) — From his first days sourcing cashew from Nigeria in 1989, Sunny Verghese has overseen the growth of Olam into a leading global agribusiness company present in 70 countries. Today the Business and Sustainable Development Commission welcomes Sunny to its roster of leaders from the private sector, academia and civil society, who are committed to accelerating the world’s transition to inclusive and sustainable growth.

The Business Commission’s mission is to make a powerful case—supported by sound evidence, rigorous research and compelling real-world examples—for why business leaders should seize upon sustainable development as the greatest opportunity of a lifetime. Its purpose is to show how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide the private sector with a framework for viewing social and environmental challenges as a way to innovate and grow.

The SDGs, launched in 2015, are 17 ambitious objectives for ending hunger and poverty, reducing inequality and tackling climate change by 2030. The goals most clearly related to food and agriculture include Goal 2, which calls for an end to hunger, while Goal 12 prioritises sustainable consumption and production, and Goal 13, which calls for mitigating the impacts of climate change. Other goals—ensuring decent work, health and well-being, gender equality and education—however, are also related to the food and agriculture sectors.

“The world cannot achieve sustainable development without the full engagement of the food and agriculture sectors, which are critical to achieving not just one, but the majority of the Global Goals,” said Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, chair of the Business Commission. “Sunny’s leadership in agribusiness will be essential to increasing the number of leaders who understand the incredible opportunity for both growth and sustainability in this sector.”

Under Sunny’s leadership, Olam, headquartered in Singapore, has become a multinational recognised for sustainable and traceable sourcing of agricultural products, and for its support of small-holder farmers, providing short- and medium-term loans, and training and community development. This year, Olam was featured in Fortune’s “Change the World” list of 50 global companies aligning social and environmental impact with their economic objectives.

“One of the meanings of the word Olam is ‘enduring’ or ‘everlasting’ (in Hebrew),” said Sunny. “I believe the only way we can build an enduring business is to put sustainability at the heart of our business. This is reflected in ‘Growing Responsibly,’ our core purpose, which guides us to pursue profitable growth in an ethical, socially responsible and environmentally sustainable way.”

“As the world grapples with major developmental challenges including poverty, inequality, hunger, climate change impacts, depletion of natural capital and more, it is now critical for businesses, both large and small, to ensure that values and value creation are not traded off in the long run,” he said. “I am excited to join the Business Commission, as it seeks to inspire and catalyse companies to embed sustainability at the core of their businesses and aims to foster collaborations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.”

Sunny joins 31 other Commissioners, including CEOs Paul Polman, Unilever; Ho Ching, Temasek; Mads Nipper, Grundfos; Ken Frazier, Merck; John Fallon, Pearson; and Helen Hai, Made in Africa; as well as leaders from major business organisations including Lise Kingo, UN Global Compact; Peter Bakker, the World Business Council on Sustainable Development; Sharon Burrow, International Trade Union Confederation, and many others. Our Commissioners are essential to shaping the Business Commission’s flagship report, to be published in January 2017, which will serve as the foundation for mobilising the private sector and aligning companies with social and environmental impact.  

To learn more about the Business Commission, visit www.businesscommission.org.