The year’s workshop was focused on how companies are using data to inform strategy on the ground. Two such examples were presented by ABInBev and Mars, Inc. of how they linked results from their studies to business operations.
- ABInBev presented on their impact study on smallholder sorghum and barley in Uganda. The study uncovered supply chain challenges in three key areas: capacity of farmers and suppliers, supply chain structure (contracts, communication, and farmer organization), and external environment (service provision, crop market, and community development). ABInBev used the study data as the basis for a cross-functional strategy process between sustainability and procurement facilitated by Technoserve. The result was a roadmap of leverage points the company could act on including improved communication, training of aggregators, improving agent capacity, enhancing farmer extension, better access to financial services, and women and youth focused programs.
- Mars, Inc. detailed the approach their Global Chocolate team took when they found that farmer-reported practice adoption did not align with reported productivity levels in their Indonesian program. The company began to observe practice adoption instead of only farmer self-reported data and found that the differences in some instances were quite large. They found that observing practice adoption, along with the farmer, adds cost but produces valuable insights as long as the enumerator or field technician is competent. These observations can then be more reliably used to design a Farm Development Plan tailored to the farmers’ needs, and inform financing decisions for renovation and rehabilitation.
These presentations brought about a discussion on the level of rigor needed in data collection in order to act on that data. Some posed that if those you work with on the ground have an idea of what’s happening, it may be enough to do a small, “light-touch” study, or use monitoring data, in order to confirm assumptions and proceed with action. In that case, money put aside for a rigorous study could be spent on the intervention itself. However, if a company needs to show evidence publicly of a corporate commitment, they will most likely need the attribution that comes with a more rigorous study. It is most important to initially define the purpose of the study and design it with corresponding rigor to match the purpose and intended audience.