- Accurate and timely public data is hard to come by on a global scale
- Purpose-driven private organizations are filling the global data gap
- Hologic and Cookpad illustrate how to make a difference globally
The following is an excerpt from blind spot, Gallup’s new book about rising unfortunate leaders not seen. For more similar insights, order your copy blind spot today.
Chapter 20: What public and private sector leaders can do together
Probably no more than 1.5 million [people] In the country, but I can’t prove it. — Apostol Simovski, Head of the National Statistics Office of North Macedonia, 2020
In 2020, the government of North Macedonia officially reported that the country had a population of just over 2 million; but according to the head of the country’s statistics office, it was only 1.5 million. Some economists think the population could be 1.6 million or 1.8 million.
But no one really knows how many people are in North Macedonia. The reason no one knows is that North Macedonia has not conducted a census since 2002.1
It seems funny that a leader doesn’t know how many people there are in their country, but it’s not funny. In many places, even the most basic statistics are not a reality. According to the UN’s 2019 Sustainable Development Goals report:
Many national statistical systems around the world face serious challenges…As a result, accurate and timely information about key aspects of people’s lives is unknown. Many groups and individuals remain “invisible” and many developmental challenges remain poorly understood.
Better data is needed everywhere in the world if we are to improve people’s lives. But too many governments simply cannot afford the statistics leaders need to make informed policy.
According to the same SDG report, only 129 countries implemented national statistical plans in 2018. Of the 129 countries with programs, only 60% were fully funded. Another World Bank study found that while 119 low- and middle-income countries met the minimum standards for conducting censuses, only 41 met the minimum standards for collecting vital registration data such as births and deaths.
Better data is needed everywhere in the world if we are to improve people’s lives.
The pandemic will only exacerbate the world’s data collection problems. According to the World Bank, in 2020, 65% of National Statistical Offices (NSOs) were partially or fully closed and 96% stopped in-person data collection. It also said that 90 percent of national statistical offices in low- and lower-middle-income countries “are struggling to meet international reporting requirements”.
These data collection gaps need to be addressed. If the government can’t solve these problems, the private sector can – that’s how.
A company’s purpose and helping to create official statistics of all things in the world
Most companies articulate the unique value they bring to the world through their mission or purpose statement. For example, here’s what Whole Foods Market says on its website:
Our purpose is to nourish people and the planet. We are a purpose-driven company that aims to set the standard of excellence for food retailers. Quality is a mindset at Whole Foods Market.
Nourishing people and the planet is a laudable mission, but what metrics does Whole Foods use to track the nutrition it provides the world?
There are no reliable statistics on the nutritional status of people in the world. Whole Foods can address this by announcing that it will help establish official statistics on nutrition (also known as diet quality) worldwide. Not only will this further demonstrate Whole Foods’ commitment to nourishing the planet, it will greatly help the public sector that desperately needs this data.
Two companies are already leading the way in helping to generate global statistics that reflect their corporate mission: Cookpad and Hologic.
Cookpad and the world’s official culinary statistics
Cookpad is a famous Japanese company — so famous that almost half of all Japanese adults use its cooking app. The business is a lot like Instagram, except for cooking. When you cook a dish, you post a photo of the dish on the Cookpad app and then describe how you did it. People can then recreate your dishes and share their own photos and comments.
So what is the purpose of this company? If you ask Milton Friedman, he’ll say “make money.” If you ask Cookpad president and CEO Rimpei Iwata, he’ll say something very different. In 2019, I sat with Rimpei at Cookpad’s global headquarters in Tokyo.
“Our goal is to get more people to cook at home. We believe that if they do, they will become more aware of what they are cooking and eating, which will have a positive impact on personal health and the health of the planet. society has a wider impact,” he told me.
The company’s website further articulates its mission: “We believe cooking is the key to happier, healthier lives for people, communities and the planet.”
The purpose of Cookpad is clear: to increase home cooking because it will increase the well-being of people – and the world. But how does Cookpad know if its purpose is valid? How does it know if people are cooking more globally?
To quantify these things, Cookpad has built the world’s official culinary statistics. Now, in almost every country, every year, Cookpad and Gallup collaborate to ask people how often they cook at home. More specifically, we asked people how often they cooked lunch and dinner in the past week.Because the official statistics for cooking and the happiness project are in the same survey world happiness reportwe can also look at the data to see if cooking helps improve people’s lives.
If Cookpad lives up to its purpose, more people will cook at home, which should also improve people’s well-being.
Hologic and the Global Women’s Health Index
Massachusetts-based Hologic is a women’s health-focused medical device company with 7,000 employees and a $20 billion market cap. But what is its purpose?
According to Hologic, it is “an innovative medical technology company primarily focused on improving women’s health and well-being through early detection and treatment.”
Hologic exists to improve women’s health. To better fulfill this mission, the company hopes to quantify women’s health worldwide. According to Steve Macmillan, CEO of Hologic, “In our ongoing work to support women’s health around the world, we are constantly striving to find comprehensive data to measure critical issues such as access and quality of care globally. Progress.”
Instead of sitting down and saying, “We don’t have the data to really determine how much impact we have on the world,” Hologic went out and did something. Macmillan said on International Women’s Day 2021: “Starting in 2019, we embarked on our efforts to develop the Global Women’s Health Index to address this critical need for a data-driven approach to women’s health.”
In Hologic’s 2021 Sustainability Report, Macmillan further stated:
For all products we manufacture throughout the life of our company – 3D mammograms, PAP tests and HPV tests – the data we obtain from the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index may have implications for the human health of any of our products The biggest impact has ever been made. We’ve been at the forefront of many innovations in women’s health, and we think who can better organize and conduct global efforts to get answers in our healthcare space.
Hologic and Gallup, in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University, George Washington University, RAD-AID and Popper and Co., among others, have created an index to track progress in women’s health worldwide.
The results of the 2020 Hologic Global Women’s Health Index are sobering – no country has a passing score in women’s health. The report sparked a conversation that more needs to be done to improve the health of women everywhere.
But imagine if every big company built international statistics like Cookpad and Hologic. Leaders who believe their organization has a purpose beyond making money should write it down and then help build official world statistics around it. Not only will these statistics help them better understand whether they are meeting their company’s goals, the resulting data will also help inform public sector leaders who desperately need this information.