Meet the Longlist: Unilever Global Development Award, Supported by Business Fights Poverty

By Zahid Torres-Rahman, Founder and CEO, Business Fights Poverty

Business in the Community announce the longlist of companies selected for the The Unilever Global Development Award, supported by Business Fights Poverty. The award recognises businesses that demonstrate positive impact against one or more of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

For the fifth year in a row, Business Fights Poverty is partnering with Unilever and Business in the Community on an award that recognises businesses that demonstrate positive impact against one or more of the SDGs

Business has a key role to play in helping drive progress on ending poverty and protecting the planet.  More and more businesses also recognise that it is in their long-term interest to invest in building safer and more sustainable business and societies. Global challenges can also be a driver of innovation and new market opportunities.

I’m delighted to let you know that the following have made the longlist for the Unilever Global Development Award, supported by Business Fights Poverty.  The winners will be revealed at the on 3 July at The Responsible Business Awards Gala Dinner, in partnership with Anglian Water (winner of Responsible Business 2017).

Acces Afya

Access Afya are saving lives by detecting and treating diseases using mobile technology.
For people living in the developing world, maintaining health and wellbeing is not always easy with many facing difficult options, such as having to go into debt to receive quality care, buying low-quality medicines or simply waiting and doing nothing. Access Afya are attempting to address this by establishing a model to make world class healthcare more affordable and accessible to the most neglected people. Through its Akiba ya Roho programme, the company provides screening technologies and tools that can be used by non-clinician health providers to help prevent, detect and manage non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

By 2030, it aims to reduce premature mortality from NCDs by a third and achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential healthcare services and access to safe, effective and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all. “Akiba ya Roho is a wonderful example of what happens when you combine innovations in health financing, mobile technology, health workforce management, and best practices in clinical care,” says Access Afya’s founder and CEO, Melissa Menke. “We already see this programme saving lives.”


Aduna are on a mission to get us all interested in the baobab fruit, the crop that could transform rural Africa

In the Upper East region of Ghana, much of the land is drought-stricken. 90% of the population lives in extreme poverty, women are marginalised and malnutrition is rife. The population depends on food production but is unable to yield crops during the long dry season, making communities vulnerable and food insecure. Aduna, a health food brand and social enterprise, are attempting to address this by creating demand for under-utilised natural products from small-scale producers in Africa.

Baobab is a nutrient-rich fruit​ adapted to the arid conditions in the region. By empowering women to harvest and process their baobab fruits, which ripen in the dry season, Aduna helps provide a much needed source of income at a critical time of year. On average, producers have increased their incomes in the dry season from close to zero to being double their rainy season income. So far, the social business has taken the baobab fruit from relative obscurity to an established food known for its nutitional benefits, distributing products to more than 2,000 stores.


Unreasonable Impact created by Barclays and Unreasonable Group combines sustainability problem solving with job creation.

By 2020, it is estimated that the global economy will need 212 million new jobs. In response, the transatlantic bank Barclays has teamed up with Unreasonable Group to launch a programme to help scale businesses that could help to employ thousands of people worldwide.

Unreasonable Impact is the world’s first network of international accelerators focused on scaling up entrepreneurial solutions that both tackle social and environmental issues and have the potential to create lots of jobs. Supporting a number of growth-stage ventures in the UK, US and Asia-Pacific, through mentoring and resources, the programme is already starting to have an impact after just two years.

For example, the programme is supporting companies such as: Lanzatech which uses anaerobic microbes to convert waste into fuel; Desolenator which uses solar technology to purify any water into drinking water; and Memphis Meats which is leading the ‘clean meat’ movement.

In five years, Unreasonable Impact hopes to support the creation of more than 500 jobs on average at each of the businesses engaged in the programme. “At Barclays we help businesses scale and grow. Through Unreasonable Impact we’re harnessing this knowledge to support ground-breaking ventures with the potential to address some of society’s most pressing challenges. With our resources and mentorship, we’re helping to grow the green economy and create the jobs of tomorrow,” says Joe McGrath, Barclays’ Global Head of Banking.

Cotton on Group

Cotton On Group goes for 100% sustainable cotton supply chain by helping farmers on the ground

Kwale and Lamu are regions in Kenya which have experienced low agricultural yields largely due to farmers having insufficient training in sustainable farming techniques and poor soil management. The local communities have also been negatively impacted by limited access to formal education, low household incomes and rising food prices which among other factors have led to a vicious cycle of poverty.

It is here that the Cotton On Group has set up its first sustainable cotton programme, in partnership with B4D, Base Titanium and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The initiative sees the organisation – an Australian fashion retailer with seven brands and a philanthropic arm – work with smallholder farmers to help them transition from self-sufficiency farming to more sustainable and prosperous farming methods that have a greater economic, environmental and social impact, boosting agricultural productivity in the region and creating a pathway out of poverty.

“We’re committed to supporting ethically and sustainably-sourced cotton and are on a journey to achieving 100% more sustainable cotton in our supply chain by 2021. In order to get there, we’ve partnered with the Better Cotton Initiative and launched this, our first sustainable cotton programme in Kwale County, Kenya,” says James Hubbard, General Manager for Risk and Sustainability for the company.

Dulas Ltd.

Dulas solar refrigerator sales doubled in two years, transforming millions of lives across developing world

Dulas has helped around 20 million people in the developing world access reliable healthcare and contributed to reducing mortality rates for children under the age of five by 50%. A cooperative, founded in 1982, to deliver renewable energy solutions to businesses and charities, the organisation develops and delivers a range of green technologies, from hydro dams in Austria, to solar powered vaccine refrigerators in Zambia.

The invention of its solar-powered medical refrigerator in 1982 has enabled the business to become one of the world’s leading suppliers of solar powered medical equipment.  This equipment is used in remote regions across Africa, Asia, the Pacic Islands and Latin America.

“The ambitions that gave rise to the Sustainable Development Goals – to end extreme poverty, inequality and climate change – are the same ambitions that sit at the very centre of our business operations,” says managing director, Phil Horton.

Sales of the Dulas solar refrigerators have nearly doubled since 2015, to £4.6m in 2017. Meanwhile, its ‘Solar Socket’ – a simple device that converts a solar-powered refrigerator into a multi-use stand-alone power source – was the runner up for the St Andrews Prize for the Environment 2017.

Eau et Vie

Why small private operators might be better placed to provide clean water to the very poor

Around a billion people live in temporary, basic accomodation and this number is set to double by 2030. People living there are in desperate need of access to basic services, such as washing facilities, running water and toilets.

In Bangladesh, the situation is exacerbated because of the the fast growing population and the country’s vulnerability to climate change, forcing people to gather in the very poor parts of Dhaka. The number of people living without access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services is increasing and a lack of adequate facilities leads to health issues, violence, exclusion and school absenteeism.

Shobar Jono Pani (SJP) has come up with a sustainable solution for both residents and public operators. The social business acts as a local water operator and provides household metered water connections. Once customers are identified, they can start to pay for services including solid waste, drainage and sanitation. SJP is creating jobs and represents a mediator between inhabitants and public authorities.

In parallel, their partner non-profit Water&Life helps to raise awareness of hygiene issues and training for local communities.

“Formalising and capacitating small-scale service providers such as SJP is a possible stepping stone in obtaining universal service provision through a sustainable model,” says Philippe de Roux, co-director of Eau et Vie, the French NGO which behind the initiative.


Cambodia turns to Hydrologic’s ceramic water filters to boost health and reduce emissions

Due to the poor quality of available drinking water, most Cambodians have to collect water and treat it by boiling. This means extra cost for poor families and increased CO2 emissions. Also, families who do not boil their water properly face negative health impacts.

Hydrologic is a company that wants to take away the problem. It makes, distributes, and sells ceramic water purifiers, or filters, to customers across rural Cambodia, removing the bacteria in water without the need for boiling it.

In the past 14 years, the business has sold more than 500,000 water filters which have contributed to a 46% reduction in diarrhoea cases and a 460,000 tonne reduction in CO2 emissions. Local manufacturing and distribution of the purifiers has also created new jobs, helping to stimulate the local economy.

“Hydrologic began life as a donor-funded programme of iDE. By transforming the programme into a commercial enterprise, we are able to continue delivering positive impacts without ongoing reliance on grants,” says Michael Roberts, chair of Hydrologic’s board of directors.

Marshalls plc

Marshalls’ Ethical Risk Index offers more transparency and visibility for natural stone buyers

Demand for more exotic stone types has seen sourcing networks span the globe into different geographies with rich natural resources. As businesses procure through more diverse sourcing networks in countries such as China, Vietnam and India, visibility is reduced and greater risk added to the supply chain.

The Ethical Risk Index (ERI) is an effective response to this challenge. It is a tool developed by Marshalls, one of the UK’s biggest hard landscaping manufacturers. It uses a bespoke, independently reviewed scoring framework to give customers more insight into their supply chain. The framework covers a range of societal, economic, political and environmental challenges at a supply chain-level facing the natural stone sector.  It also maps the results in a consumable index giving stakeholders the opportunity to make a more informed choice on the stone they select for a commercial project.

“Historically, the natural stone sector has endured criticism for unethical practices. But by openly sharing our findings and creating a bespoke framework underpinned by the main bodies driving ethical sourcing practice, we can provide a benchmark for measuring industry standards moving forward, and work with businesses across the globe to drive improvements within our sector,” says Chris Harrop, group marketing director at Marshalls, which is also the first company to achieve the BRE Global Ethical Sourcing Standard verification, BES 6002.

Mondelez International

Mondelēz Cocoa Life programme helps farmers triple their incomes while safeguarding the future of chocolate

Cocoa Life, the sustainability programme of Mondelēz International, wants to empower cocoa farmers across the world and safeguard the chocolate for future generations to enjoy. The programme aims to “transform the livelihoods and living conditions” of more than 200,000 cocoa farmers and one million people in cocoa farming communities. The company is investing $400m between now and 2022 to achieve its vision and will work with partners on the ground in Ghana, Indonesia, Cote d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, India and Brazil.  These are countries where the programme has already helped 92,000 farmers increase their productivity, tripling their incomes since 2009 and boosting yields of cocoa by 37%. Mondelēz hopes the programme will give it a leadership position while protecting its cocoa supply chain and reducing the gap between supply and demand.

Mondelēz also wants to give its brands a credible approach to sustainability. For example, by 2019, all Cadbury Dairy Milk products globally will be within the Cocoa Life programme, with more brands to follow.

The Coca-Cola Company

Coca-Cola invests in the success of women to boost business sustainability

The Coca-Cola Company is the world’s biggest drinks business, with more than 500 brands and supply chains that reach around the world. Together with its bottling partners, it ranks among the world’s top 10 private employers with more than 700,000 associates.

Women make up a large proportion of this network, particularly within the company’s supply chain.  However the business recognises that women still face many barriers to being successful, with a lack of access to training, financial services and peer-networks and mentors.

5by20 is Coca-Cola’s goal to enable the economic empowerment of 5 million women entrepreneurs across its value chain by 2020 – from fruit farmers to artisans around the world. “We believe women are a catalyst to economic growth and are essential for our long-term business sustainability,” it says. After all, studies show women reinvest more of their income on food, education and healthcare for their family which benefits the whole community. “By investing in their success, we invest in our own success.”

By supporting women, Coca-Cola hopes to lower the cost and sustainability of local supply of ingredients, increase sales and points of distribution, and foster greater employee and consumer engagement.

WildHearts Group

WildHearts fund global microfinance in 40 developing countries, enabling women to work their way out of poverty

Around 75% of women in the world are excluded from all forms of banking, according to WildHearts Group. “Due to their economic status, women endure such violence that there are more missing today than all the men killed in the wars of the 20th century. In countries where women are marginalised, poverty is rife,” it says.

The organisation confronts the issue by providing microfinance in 40 developing countries. It is an initiative that has transformed 163,000 lives, enabling predominantly female clients to grow micro-businesses and escape poverty. In fact, in 2017, the ratio of employees to lives transformed globally through microfinance was one to 4,680.

The scheme is driven by revenue from the WildHearts Group, a business supplies and training company, and delivered through its foundation to ensure that funds are ring-fenced in perpetuity.

“Research indicates that women reinvest 90% of every dollar earned into their families’ education, health and nutrition. By focusing almost exclusively on female micro-entrepreneurs, we deliver a triple impact: improvement in both nutrition and education of our micro-clients’ children as well as the personal transformation of the loan recipient herself,” says Mick Jackson, WildHearts CEO and founder.

Learn more about The Responsible Business Awards.

Share this story

Leave a Reply



Next Event

Business Fights Poverty Global Goals Summit 2024