Katherine Rusack: Unilever Global Development Award Finalists Announced

By Katherine Rusack, International Programme Manager, Business in the Community

The Annual Business in the Community Awards programme today has announced the finalists of the Unilever Global Development Award, supported by Business Fights Poverty. The Award celebrates businesses that are embedding Global Development and the principles of the MDGs into their business models. 2015 marked the conclusion of the MDGs which have now evolved into the Sustainable Development Goals and has also been the most competitive year so far for this Award.

Six entries have made it through to the finalist stage representing programmes in India, Côte D’Ivoire, Uganda and the Philippines working to create access to clear water, healthcare and energy as well as improving livelihood opportunities for farmers. The overall winner will be announced at the Annual Responsible Business Gala on 11 July 2016. The finalists are:

  • GEEL Medical Services
  • GSK
  • Manila Water
  • Olam International
  • Pollinate Energy
  • Primark

Currently individual households bare much of the cost of healthcare in Uganda, which can limit access to those who most need healthcare. Working with local NGOs GEEL Medical Services (GMS) has been working to increase access to quality, affordable and reliable healthcare services for marginalized communities of sub Saharan Africa.Having NGO connections has supported GMS to reach target groups in local communities, and importantly access local schools. Additionally by running an interactive radio talk show GMS is able to directly engage with the local communities. GMS has been able to reach close to 200,000 people with healthcare services and over 20,000 school girls with sexual and reproductive healthcare and education to reduce teenage pregnancy. According to a social impact survey GMS is contributing 0.44% of the 3% national maternal child mortality reduction rate.

In 2013 GSK and Save the Children set an ambitious plan to save the lives of one million children by tackling under 5 child mortality. This programme has seen over 9,000 community health workers and 2000 professional health workers trained, over 23,000 children fully immunised and 1,631,000 people directly provided with healthcare. Using their experience of running these programmes GSK and Save the Children are working with governments to replicate their programmes success in other communities, supporting the development of stronger health systems. This programme led to the development of a new gel to clean umbilical cords which can be administered by local community health workers. GSK decided to apply not-for-profit pricing to this product and make the formulation accessible to other manufacturers. GSK’s PULSE volunteering programme has sent employees to Save the Children Offices globally for 3-6 months. Volunteers return inspired with new solutions for low resource settings.

Some of the poorer urban communities in Manila lack access to clean potable water 24 hours a day and instead have to carry expensive water from private water delivery companies in jerry cans often queueing for long periods in order to get this water. Manila Water began a programme to improve access to piped water for these communities which to date have supported 1.8 million people gaining access to safer, cheaper water. As a result of this programme cases of water related diseases have decreased and the increased household income as well as free time means some residents have been able to open small businesses to improve their incomes.

Today 400 million people in India live without electricity and wood cooking stoves kill over 100,000 children in India each year. Pollinate Energy is a social business working with local people to tackle this issue, facilitating the urban poor’s access to clean technology, including water filters, solar lights and safe cook stoves. By recruiting and training local people to sell green energy products Pollinate Energy is able to access otherwise inaccessible communities, whilst enabling the sellers to build up a micro business service 30-40 slum communities. The products reduce the production of black carbon created from burning kerosene, and reduces indoor air pollution. To date over 11,000 systems have been installed saving 2.46 million kg of CO2 being emitted.  Pollinate Energy has ambitious growth plans to be in 20 cities in India working with two million people by 2020.

In 2013 Primark created their ‘Sustainable Cotton Programme’ beginning a three year partnership with CottonConnect and the Self Employed Women’s Association. This programme has since trained 1,251 female smallholder farmers in India through classroom sessions, in-field training and learning groups.  This has helped farmers produce more environmentally sustainable cotton with pesticide use decreasing by 50%, increased cotton quality and has improved farmer incomes by 211%, ultimately improving livelihoods. The programme has provided Primark with an invaluable insight into the cotton supply chain, and directly into the lives of the smallholder cotton farmers, helping to inform the Company’s long-term strategy and approach to source more sustainable cotton.  Paul Marchant, Chief Executive of Primark commented “In just three years the results have exceeded our expectations and we’ll extend the partnership to reach a further 10,000 smallholders, on top of the 1,251 already reached”.

Olam International has been working with cotton farmers in Côte D’Ivoire to improve yields increasing farmers’ incomes from $200 to $1,200 a year. A combination of location agricultural extension workers to support knowledge exchanges, access to pre-finance to support farmers to buy better seeds, fertilisers and cattle, improved road infrastructure and post-harvest storage facilities have supported this rapid improvement in incomes. Olam International has set up Farmer Business Schools to support the farmers to learn basic business skills such as accountancy as well as providing rural health support and environmental awareness raising to ensure long-term benefits continue from this programme.

Editor's Note:

The Unilever Global Development Award winner will be announced at the Annual Responsible Business Gala on 11 July. For live updates from the winners please follow #BITCawards

For more information about the Business in the Community Awards please see www.bitc.org.uk/awardsbfp

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