The Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards, now in its third year, has attracted the highest number of entries to date. The Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), which runs the competition with Unilever and Ashoka, says it received over 900 entries from over 99 countries from young entrepreneurs creating a safer, healthier and brighter future.
The finalists – all founders of potentially game-changing products and platforms - will now attend an accelerator program designed by the before pitching their ideas live to a panel of sustainability experts, and will receive a total of €200,000 in funding and support to help take their sustainable solutions to the next level.
One grand prize winner will be presented with the HRH The Prince of Wales Young Sustainability Entrepreneur Prize in London on May 16, 2016.
Here are the seven finalists:
Dr. Sara Saeed, 29, DoctHERS
Founded in 2014, doctHERs connects impoverished communities to high-quality healthcare while reintegrating qualified female doctors into the workforce. In Pakistan, socio-cultural barriers prevent many women who qualify as doctors from working. The exclusion of qualified doctors from the healthcare workforce is particularly problematic in a country where 90% of the 120 million citizens who live below the poverty line have little or no access to quality healthcare. doctHERs converts existing community spaces into walk-in clinics. Since 2014, when doctHERs ran a trial with 100 patients, the enterprise has directly impacted 15,000 lives and now employs ten doctors, five nurses and three specialists. By 2020, doctHERS aims to scale its nurse-assisted video consultation program to over 2,500 clinics across Pakistan, directly impacting 1.2 million people.
Liisa Petrykowska, 31, Ignitia
Ignitia is the world’s first highly-accurate tropical weather forecasting company. The impacts of climate change are already being felt in the tropics, with changing rainfall patterns and seasons impacting the yields of smallholder farmers. Current models for predicting weather fail to provide accurate forecasts for the tropics, home to 40% of the world’s population, 80% of whom are smallholder farmers. Using proprietary algorithms tailored for the tropics, Ignitia creates GPS-specific forecasts that are twice as accurate as existing models. Ignitia partners with local telecoms providers to send 48-hour forecasts, monthly outlooks and six-month seasonal outlooks to farmers in West Africa via SMS. The low-cost service is paid for through a micro-payment scheme. Using weather forecasts can double yields for smallholder farmers in West Africa and has also been shown to increase income by as much as 80%. During Ignitia’s first full year of operation, 80,000 farmers subscribed to the service. In the next two years, the company has plans to extend coverage in Ghana and launch in Mali, Senegal, Nigeria, Niger and the Ivory Coast.
Cynthia Ndubuisi, 25, Kadosh Production Company (KPC)
Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava, an edible starchy tuberous root which is a major source of carbohydrate. Whilst women contribute around 70% of the total labor required to produce, process, market and distribute it, they earn just 17% of the total associated income. Founded in 2014, KPC uses an integrated mechanized plant that processes and packages cassava into finished products 200% faster and 20-30% more cheaply than existing processes. The plant also dries and packages cassava peel, which would otherwise be burned, to be sold as livestock feed. By working with KPC, women cassava farmers are able to process cassava in 12 hours instead of four days. They can exchange cassava peels for a 20% discount on the processing fee. Through farmer / retailer cooperatives set up by KPC they can guarantee access to timely processing and packaging. Cooperative members also receive business mentoring and KPC helps facilitate links to large-scale buyers. KPC has worked directly with over 60 women cassava farmers and retailers and by 2020, aims to reach 65% of women farmers in the Niger-Delta, indirectly impacting 10 million households.
Gavin Armstrong, 29, Lucky Iron Fish
Lucky Iron Fish, founded in 2012, is a social enterprise that aims to wipe out iron deficiency in the developing and developed world. Using a buy-one, give-one model, Lucky Iron Fish sells an iron ingot cast in the shape of a fish for $25 in the developed world. For every fish sold, another is donated to a Cambodian family, a country where 50% of the population suffer from iron deficiency. Clinically proven, safe and affordable, when used daily during food preparation the fish has been shown to halve the prevalence of anemia among women and increase iron levels for the entire family by up to 90%. 70,000 fish have been sold and another 70,000 have been donated to families in the developing world, benefiting 250,000 people. In the next five years, Lucky Iron Fish – which was also named to the Sustainia 100 in 2015 - aims to sell 1 million fish and give a further 1 million away.
Oscar Andres Mendez Geradino, 34, Conceptos Plasticos
In Latin America, Africa and Asia, 40% of people don’t have access to formal housing. In Bogota alone, 750 tons of plastic is sent to landfill every day. Using an industrial process called extrusion, Conceptos Plasticos uses multilayered plastics, mixtures of different plastics and rubber to make quality construction materials for use in building low-cost, safe, durable housing that can be broken down and rebuilt elsewhere, if necessary. It takes five days for four people to assemble a house of 40 square meters. Conceptos Plasticos have built nearly 1,500 square meters of houses and shelters in several regions across Colombia and are currently obtaining permits for construction of 500 square meters more in the city of Cartagena. They have used over 300 tons of post-industrial and post-consumer plastics in the process. In 2016, Conceptos Plasticos want to build 240 new homes, benefiting 1,200 people. By 2018 they plan to build 600 a year.
Toby Norman, 29, Simprints
The World Bank estimates that one-third of all births go unregistered and that 2 billion people worldwide lack formal identification, limiting their access to essential services. Accurate identification is essential to monitor progress across a range of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and is addressed explicitly in Goal 16.9, which promises a legal identity for all by 2030. Without reliable identification, it is not possible to link children to their vaccination records, provide banking to the poor, or track progress towards the SDGs. Founded in 2014, Simprints is a nonprofit tech start-up that builds low-cost, rugged, handheld fingerprint scanners that can sync wirelessly with smartphones, accurately linking people to their digital records. The technology integrates seamlessly into many of the mobile platforms that are increasingly being used in the developing world for healthcare, finance and education. In 2014, Simprints tested their first prototypes in Bangladesh and they have just started to roll out their products with BRAC, the world’s largest NGO, in four urban slums in Bangladesh. The project will reach 22,000 mothers and children in 2016. BRAC employs more than 90,000 health workers across the country and intends to expand their mobile health (mHealth) project decisively over the next two years, providing Simprints with a potentially huge opportunity to scale up.
Emily Stone, 31, Uncommon Cacao
90% of the world’s cacao is produced by 5 million smallholder farmers who live on less than $2 per day. While the global chocolate industry and the demand for cacao is growing, farmer incomes are not and supply is declining. Founded in 2010, Uncommon Cacao is building the first end-to-end specialty cacao supply chain, from producing and processing to manufacturing. By working directly with cacao farmers, Uncommon Cacao delivers premium-quality, transparently sourced cacao to the specialty chocolate market. For farmers, Uncommon Cacao offers access to a stable and high-value market with the ability to participate in informed, annual price negotiations. By facilitating direct connections to farmers and farmer groups, Uncommon Cacao guarantees chocolate manufacturers higher-quality, transparently sourced and traded cacao. Farmers working with Uncommon Cacao’s Maya Mountain Cacao in Belize, which is responsible for over 80% of the country’s exports, saw annual income rise by 92% as a result of price increases, yield improvements, farm expansions and market connections. In addition, there was an 85% increase in the rate of farmers’ children attending secondary school, and in 2015, Uncommon Cacao saw 43% more women join the farmer network in Belize. Already operating in Belize and Guatemala as an exporter and having just launched a US-based import and sales program, within the next five years Uncommon Cacao wants to impact 10,000 farming families across 15 countries, with the goal that all these families earn a living income through cacao farming.