Replicable, scalable and inspiring - Sue Adkins on the Unilever Global Development Award entries

Sue Adkins, International Director, Business in the Community, reflects on what this year's entries to the Unilever Global Development Award, supported by Business Fights Poverty, show about how this agenda has evolved.

The Unilever Global Development Award, supported by Business Fights Poverty infographic

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This year's entries to the Unilever Global Development Award, supported by Business Fights Poverty stood against a landscape of global development that has changed notably over the last 12 months. 

During that time COP21, the World Economic Forum, the World Humanitarian Summit and the transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the introduction of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has made interconnection between zero carbon and zero poverty sharply obvious.  The need to align supply chains and encourage new models and cross-sector collaborations to achieve sustainable global development was also underlined.  Reflecting that, this year saw a powerful set of entries covering a breadth of markets and agendas.

Key themes that stood out included investment in global supply chains and empowerment of workers. Approaches varied from improving infrastructure such as roads and building storage facilities, to supporting small farmers through training and loans for seeds, fertiliser and other capital costs, as with finalists Primark and Olam International. Together these programmes helped increase household incomes, enabling them to invest in their future.  Olam International gained a Highly Commended accolade for its implementation of a sustainable business model for commodities including cotton, cacao, coffee and cashews.  It's a replicable and scalable approach that provides insight from which other businesses and sectors can draw.

Multinationals and local companies investing in their global supply chains to create longer-term business stability was an encouraging theme. This perhaps reflects the lessons learned as companies emerge from the recession, on the interconnection between markets, business and the importance of the strength and stability of their supply chains.  

Another key theme was improving the healthcare infrastructure in developing countries, with Finalists GSK and GEEL Medical Services demonstrating this.  Activities included community health worker training, the use of technology to allow remote health diagnosis and the development of basic healthcare supplies.

There has over the years been a huge push through the MDGs communication on the importance on various aspects of the gender agenda. This year’s entries highlighted the results of these efforts, including programmes focused on improving socially disadvantaged young women's access to employment, as well as other initiatives, like that of winner Manila Water Company, supporting community access to water and thereby reducing the amount of time women spend collecting water.

Long term investment, tenacity and endurance are central to The Manila Water Company’s ‘Water for the Poor’ programme.  This addresses an important social issue against a challenging social, political and economic context, whilst tackling the critical business issue of reducing illegal connections to the water system. Through its long term commitment and working with key stakeholders including the community and local government, The Manila Water Company has not only strengthened the business, and provided clean water to the poor, but it has also reduced costs to individuals.

These entries should inspire business and communities as they collaborate to try and address the COP21, SDGs and other agendas. They are replicable, scalable and provide great insights on how to effectively support the building of a fairer society and a more sustainable future.

See the full list of Finalists and Shortlisted case studies in the Unilver Global Development Award, supported by Business Fights Poverty