One Young World: Business giants invest £500k in SDG-aligned innovations
AstraZeneca, Deloitte and BP are among a cohort big-name businesses to have jointly unveiled £500,000 of grant funding for young innovators working on projects driving progress towards the aims of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Coordinated through the One Young World platform, the funding will be complemented with mentorship sessions between the businesses and the entrepreneurs. It is hoped that, for every £1 invested through the scheme, £15 of social value will be delivered.
In order to receive funding, each project had to prove how it is driving progress towards one of the Global Goals, across the entire scope of its aims and targets. The initiative was open globally and has named winners from Asia, Africa, Canada, Central America and Latin America, as below:
- The SDG 2: Zero Hunger prize was awarded to Canada-based Tailored, a startup producing plant-based, culturally relevant food products at price points accessible to families facing poverty. Reckitt Benckiser, the parent firm of brands including Air Wick, Nurofen and Lysoll, is supporting this category.
- The SDG 3: Good Health and Wellbeing prize went to Colombia-based BIVE. BIVE’s BR13 initiative provides best-practice advice and leadership tools centred on issues such as non-communicable diseases, mental health and sexual health in a digital format. It is specifically tailored for young people living in rural areas without rapid access to quality, affordable healthcare. AstraZeneca is supporting this category and will also allocate funding to Create Purpose, a Mexican organisation promoting non-communicable disease prevention for orphans and other vulnerable children.
- The SDG 4: Quality Education category winner is CAYSTI, a Cameroonian initiative boosting access to STEM and arts education in rural locations using tech-based solutions. Deloitte is the category sponsor.
- The SDG 6: Clean Water & Sanitation prize was awarded to Ekogroup H2O+. This Colombian project is driving behaviour change around rainwater harvesting in the country’s urban areas and will receive support from Reckitt Benckiser.
- The SDG 7: Affordable & Clean Energy funding has been awarded to Climatenza, an initiative accelerating the deployment of solar thermal technology across India’s business sphere. This category is sponsored by BP, which recently invested $200m in solar developer Lightsource.
- The SDG 9: Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure category winner is Nepal-based fintech social enterprise Aeloi. Aeoli specialises in tracing climate impact finance and will receive support from Standard Chartered Bank.
- The SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities prize went to Blend Edu, a startup working to promote diversity and inclusivity in Brazilian businesses through educational experience. The category sponsor here is Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS).
- The SDG 12: Responsible Consumption & Production winner, backed by Mondi Group,is Canadian biotech firm Genecis. Genecis takes low-value organic waste streams and turns them into materials which can be used to replace single-use plastics.
- The SDG 13: Climate Action category was specifically open to entrants from the sustainable agriculture space, given that agriculture is a key driver of both emission and nature loss. The winner is Xillinat, a Mexican natural substitute for sugar and sweeteners which requires less land, water and pesticides to produce and is suitable for diabetics. Asahi will support Xillinat.
- The SDG 14: Life Below Water funding is being provided by Credit Suisse to repurpose, an Indian social enterprise helping businesses achieve plastic neutrality. Credit Suisse is notably The World Bank’s partner on its sustainable water bond, and, in 2019, aligned its strategy with the SDGs.
edie’s content editor Matt Mace last year attended One Young World’s London Summit to garner insight from global companies including Unilever, Virgin and BP, as well as thought leaders like Dr Jane Goodall and Mary Robinson. You can read his coverage of the event here.
Decade of deliverance
One Young World co-founder Kate Robertson said that by pledging the investment, the corporates are “doing the right thing” ethically while “doing the smart thing for their business”. Previous backers of the initiative, which is called Lead2030 and has been running since 2018, include KPMG and Porter Novelli.
The announcement of this year’s prize winners comes shortly after UN Global Compact published the results of a survey conducted among representatives from the sustainability teams or C-suite of 615 businesses. Of the respondents, less than one-third said their sector is moving rapidly enough to deliver adequate progress against the SDGs which it should be framing as a priority and just 39% believe that the SDG-related targets set by their own business are ambitious enough.
UNGC argued that while many businesses may feel that social and economic fallout of the Covid-19 crisis will hamper their sustainable development progress, they must ultimately seize the moment to increase their ambition, given that the pandemic has highlighted social and environmental issues and could ultimately exacerbate them.