The 2014 Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards
The 2014 Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards in partnership with the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) recognized young people aged 30 and under who have come up with practical, scalable initiatives designed to tackle the challenge of sustainable living.
Meet the winner: Daniel Yu
Daniel Yu is the founder of Reliefwatch(Link opens in a new window) which provides simple software to help medical clinics operated by multinational NGOs in the developing world to digitize and manage inventory records via automated voice calls from feature phones.
While in a remote Egyptian town in 2012, Daniel, 21, saw first-hand the problem of out-of stock and expired medications and the impact on patients. While the health centers Daniel saw had no computer or internet access and no digitized records, every person in the center as well as the vast majority of people the centers served had a mobile phone.
Applying his experience as a web developer, Daniel assembled a team to build a medical inventory system that could be integrated with basic mobile phones. In January, 2013 he took a leave of absence from the University of Chicago to work full time on Reliefwatch.
Jackie Stenson and Diana Jue
Due to the unpredictable electricity supply in India, kerosene for lighting is an expensive addition to many family's budgets, one which they often can't afford. Jackie and Diana launched Essmart, a program that offers life-improving technologies in places where people already shop, the 15 million small retail shops that serve 90% of Indian households. The products Essmart sells are helping meet the needs of the 97 million Indians who lack clean drinking water and the 700 million who have unreliable electricity.
Alloysius Attah, 25, set up Farmerline, a mobile communications tool that provides agronomic advice and weather forecasts to smallholder farmers in Ghana. Farmerline helps farmers increase yields by providing access to critical agricultural information in their local language via their mobile phones. The platform provides information using not just text messages but also voice messages, which open up the service to the large number of smallholder farmers in Ghana who are illiterate.
Since Farmerline launched in March 2013, over 4,000 farmers have accessed information which has resulted in increased productivity, elevated income and improved standards of living. Farmerline’s latest impact assessment indicates that farmers who have used its services for an entire season have increased their income by 55.6% per acre.
Katerina Kimmorley created Pollinate Energy which sets up networks of micro-entrepreneurs to distribute sustainable technologies such as solar lights and clean cookstoves on payment plans to India’s urban poor. The organization works with people who have migrated to the city for better income opportunities, but settle in urban slums and are trapped in a cycle of fuel poverty.
Pollinate Energy engages people through a network of on‐the‐ground local entrepreneurs, called Pollinators, who go door to door offering sustainable energy products on short‐term payment plans. Once customers save money and experience a better quality of life, they seek other products (like clean cookstoves and water filters), which the Pollinators also sell, ensuring long‐term business viability.
At 62%, youth unemployment in Uganda is the highest in Africa. Over the last 15 years Uganda’s forest cover has declined by 26%; left unchecked, this would rise to 100% in 40 years.
Founded by Charles Batte, 27, Tree Adoption Uganda (TAU) takes a novel approach to jointly tackle these challenges. The NGO offers a three-year program of business training and mentoring to impoverished young people, helping them to create, develop and grow new businesses.
Participants build up start-up capital via TAU’s Tree Capital program. They set up tree nurseries and the trees are sold to large companies, who buy them as part of their corporate social responsibility commitments. The trees are planted as part of reforestation campaigns in Uganda’s National Forest Reserves so as to abate the effects of climate change and combat rampant deforestation.
On a trip to Ghana, Mark Boots, 29, noticed that many of the local people that organizations were trying – and often failing – to help, had mobile phones. His brainchild VOTO Mobile links the world’s poorest people with officials who can assist them in areas like health education and farming.
Specializing in voice-based mobile engagement, VOTO enables organizations to easily share educational information and gather real-time feedback via citizens’ existing mobile phones.
Since launching in early 2013, VOTO has been used by more than 250 organizations to engage with over 500,000 people across 72 countries. Recently, the platform was used by the World Bank to help raise voter turn-out levels in a participatory budget process in Brazil, increasing voter turn-out by more than 30%.
Growing up in a rural Ugandan farming community, David Opio, 26, witnessed the challenges farmers face when it comes to accessing markets and finance to boost production. David Opio created Ensibuuko, a mobile and web application that integrates SMS and mobile money services, to handle savings and make loans to smallholder farmers in Uganda.
Farmers are able to view their balance and apply for loans through an e-wallet and to receive and repay them using mobile money. The solution sends users an SMS whenever a transaction occurs on the account. The result is a simpler and safer way for people in rural communities to control their savings and credit.