The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a call for action by all countries to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. They were set up in 2015 with a target date of 2030. But as we approach the halfway point on that timeline, it’s clear we’re not getting there fast enough.
Clever solutions to the challenges are being created by entrepreneurs around the world. They are building businesses that provide essential services, including expanding access to healthcare for women, delivering clean water and sanitation, and transforming the way plastic is used and reused.
This joint initiative between Unilever, the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and professional services company EY supports entrepreneurs in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa in the areas of environment, inclusive economies and health and wellbeing. TRANSFORM blends grant funding with expert technical assistance from Unilever and EY employees, who also provide access to their networks and corporate value chains.
Over the last six years, TRANSFORM has delivered £40 million (€48 million) in funding and business support to over 60 enterprises in 13 countries, and positively impacted the lives of 7 million people.
We’re now extending the initiative until at least 2025 with up to £40 million (€48 million) in cash and in-kind support. Our ambition is to reach 15 million people through supporting social enterprises and research projects with a particular focus on scaling the circular economy, especially plastic waste, and digital health models.
As Richard Wright, Unilever Behavioural Science Director and a leading player in TRANSFORM, says: “Creativity and entrepreneurism are alive and well at the base of the pyramid – treat the underserved as innovation partners rather than beneficiaries, and real change will be achieved.”
New one-stop-shop to connect and collaborate
As part of expanding the initiative, we have launched the TRANSFORM Support Hub in partnership with software firm SAP and platform operator Moving Worlds. The Hub offers a more effective way for social enterprises, professionals and corporates to connect and collaborate.
It’s a one-stop-shop through which social enterprises can access learning modules and pro-bono support from skilled professionals, make corporate connections and network with peers and investors.
As Unilever Global Sustainability Director Clive Allison says: “We need more partnerships that help achieve the SDGs, and bring together diverse perspectives, knowledge and approaches to tackling the world’s biggest development challenges.”
The Hub is a flagship initiative of the Global Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship (GASE) and is hosted by the World Economic Forum.
Next stop, Latin America
Unilever CEO Alan Jope, who launched the new partnership at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, said: “Our partnership with the Global Solidarity Fund to expand the successful TRANSFORM initiative into Colombia reflects our shared ambition to create a more inclusive economy through training and job opportunities for marginalised workers.”
The partnership will leverage TRANSFORM’s capabilities and expertise in marketing, distribution, digital and business resilience to deliver transformative market-based solutions that last. It will focus on fostering social entrepreneurship and impacting labour markets for inclusion of migrants and refugees.
Marta Guglielmetti, GSF’s Executive Director, said: “The Global Solidarity Fund will bring unique value to the partnership, connecting social entrepreneurs with organisations that are deeply trusted by local communities with a recognised knowledge of vulnerable migrants and refugees’ skills and needs.”
TRANSFORM in action
Here are three of the enterprises that TRANSFORM has supported so far.
If you’re a social enterprise looking for support, an organisation interested in joining the partnership or a professional with expertise and knowledge to offer, visit the TRANSFORM Support Hub for more information.