The World Economic Forum announced their newest class of Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneurs of the Year this week. The list recognises 12 entrepreneurs whose social good enterprises are changing the global landscape.
Their initiatives range in size and scope, but they all share the common goal of aiding and advancing underserved groups around the world.
From a waste management and design startup in India to a leading fair trade chocolate company, here’s a look at the 11 social good enterprises — and their 12 fearless leaders — that are changing the world today.
Country: US (active in 69 countries; predominately in Africa)
Focus: Education and technology
David Risher, a former Microsoft and Amazon executive, and Colin McElwee, the former marketing director of ESADE business school in Barcelona, Spain, cofounded Worldreader in 2010 to bring digital books to the masses and improve the world's literacy rate. The nonprofit boasts a cache of nearly 32,000 book titles in 43 languages available to readers in 69 countries.
Worldreader donates Kindle e-readers to schools through sponsorships and fundraising, and it also has a mobile application where a reported 5 million readers are accessing the full library of titles. A Worldreader survey revealed the organisation's impact on underserved groups, showing that while 'girls and women make up 23% of readers on the Worldreader reading app, they consume 66% of the content.'
Focus: Education, health, housing
Groupe SOS's vast portfolio of social causes is controlled by three associations that were founded at the company's inception in 1984: Prevention and Care of Addictions, Housing and Care, and Integration and Alternatives. Today, the group is committed to devising innovative solutions related to health, housing, education, social inclusion, senior citizens, and employment.
Country: South Africa
Over the past decade, Luvuyo Rani has scaled Silulo, his network of internet cafés and training centres for unemployed youth, to 39 branches throughout South Africa. In addition to offering accessible internet and how-to technology training to the masses, each branch offers résumé workshops and employment advice.
Through the 'one stop shop,' more than 50% of Silulo's students have secured jobs, some at Microsoft, Vodacom, and Tsiba thanks to partnerships with Silulo. Rani, who founded the company with his brother, is managing director. Through franchising, the pair aim to have a presence in every South African province and a total of 200 stores over the next 10 years.
Country: India, Nepal, Afghanistan
Focus: Child labour
As a longtime public advocate of children's rights, Nina Smith created GoodWeave International in 1999 to end child labour at both ends of the carpet-making industry -- in the production facilities in Asia and in the consumer market in Europe and the US.
Rug makers in India, Nepal, and Afghanistan can earn the GoodWeave certification to import and export their products at the company's standard. The participating exporters and importers allow unannounced visits to the looms and also pay licensing fees that support rehabilitation programs and schooling for rescued children. Among the 140 international brands working with GoodWeave are Target and Macy's.
Through GoodWeave's certification standards and global awareness efforts, child labour in carpet production has been reduced by 80% to about 200,000.
Focus: Waste management
According to Poonam Bir Kasturi, modern society presents a compelling dichotomy -- there is a place for technology and also a place, and need, for natural processes. Through her company Daily Dump, Kasturi empowers the people of India to bridge the gap between technology and nature and consider household waste as a resource.
Daily Dump sells expertly-designed products like leaf composters and sorting bags. Since the company's founding in 2006, nearly 30,000 Indians have used their products, saving more than 28 tons of organic waste every day.
After a few years of researching and developing modern technology to combat global energy and health problems stateside, Ron Bills, CEO of Envirofit, launched a pilot program in India to introduce a clean energy cookstove.
Today, the Envirofit cookstoves come in 15 different models that retail for $15 to $30 and effectively reduce smoke and toxic emissions by up to 80% and cooking time by 50%, saving and improving lives around the world. To date, the company has sold nearly one million products in more than 40 countries in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
In January, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation announced a $4 million commitment to fund further global expansion of Envirofit cookstoves.
Focus: Employment, skills, human capital
Sergio Arande runs Agenda Pública -- the Public Agenda -- a nonprofit consulting company that develops solutions for public policies within local government agencies like housing, sanitation, and health. The company currently works in six Brazilian states at the regional level and on advocacy campaigns at the federal level.
To date, Agenda Pública 'has trained more than 8,000 administrators and counselors in public management, basic policies, and policy development.'
Simon Bakker is the president and CEO of Kennemer Foods International, a six-year-old company that's created an innovative farming model for a community of 10,000 Filipino agricultural workers. Kennemer provides farmers with 'high quality planting material and technology, training on farming practices, and access to financing and markets' primarily for cocoa, a cash crop that Filipino farmers had previously abandoned due to financing and technical support limitations.
Kennemer has been successful in these rural villages because its technology boosts farmer productivity and encourages farming practices that are sustainable. Farmers working with Kennemer can juice yields by four times the national average, increasing their income from $555 to $3,300.
The company hopes to add 35,000 more farmers to its community by 2020.
For the last 15 years, Sophi Tranchell has led the fair trade movement as managing director of Divine Chocolate, a UK-based chocolate company that's 44% owned by Kuapa Kokoo, a farmers' co-operative in Ghana that produces about 6% of the country's cocoa harvest.
Divine didn't make its first profit until 2006, seven years after its founding, and was hit badly by the economic crisis in 2008. Still, Tranchell managed to grow Divine, making its chocolate available in a dozen countries including the US, Canada, South Korea, Japan, and Australia thanks to longstanding partnerships with retailers like The Co-op, Waitrose, and Starbucks. Last year the company reported $11 million in sales, 2% of which it dedicates to supporting its cocoa farmers.
Country: South Africa
Focus: Women empowerment
Since 2010, Tracey Chambers has led enterprise training for 1,240 unemployed single mothers through The Clothing Bank, her initiative based in South Africa that equips low-income women with the tools to launch their own small businesses. During the two-year program, women learn about money management and business skills, and they also participate in business mentorships and life coaching.
Chambers has said The Clothing Bank was inspired by her childhood nanny, who would sell Chambers' second-hand clothes for extra money. The women who take part in The Clothing Bank sell donated second-hand clothing, too, but they also learn how to turn the trade into sustainable retail businesses. So far, the companies started through The Clothing Bank have generated a collective profit of $2.5 million for the women and their families.
Yasmina Filali's mission for Orient-Occident Foundation is to help underprivileged Moroccan and Sub-Saharan migrants integrate into society. The foundation provides assimilation tools in the form of cultural education, job training and placement, and psychological support. The name Orient Occident refers to the organisation's ultimate goal to improve social connection between the East and West.
The organisation also 'promotes and facilitates' the migrants' voluntary return to their home countries through cooperating international partnerships.
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