Global SDG Awards recognise success in sustainability

This year’s Global SDG Awards went to 17 companies around the world. The awards celebrate private-sector leadership in advancing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs. John Dyer reports.

Image credit: charamelody via Flickr

Women and children in Africa walk an average of six kilometres a day carrying water, usually in heavy 20-litre buckets, according to the United Nations.

South African engineers Pettie Petzer and Johan Jonker sought to address that injustice in the 1990s, launching Hippo Roller, a social business that designs 90-litre water barrels with handles that people can push like wheelbarrows.

Today, the device has made it easier for 300,000 people to transport enough water for days at a time. Around 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, the UN said.

“The introduction of Hippo rollers in WFP supported primary schools significantly reduced the daily burden on women and children,” the UN World Food Programme said in a statement in the company’s website.

Winners from around the world

Hippo Rollers was among 17 enterprises that won Global SDG Awards recently. Established last year, the awards aim to celebrate private-sector progress in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainability officers and top executives from Google, Henkel, Nokia, Thomson Reuters and other multinational companies served as judges in the competition.

“Each of the 2018 Global SDG Award Winners is an example of next-generation sustainability leadership,” said Global SDG Awards Founder David Klar in a press release. “Companies that seamlessly integrate profit and purpose – while leveraging new technologies to achieve scalability at lower costs – will be uniquely positioned for growth over the coming decades.”

Seventy companies entered the competition. The winners hailed from around the world, from Africa, Australia, Afghanistan, Europe, Japan and the United States.

“Winning the 2018 Global SDG Award for Clean Water & Sanitation is humbling, considering some of the large corporations we were up against in the competition,” said Hippo Roller Executive Director Grant Gibbs. “Engaging the private-sector will make more companies realise that they have a part to play in addressing the challenges we all face.”

Australia’s Outland Denim won awards for reducing poverty and providing decent work and economic growth to impoverished people. Worn by celebrities like Meghan Markle, wife of Britain’s Prince Harry, the brand uses organic cotton, recycled waste fabric and other sustainable materials.

Private sector has responsibility to act

The Global SDG Awards reflected an awareness of how businesses needed to become more vigorous in tackling the environmental, social and economic challenges that have arisen as climate change has grown more serious and the gap between rich and poor has widened throughout the globe, said Outland Denim Chief Executive James Bartle.

“The private-sector is responsible for over 80 per cent of gross domestic product and 90 per cent of jobs in developing countries alone, so it has a huge impact on the livelihoods of the poor and most marginalized members of society,” said Bartle. “Unfortunately, it has also been responsible for exploitation of both people and the environment. We’ve tried to address this with Outland Denim by using private enterprise as a force for good.”

Global prosperity has left many behind

Many of the winner harness technology to serve the needs of those who have been left behind in the wave of global prosperity that has uplifted much of the world in recent decades.

Afghanistan’s largest telecommunications company, Roshan, has spent $700 million connecting every region of the mountainous, war-torn Central Asian country. The company employs 1,000 people, including almost 200 women. It also won the award because it has fought against the culture of corruption that is rampant in Afghanistan.

Roshan’s success has helped spur $2.5 billion in investment in telecommunications in Afghanistan, too, according to executives. The award, in turn, might help convince investors to spend more in the country, said Roshan’s Chief Operating Officer, Shireen Rahmani.

“By spotlighting companies big and small from across the world and their efforts to create a better world, The Global SDG Awards have a critical role to play in driving and inspiring leadership in sustainable development and corporate responsibility,” Rahmani said.

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