Nairobi – Fully biodegradable plates implanted with organic seeds in Colombia to provide food after use, a social media website to promote car-sharing in Viet Nam, certified cocoa for specialty markets, and affordable biodegradable sanitary pads made from banana waste are just some of the 34 winners of the 2013 SEED Awards, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced in October.
The awards identify and support innovative social and environmental start-up enterprises, which can tackle key sustainable development challenges at community level, in developing and emerging economies.
Other award winners include Uganda’s ‘Nuru Energy’, which via a micro-franchise scheme sells generators powered by pedals and provides reliable, clean, sustainable power to off-grid households, and ‘moWoza’ – a mobile phone application providing cross-border traders in Mozambique with fast information on prices, payments, and deliveries and empowering female entrepreneurs.
As in previous years, the 2013 SEED Awards placed a special focus on Africa, with 20 awards being made to enterprises in Ethiopia, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. This is part of a larger project entitled ‘Stimulating the Green Economy in Africa’, which is funded largely by the European Union, and a separate project funded by the Government of Flanders (Flanders International Cooperation Agency) to grant a further two Awards in the South African provinces of Free State, KwaZulu Natal and Limpopo.
Reflecting the growing need to encourage climate-smart enterprises at the grassroots level, a further 10 SEED Low Carbon Awards are being made to social and environmental enterprises that focus on mitigation and adaptation to climate change. These Awards are funded mainly by the International Climate Initiative of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.
The 2 SEED Gender Equality Awards complete the line-up. UN Women and UNIDO are funding enterprises that are women-led or -owned and prioritize gender equality or women’s empowerment as a core objective. The Gender Equality Winners will also be supported by the SEED Associate Hogan Lovells, the international law firm.
All the 2013 SEED winners were honoured at a high-level International Awards Ceremony at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, on the day of a special SEED Symposium “Green Entrepreneurship: Local Solutions that Make a Difference” taking place in the framework of the Global South-South Development Expo.
At the same event, major Chinese electronics and white goods manufacturer HISENSE was confirmed as a corporate partner for the SEED Initiative for the next three years. The company will also support UNEP’s Resource Efficiency sub-programme.
The Award winners will receive from SEED a package of individually tailored support for their businesses, access to other supporting institutions and technical assistance, and a financial contribution of US $ 5000.
The 2013 call for proposals saw applications from 85 countries, representing the collaborative efforts of partnerships between enterprises, non-governmental organizations, women and youth groups, labour organizations, public authorities, international agencies and academia.
Most of the applications were in the agricultural and rural development sectors, as well as in energy and climate change, and ecosystem management. Many entries at the same time addressed micro-enterprise development, IT applications, and education and training.
The winners were selected by the independent SEED International Jury of experts.
On the occasion of the announcement, Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General, UNEP Executive Director, said, “These micro-companies are the little acorns from which big and mighty businesses could well grow, but they are more than that. These mini enterprises are achieving profitability, not at the expense of their environment or their communities, but by providing solutions to the social, economic and environmental challenges of our time. If proof is needed that a transition to an inclusive Green Economy is underway, then look no further than these remarkable entrepreneurs.”
Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, commented, “The SEED Winners show us a viable path to a greener economy and highlight the power of creative local business models that can inform the discussions on the post-2015 development agenda.”
Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General, IUCN, said, “As Chairman of the SEED Board, I greatly welcome this next cohort of SEED Winners – social innovators and entrepreneurs who also place environment center-stage. We will do what we can to help them and others to grow, and call on others to join us.”
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director, UN Women, added her views, “With their innovative entrepreneurial approaches and unfailing attention to women’s empowerment, the SEED Gender Equality Award winners are advancing sustainable development, both locally and at global level. In every region, women are coming forward with new ideas to combat poverty and improve living standards while protecting natural resources. Women’s economic empowerment and full and equal participation in decision-making are essential to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and should be prioritized in the post-2015 development agenda.”