U.S. Companies Alleviate PovertyMany countries in Africa are still experiencing problems with disease, poverty and starvation. However, many people and organizations with the tools to help, have reached out to lend a hand. Even large American corporations such as Coca-Cola and Chevron are doing what they can to help. These companies see an opportunity to help struggling nations, that opportunity being that if these companies’ efforts succeed then Africans will no longer need to worry about these particular issues again, and could potentially become customers. Listed below are some examples of how U.S. companies are helping alleviate poverty in Africa.

Coca-Cola

In 2009, the Coca-Cola Company launched RAIN: The Replenish Africa Initiative, a program with the express purpose of bringing fresh drinking water to Africa’s poor. Since the initiative’s start, they have done work in 35 of the 55 total African countries. The program is making positive change through things like building sustainable communities, catalyzing investment in access to clean water, improving both water and sanitation access for school children and replenishing more than 2 billion liters of water back to communities and the surrounding nature. Coca-Cola’s $30 million investment paired with an additional $40+ million from their over 140 partners, looks to continue their work of bringing clean drinking water to Africa.

Chevron

Chevron has been a corporation that has shown exactly how U.S. companies can help alleviate poverty in Africa over the years through multiple donations and poverty-reducing initiatives. One of these examples includes a $50 million to the Niger Delta Partnership Initiative (NDPI), an organization that focuses on improving socio-economic conditions to the more than 30 million people living in Niger’s delta region. With Chevron’s help, the organization has been able to help nearly 4,000 people raise their annual income by 92 percent in various agricultural industries. Chevron has also made huge progress combating Africa’s HIV/AIDS epidemic by donating over $60 million since 2008. With help from Chevron’s partnerships with organizations such as Pact, Born Africa Free and The Global Fund, they have made positive changes in reducing mother-to-child transmission of the virus.

General Mills

In 2008, the famous cereal giant, General Mills, launched the Partners in Food Solutions. A nonprofit with the goal of bringing improved food production as well as food processing expertise to small and medium-sized food processors in African nations. Since its establishment, the organization has helped with food production in the African countries of Cote D’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The organization has also gained the support of other major U.S. companies such as Hershey’s and Cargill to further increase their influence and accomplish feats such as strengthening food security across the continent, improving the nutrition of African grown and produced foods and increasing economic development by expanding the competitiveness of Africa’s food processing sector.

These examples of how U.S. companies are helping to alleviate poverty in Africa show a growing trend by big businesses to invest in struggling communities. Not only because of the positive philanthropic impact behind their multi-million-dollar donations, but also because of the huge potential a healthy and prosperous Africa could bring to them as consumers. No matter the reason behind the initiative, however, the progress made by these seemingly unconventional donors has brought undeniable change to millions struggling to maintain basic necessities that others often take for granted.

– Alexander Capuano
Photo: Flickr

Ethical consumersNearly every consumer has heard of the shoe company TOMS and its “buy one, give one” business model. However, there are a number of other companies which also work to support ethical consumerism.

5 Companies for Ethical Consumers to Support Outside of TOMS

  1. 4Ocean: 4Ocean founders Alex Schulze and Andrew Cooper started their company after taking a trip to Bali, Indonesia and seeing the planet’s pollution problem first hand. Today they are present in 27 nations, employing over 150 locals. The company creates bracelets from the plastic and glass waste they clean up, pledging to clean one pound of trash for every bracelet sold. By employing locals to do so, they are empowering the people most affected by pollution and giving back to their economies.
  2. WakaWaka: WakaWaka, a Dutch solar manufacturer, has pledged to send over 2,000 LED lights to regions in West Africa currently struggling with Ebola outbreaks. Over 90 percent of Liberia and Sierra Leone are living in the dark, with no access to the power grid. WakaWaka hopes by bringing electricity to these regions they can help make a difference in the fight against Ebola. The WakaWaka Foundation donates its devices to areas in need around the world or “at a subsidized price or in exchange for community work.”
  3. HopeMade: HopeMade describes themselves as a “sustainable, and fair trade brand,” selling hand-made bags. They employ members of indigenous Colombian tribes, paying fair wages for the craftsmanship. The commitment to living wages and ethical production allows ethical consumers to know their money is going into the pocket of someone that needs it. According to HopeMade, “you directly support the sustainable fashion as well as empowering marginalized communities and this small tribe of powerful women.”
  4. Frank Water: Frank Water is a charity dedicated to providing safe drinking water for people living in Nepal and India. The company sells refillable water bottles and provides open access to tap water for the cost of just $5. All proceeds go towards giving those in need access to clean water. Without charities such as Frank Water girls must spend 6 hours a day fetching water. Frank Water has given over 100,000 people access to water, giving back hours of their day which can now be spent getting an education or working.
  5. Fair Indigo: Fair Indigo’s slogan “fashion with a conscience” sums up the clothing brand – sustainable and fairly made. The company is based in Peru, where it employs locals and pays fair wages. Fair Indigo holds a strong stance against sweatshops in the fashion industry. The company even has its own non-profit, The Fair Indigo Foundation, which is working to improve education in Peru. They are proud to state that every penny donated goes directly to the cause, with Fair Indigo baring the administrative cost.

Ethical brands such as these are working to make the world a better and more equal place for all people. While many companies attempt to profit off poverty-porn, there are still many options for ethical consumers that wish to spend their dollars at a company that cares.

– Maura Byrne
Photo: Flickr

Five Benefit Corporations Fighting Global Poverty
There are many large enterprises committed to fighting global poverty as a part of corporate social responsibility or through donations. However, a new category of benefit-driven corporations characterized by creating a social and environmental impact has become increasingly popular with the rise of sustainable development and impact investment.

Many of these companies are commonly known as social enterprises, B corporations or fourth sector companies. The list below provides examples of corporations fighting global poverty around the world and how they are actively tackling numerous world issues through their impact.

1. AUARA

This social enterprise focuses on fighting global poverty through providing access to clean water in order to decrease risk of disease. The corporation sells environmentally friendly water bottles in Spain and 100 percent of the company’s dividends are invested in providing clean water to those living in poverty around the world; as a result of these efforts, Auara has both an environmental and social impact.

In addition, these projects aimed at providing clean water are mostly carried out in Africa.

2. BETTER WORLD BOOKS

This is one of many American corporations fighting global poverty, but Better World Books strives to break the poverty cycle by focusing on education. In 2002, the founders created a business model based on the online collection and sale of new and used books for economic profit. All profit gained from this is then used to fund literacy projects around the world.

Due to economic profit, social literacy impact and reselling of unwanted books, this organization is said to have a triple impact. Since the creation of the company, 21 million books have been donated to Books for Africa, Room to Read and the National Center for Families Learning. This company has also raised over $24 million for literacy initiatives.

3. EBY

Sofia Vergara and Renata Black co-founded EBY as an undergarment line in 2017. This company is one of many American corporations fighting global poverty through female empowerment and microfinance. The main goal is to provide small loans to women so that they have the means to start their own businesses and thus become self-sufficient and independent.

EBY accomplishes this by contributing 10 percent of net sales to the Seven Bar Foundation; so far, the financed loans have helped women in Colombia, Haiti and Nicaragua.

4. INCLUYEME

Incluyeme is a corporation fighting global poverty by providing jobs to those with disabilities. Disabled populations are more likely to be unemployed, which gives them a difficult position from which to overcome poverty. This company created an online platform to connect disabled people looking for work with inclusive employers that match their profiles.

The company began in Argentina, but has now spread to different parts of Latin America and Spain, and will continue to grow to increase impact. Any profits made are reinvested into social initiative projects so as to maximize social impact within communities served.

5. ALCAGÜETE

This Colombian corporation aims to fight global poverty by addressing the issue of hunger and fighting malnutrition and obesity. Founded in 2014, Alcagüete is a line of healthy snacks that for every snack sold, the company gives a snack to a child in the country who is in need. Since its founding, they have given away 437,895 snacks to hungry children.

With corporations like these five, the fight against global poverty is stronger than ever. Now the question is which company will be the next B-Corp or social enterprise?

– Luz Solano-Flórez
Photo: Flickr

 Bangladesh
In April 2013, Rana Plaza — an eight-story factory building in Bangladesh — collapsed, killing 1,130 people. The structure housed a number of North American and European brands, including Benetton, Bon Marche, The Children’s Place and Joe Fresh. Bangladesh has the second largest garment industry in the world, valued at $28 billion and ranked just behind China, although it has the lowest wages globally for garment workers.

The disaster, considered to be one of the worst industrial tragedies in history, has led to a call for increased accountability and transparency in the clothing industry. While agreements such as the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh have been put in place in the aftermath of the accident, there are still steps the garment industry can take to repair its broken system.

Companies such as H&M, Walmart and Gap have voiced their interest in improving conditions, yet progress has been a slow and difficult process.

The Building

The Rana Plaza building, based in the Dhaka District, was owned by Sohel Rana, who constructed the factory in 2006 with his father. It was created from poor quality construction materials, while heavy, vibrating machinery operated within its walls. The ground that the building had been set upon had previously been a body of water and was swampy, containing rubbish.

When Rana was developing the structure, the upper floors were added illegally, without a permit, and the creation was not made in consent. Inspection teams found cracks in the building on the Tuesday before, but workers were ordered to return to the unsafe environment the following day. That morning, the factory collapsed, with over 3,000 people inside.

The Aftermath

In the aftermath of the incident, workers protested and coalitions came together to promote rights within the garment industry and take measures towards preventing a future crisis like Rana Plaza. On May 15, 2013, brands, retailers and trade unions — such as Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle Outfitters and Fruit of the Loom — signed a five-year, legally binding agreement to create safer conditions in the Bangladesh Ready Made Garment industry, drafting the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

The Accord includes an inspection program, as well as the establishment of the right of workers to refuse unsafe work. Funds will be made available to repair any damaged equipment, and all corrective action plans and inspection reports will be publically disclosed.

Most recently, new signatories have continued to show solidarity for the Transition Accord, which extends the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh until after 2018.

Organizations, Brands and Change

In addition, a nine-member coalition including Human Rights Watch and the International Labor Rights Forum created the Apparel and Footwear Supply Chain Transparency Pledge, which demands that companies report on manufacturing sites and pertinent details twice a year.

The Follow the Thread Campaign, a coalition consisting of organizations such as Clean Clothes Campaign and Human Rights Watch, asked retail companies to sign a Transparency Pledge in April 2017.

Brands such as H&M, Walmart and Gap affirmed that they would like to participate in improving worker safety in Bangladesh. While Walmart did not sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, the company was one of the founding members of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, a group of 28 retailers that holds standards and inspections, as well as supporting worker empowerment, among other practices.

Commitment to Transparency

Yet these initiatives have not been enough. Reports by the coalition the Asia Floor Wage Alliance show that many garment buildings in Bangladesh do not have adequate fire exits. According to 2015 research from New York University’s Stern School of Business, out of 3,425 inspections in Bangladesh that were held after the collapse, only eight addressed their violations fully enough to pass final inspections.

A commitment to transparency still remains a vital aspect of progress needed in the garment industry. Workers frequently experience abuse, while earning low wages, with Bangladesh’s minimum wage being 32 cents per hour.

Facing the powerful impact of the Rana Plaza tragedy of 2013, corporations and unions have come together to try to address the dangerous conditions found in Bangladesh’s garment industry (which is one of the world’s biggest). But for factories to move forward, businesses and human rights organizations will have to confront the negligence found within the system and recognize that fashion is not worth such a costly price.

We, as a globe, will need to see increased accountability and responsibility in the manufacturing places of clothing companies to learn from Rana Plaza and see workers’ conditions sustainably improve.

– Shira Laucharoen

Photo: Flickr

B Lab Uses Businesses as Forces for GoodThe Sept. 1, 2017 passage of HB3488 adds Texas to the list of 33 states with official benefit corporation legislation. B Lab, a nonprofit that certifies for-profit corporations as B (beneficial) Corporations, lobbies states to change regulations surrounding company profits. Successful passage of this newest legislation signifies the growing strength of the B Corporation movement.

B Lab aims to create beneficial social change through for-profit businesses. The nonprofit provides B Corporation certifications to businesses that pass a rigorous assessment that asks about everything from environmental impact to employee benefits. Companies that score high enough on the assessment then must amend their articles of incorporation to consider the interests of employees, the community and the environment.

As of 2014, over 1,000 companies spanning over 30 countries and 60 industries are B Certified. Some of the larger companies to become B Corporations are Etsy, Ben & Jerry’s and Patagonia.

The certification allows businesses to market themselves as socially responsible to customers and investors. B Lab still works to drive profits at B Corporations–the aim of the initiative is to show that beneficial corporations can be just as profitable as their competitors. B Certificates separate companies that actually do good from companies that simply market themselves as socially conscious.

B Lab has created the Global Impact Investment Rating System (GIIRS) to assess the relative social impact of corporations worldwide. The rating system is overseen by an independent board of experts and regulators to maintain neutrality.

In the U.S., B Lab has encountered some difficulty expanding B Certifications to all states. Laws pertaining to corporate profits vary from state to state. Some states rule that corporations are obligated to prioritize profits over all else in order to maximize revenue earned by shareholders. This rule means B Corporations cannot operate in these states, since B Lab requires companies to change their articles of incorporation to equally prioritize social responsibility and profit. Therefore, B Lab campaigns for changes to corporate laws on the state level. Currently, 33 states allow B Corporations and an additional 6 have pending legislation.

B Lab’s influence extends past U.S. borders. Roshan, a cellphone service provider in Afghanistan with 6.5 million subscribers, is an example of a B Corporation that benefits a developing country. The company challenges Afghanistan’s gender norms–20 percent of the corporation’s labor force and 17 percent of its senior management team are women.

Additionally, Roshan has invested $700 million in infrastructure and additional millions in community development projects like well-building and the formation of computer learning centers. Through these investments, Roshan has created 30,000 jobs in Afghanistan.

Roshan’s focus on community development is not purely altruistic. The company’s investments add to its customer base by creating revenue sources for more citizens. For example, Roshan initiated a program to teach women how to fix mobile phones. Today, the proliferation of secondhand mobile phones has expanded Roshan’s customer base.

B Lab’s mobilization of businesses as forces for good has the potential to positively impact impoverished communities. By utilizing the private sector as a vehicle for social change, B Lab proves that corporate profits and community wealth are not mutually exclusive.

Katherine Parks

Photo: Flickr


It’s no secret that Americans love to go out to eat. Choosing take out or driving to the nearest food drive always sounds better than working in the kitchen for what seems like hours. Luckily, for those times that a good burger or pizza sounds too delicious to pass up, there are still opportunities to help the world’s poor as restaurants adopt new policies of corporate social responsibility.

Restaurants everywhere are catching on to the notion that they can adopt a policy of corporate social responsibility and use their position in society to help people who are in need. According to an article in AdWeek, Millennials are civic-minded and have more recently demanded that companies and corporations be civic-minded as well by giving back to society. Millennials want to create change, take responsibility for the world and help those who are unable to help themselves.

The 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR (corporate social responsibility) Study found that 9 in 10 millennials would drop one brand and replace it with a more socially conscious one. Furthermore, 62 percent of millennials would willingly take a pay cut if it meant working for a socially responsible company. Millennials are dedicated to staying socially responsible in all areas of their lives.

Many people know of clothing brands and large corporations that are donating sums of money or have a one-for-one philanthropic model with clothes, shelter and other essential items. In a similar way, there are now many restaurants that are donating food to hungry people all over the world.

Some major brands, including Panera Bread, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Yum Brand restaurants and Zambrero donate to charitable causes specific to eradicating hunger worldwide. Some restaurants name the charities they are working with right in their mission statement. For example, Malawi’s Pizza serves “pizza with a purpose,” has a Meal for Meal Exchange program and has sent 923,859 meals to orphans in Malawi since its inception.

These are only a few options. The good news is there are many more corporations that care about good causes. Staying educated on corporate social responsibility is the most efficient way to be up-to-date with which corporations are making a difference because those are the ones that should maintain support. The more demanding consumers are of socially responsible corporations, the more they will appear and, as a result, Americans can begin taking more responsibility for those in need everywhere.

Emily Arnold

Photo: Flickr

Ikea_SerbiaA new e-permit system in Serbia, created with the help of USAID, has shortened the process for obtaining a construction permit from 240 to 28 days. It cut out the 50-plus interactions between the investor and the government. One can register for an e-permit through the Business Register’s Agency website, the Minister of Construction website, or other government websites.

The new e-permit system will help develop Serbia’s important infrastructure as well, particularly transportation. Serbia has been called the “gateway to Europe” as it is the crossroads between Western Europe and the Middle East. The Serbian parliament is looking for private investment in this sector, and the e-permits system has made this process more efficient. In addition, the new e-permit system is allowing the Clinical Center of Serbia to build new healthcare facilities. New jobs in the construction sector lead to new jobs in other sectors. The new e-permit system has not only helped construction in Serbia, it has increased the nation’s GDP by 3.5 percent in the first quarter of 2016.

One company already taking advantage of the new system is IKEA, and its investment is expected to bring 700 million euros and 300 new jobs to the nation. IKEA took advantage of the new permit process to build a new store in Belgrade. This new store is expected to open in July 2017. IKEA will be the first international business to invest in Serbia after the introduction of the country’s new construction e-permit system. The store in Belgrade is only the first store IKEA is building in Serbia, and the company is planning to invest 300 million euros in five stores across the nation.

IKEA will hopefully pave the way for more investment in Serbia, whether through creating new businesses or encouraging domestic construction in Serbia.

Jennifer Taggart

Photo: Flickr

Silicon Valley Community FoundationIn December 2015, Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) awarded $50 million in matching grants to support 24,450 nonprofit organizations in the United States and 45 other countries, according to CSRwire.

This is the largest total to date, beating out last year’s total of $23 million in matching grants. SVCF gives matching grants through its partnership with YourCause, which is the leading Software as a Service provider of employee engagement resolutions.

YourCause provides companies with a variety of employee engagement techniques including volunteering and charitable giving.

Maeve Miccio, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility for SVCF, said, “SVCF is proud to say that we sent more than $50 million in matching grants to nonprofit organizations around the world in 2015. We applaud our corporate clients and their employees who have made philanthropy a priority through employee engagement programs in their workplaces. Their gifts support everything from education to the arts to hunger relief programs, and their generosity is inspiring.”

Matching grants come from corporate funds, matching the amount of money donated to a charity by an employee of that company.

According to CSRwire, nearly one-fifth of the total matching grants SVCF awarded by December 2015 came from PepsiCo employees and matching grants from the PepsiCo Foundation.

“PepsiCo believes in investing in our people and in the communities where we operate,” according to Andrea Seek, Director of Global Citizenship for PepsiCo. “It is gratifying that our partnership with SVCF and YourCause has allowed us to help improve and strengthen our communities around the globe.”

Around 65 percent of Fortune 500 companies have programs to match employees’ donations with corporate donations, according to CSRwire.

Approximately $2.1 billion was donated by the U.S. in 2014 by companies around the world through matching corporate gift programs.

SVCF is the largest community foundation in the world and continues to work toward innovative philanthropic solutions to challenging problems.

Jordan Connell

Sources: CSRwire, Silicon Valley Community Foundation
Photo: Silicon Valley Community Foundation

end_world_hunger
The Hershey Company does more than produce delicious sweets. The company shares goodness with malnourished people all around the world in order to help end world hunger. To do this, their mission consists of a balance between having good business, fostering a better life for others and creating a bright future for those in need.

The company is dedicated to their mission. In the last three years, they increased cocoa farm yields around the world by 45 percent and improved cocoa farming knowledge in Ghana. In addition, Hershey has started Project Peanut Butter, which helps save the lives of starving children in Ghana. The company has also raised over 4 million dollars for Children’s Miracle Network, which helps treat sick and injured children.

The candy company constantly continues to touch the lives of others.

On July 16, 2015, Hershey partnered with Stop Hunger Now for their fourth event geared towards ending world hunger.

Stop Hunger Now is an organization that aids people who face starvation and disaster.

Todd Camp, director of Hershey’s Corporate Social Responsibility and Community Relations said, “We are excited to partner with Stop Hunger Now and have such an impact on the hungry around the world.”

More than 700 Hershey employees gathered and packaged 255,744 meals put together by Stop Hunger Now. The packaged meals contain rice, soy, vegetables and 23 essential minerals and vitamins. They will be sent to Stop Hunger Now partner organizations in Haiti, El Salvador, Liberia and Burundi.

“It’s not just about that we make candy, it’s not about the stockholders, it’s that we’re helping children every solitary day. To know we get to keep giving back… it’s a great feeling,” said Hershey volunteer, Denise Price.

Another Hershey volunteer, Scott Rownd said, “We just sat here for two hours and packed 2,000 meals to make a difference in maybe 10,000 people’s lives. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Hershey packaged 15,000 more meals this summer than last summer. With the commitment shown by the Hershey volunteers, next summer’s event is sure to be promising. Like many others, The Hershey Company hopes to contribute to the end of world hunger.

-Kelsey Parrotte

Sources: Stop Hunger Now, The Hershey Company, Virtual Strategy Magazine
Photo: Business Wire

z1 Borgen Project
In Africa, there are many foreign corporations investing in and fueling industry, many of which are part of extractive industries that may not be economically beneficial for the continent in the long run. A company that stands apart from this ilk is Unilever.

Unilever is a British-Dutch multinational consumer goods corporation whose products reach 2 billion consumers in over 190 countries, making it one of the world’s top 500 largest corporations. Unilever has been in Africa for over a century and produces annual sales there of more than $5 billion, employing 40,000 people on the continent in offices and building factories in 40 locations.

This megalithic corporation has built an impressive reputation for itself. FORTUNE Magazine consistently recognizes Unilever among the World’s Most Admired Consumer Food Product Companies and in 2013 recognized Unilever as a Top 50 World’s Most Admired Company. Much of this admiration stems from the numerous gender diversity and environmental sustainability awards Unilever has garnered over the years.

Despite these accolades, criticisms are aplenty and certain truths are unavoidable. For example, Unilever’s biggest purchases are palm oil, soya, paper and beef. These are commodities whose global trade is responsible for 50 percent of global tropical deforestation, admitted Gavin Nearth, senior vice president of sustainability at Unilever.

Significantly, these criticisms are not necessarily thrown in a dark corner at Unilever with the hope that they will wither and die. There is an acknowledgement that the vast corporation’s practices have enormous environmental and social impacts that have not been, and still are not in many instances, sustainable.

Yet things do seem to be changing. In 2009, Paul Polman, previously an executive at Nestle and before, Proctor & Gamble, became Chief Operating Officer of Unilever. Within a year he introduced the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, a series of goals that aim to transform the company by doubling its size while increasing its positive social impact and reducing its environmental footprint by 50 percent. Despite the worry of many stockholders, according to Financial Times, Mr. Polman believes that these goals are necessary to maintain a “license to operate” in an age of public scrutiny.

Increasing social impact includes increasing workplace rights, ensuring that women get a fair deal and improving health and well-being for more than 1 billion people. Reduction of Unilever’s environmental footprint entails ensuring that their products and supply chain meet environmental requirements covering everything from forest protection to pest control. The impact of working toward these goals will manifest in Unilever’s sizable African operation.

Furthermore, Unilever’s business model in Africa impacts the African poor. According to Frank Braeken, Unilever Executive Vice President for Africa, “There is a growing realization that the future of Africa is based around a consumer rather than mining. This is a consumer that has been under-served and over-charged.” For Mr. Braekan, there are hundreds of millions of untouched consumers, most of whom are low-income, known as bottom of the pyramid (BOP), consumers.

A method through which Unilever reaches BOP consumers is low unit packs (LUPs). These are small consumer goods, worth as little as half a cent. Small shop owners buy goods from Unilever companies in large packs and resell them in smaller portions.

LUPs is just one method by which Unilever plans to meet Africa’s poor and their needs. In conjunction with its vast operations on the continent and increasingly sustainable business model, Unilever will be able to be quite the developing force in Africa.

– Connor Bohannan

Sources: BDlive, Financial Times, How We Made It in Africa, Telegraph, Unilever
Photo: Telegraph