Is corporate collaboration the key to solving our high street’s ethical fashion dilemma?
Of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which include halving extreme poverty, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education in time for 2015 – promoting gender equality and empowering women comes third on the list.
This traditionally low-priority issue ranks so highly in our development goals because women in the workplace equates to social equality and justice, but its importance is actually far more significant.
National economic development, business growth through female led companies, increased small / mid size businesses (SMEs), market diversification and a creation of wealth that can infiltrate families, communities and even continents are just some of the resulting phenomena.
As Penny Fowler, Head of Private Sector Advocacy at Oxfam, points out:
'Gender inequality is the biggest barrier to poverty eradication worldwide. There is a direct correlation between equal opportunities and strong economies across the globe.'
Earlier this week I was lucky enough to listen to Penny speak along with Dr Susan Mboya at the Business Fights Poverty seminar on advancing Gender Equality through Business and Partnership. Dr Mboya is Group Director of Eurasia Africa Women’s Economic Empowerment for the Coca-Cola Company.
Now here is a brand that’s been around the block a few times. Two-thirds of Coca-Cola consumers are women and in Africa the vast majority of transactions take place via small businesses run by women. In Ghana 70% of all sales take place through female-run small businesses (Coca-Cola Africa Foundation Community publication, Issue 04).
Coca-Cola understand that for their brand to be truly empowered then the women who sell their product and consume their product must also be empowered. The logic is surprisingly simple.
Coca-Cola’s ‘5 BY 20’ initiative is committed to empowering 5 million women by 2020, connecting female entrepreneurs with what they require in order to succeed. This breaks down into several categories.
• Access to retail assets such as chillers
• Access to technology such as solar panels and electronic billing
• Access to business skill training to grow their business
• Access to finance using the IFC to underwrite loans at the local level to reduce interest rates
• Access to a mentor and peers
The concept that Coca-Cola have so expertly grasped is that if they are to reach their own business vision of doubling servings from 1.5 billion (yes billion) per day in 2010 to 3 billion by 2020, then they need to find new ways of creating sustainable business. Coca-Cola has seen proven results that women have a lower failure rate in business, as they tend to reinvest considerably more in their businesses and in the social cohesion of their staff. They are also indispensable in distributing the product in otherwise inaccessible areas (Coca-Cola Africa Foundation Community publication, Issue 04).
Speaking at the same event Marie Staunton, CEO of Plan UK, explained how chocolate brands such as Nestlé are reaping the rewards of a recent initiative in Pakistan, where women run 93% of agriculture. Unsupported, these women have historically had to sell their produce on to middle men who take advantage of the situation by marking up the price and watering down the product. Plan has given these women access to the tools needed to sell directly to the brand at a higher price, but with superior quality. Nestlé achieves a better product at the same cost and the women are able to reinvest their tri-fold profit. Their status within the home begins to rise as they provide for their families reliably and effectively. Convergence is the ultimate result, which means that this story replicates and strengthens for generations to come.
Marie points out we desperately need developing economies to grow to achieve economic stability in the rest of the world, a point corroborated by Bill Gates in his recent report for the G20 summit. She comments on the need for persistence and the vital role of the corporate to look beyond what has always been done and look at how things could be done for the benefit of both the producer and consumer.
This got me thinking. What better vehicle could exist to achieve this 'top 3' MDG than bringing about effective legislation in the garment industry?
The garment industry accounts for 78% of Bangladesh’s economy and 85% of the workers are women – mostly rural migrants who have never had access to education. Many of these women have virtually no knowledge about their rights or how to succeed and develop their careers in the workplace. Could the high street learn a thing or two from these emerging collaborations?
Rob Schuham of Common believes collaboration is the new competition – sustainable capitalism where every part of the machine profits. A collaborative brand opens up its value and shares it with its customer, its stakeholders, and its future generations. If Coca-Cola has been around for 120 years and yet half its market capitalisation appears to be made up of brand value, don’t our dearly beloved high street chains have some value to share out?
Retailers such as Gap, Timberland, M&S and Wal-Mart have all taken steps to collaborate with and empower women, mainly through education and training. The immediate results include women:
• Demonstrating more willingness to take on responsibilities
• Assuming leadership roles
• Communicating more effectively at work and at home
• Showing improved ability to solve workplace problems
• Being better able to support their peers
• Gaining more respect from their family members
• Inevitably feeling more respect for themselves
Increased productivity, superior quality control, and a happy, healthy workforce giving back to their communities outside of the workplace, means no sacrifice is needed from the retailers – just a respectful sharing of expertise and resources.
Women currently influence over 70% of global household purchases, with 40% of the global workforce being made up of women (Coca-Cola Africa Foundation Community publication, Issue 04). There is an enormous well of talent and resource out there that if nurtured thoughtfully, could grow a ripple effect of positive change throughout the global economy.
October’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) heralded important progress in the fight against polio, for a number of reasons: one of which has managed to fly below the radar.
The morning after The End of Polio Concert, at a Special Press Conference called to discuss polio eradication, five world leaders together with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, pledged an additional $118 million to global polio eradication efforts: providing crucial funding which will help the Global Polio Eradication Initiative purchase much needed vaccines; identify, respond to, and mitigate new outbreaks of this debilitating disease.
But this press conference also featured a second, equally important, non-monetary commitment, when the leaders of Nigeria and Pakistan – two of the remaining four endemic countries – affirmed their commitment to addressing the spread of polio in their communities.
President Jonathan of Nigeria promised the world “that in the next two years, we will eradicate polio”, and Prime Minister Gilani of Pakistan pledged that his Government would utilise all possible resources regarding polio eradication – commitments that will be absolutely critical to the success of eradication efforts – and to progress in the broader fight to stop preventable disease and tackle extreme poverty.
Although less likely to make the headlines, strong political buy-in and leadership is just as crucial as funding when it comes to the achievement of eradication targets. This highlighted in one of the most significant polio success stories of recent times: India.
India is considered a ‘perfect storm’ when it comes to the spread of polio: birth rates are high, populations are dense, and sanitation is terrible. These conditions make it ripe for polio to spread. But despite these challenges, by getting local officials involved in vaccination efforts, India has made such incredible progress tackling the disease that not a single case of polio has been reported in the country since January this year – offering the very real possibility that India will be considered polio free within the next few years.
Strong national and local leadership is also referenced as one of the key factors that has helped Nigeria achieve its remarkable reduction of polio by 95% since 2009.
While they don’t attract the fanfare of a multi-million dollar commitment, October’s CHOGM commitments will be key to advancing the fight against polio. In fact, we’re already seeing them take effect: since Prime Minister Gilani’s announcement, Government officials who fail to meet performance targets in Pakistan’s eradication program have been threatened with tough action, and chief ministers and other local leaders have been urged to make polio eradication a priority.
This high level leadership is crucial to achieving eradication goals, particularly in Pakistan, which has the highest number of polio cases amongst the four remaining polio endemic countries. And achieving further buy in from local leaders will also be critical. Indeed, according to the World Health Organisation’s analysis, it may be a game changer, with findings suggesting low levels of viral persistence correlate with high levels of local leadership.
As Former British PM Tony Blair recently pointed out in the Washington Post, effective development “requires action on all sides.”
That’s why here at the Global Poverty Project we will celebrate October’s important political commitment, and continue to campaign for both financial and political action. We’ll also continue to campaign for systemic change on trade and governance rules – to ensure that governments are held to account for their promises and commitments to their citizens.
It is common for skeptics to question whether we can actually achieve the Millennium Development Goals set by the world back in 2001. In the midst of the current economic downturn, many are even more concerned about the efforts leaders would put in to further the progress that has already been made.
So, we were refreshed in a recent post we saw, ‘Freeing the entire human race from want’, by David Steven from Global Dashboard. Steven effectively challenges the skeptics and points out that the outlook is not as grim as people have imagined – genuine progress has been made, even in the face of global recession:
‘The Great Recession largely spared the developing world (so far at least) and, far from slowing down, the decline in poverty accelerated. According to the GMR, the headline target – halving the proportion of people living in poverty by 2015 – is not just going to be met, it’s going to be smashed.
In 1990, 41.7% of the world’s population lived on less than $1.25 a day. That’s dropped to 25.2% in 2005, less than five percentage points above the 2015 target of 20.9%. By 2015, the IMF and World Bank project it will be down to 14.4% – a reduction of nearly a third.’
But what about the clichéd argument that once we take China and India out of the equation, progress towards poverty eradication is negligible?
‘At this point, it’s more or less obligatory to point out that this is all down to China (with a small contribution from India), and that ‘real’ poverty – in Africa – hasn’t been touched. Except that’s not the whole story.
China has seen an astonishingly rapid progress – poverty was down almost fourfold by 2004, and is projected to be cut 12.5 times by 2015. India is also seeing accelerating improvements and is projected to have reduced poverty by more than half by the target date.
But Africa isn’t expected to do as badly as many people think. Its poverty rate was 57.6% in 1990, had fallen to 50.9% in 2005, and is projected to be 35.8% in 2015. That’s still ten percentage points above the target, but if attained, it would be far from an abject failure (180m fewer Africans in poverty in 2015 than would have been the case with no reduction in the proportion of the poor).’
Of course there will be challenges and much depends on policy decisions made by developing countries, but encouraging success stories suggest that rapid progress is possible.
‘much will depend on the nature and quality of growth that is generated, and whether we will continue to see the worrying divorce of income growth from human development (health, education, gender, etc.).
The GMR has an interesting box on poverty in Brazil, which was one of the most unequal countries in the world in 1990, but has seen both growth and a sharp decline in inequality since 2003:
The 1990s marked the expansion of social safety nets in Brazil. Public social expenditure, including conditional cash transfers such as the Bolsa Família, targeted to poor families rose from 17.6 percent of GDP in 1990 to 26.0 percent of GDP in 2008—an increase of almost 50 percent in education, health, housing, and social security. Recent evidence suggests that this increase in social spending and better targeting contributed much to reducing poverty and inequality.
The Bank and IMF believe that these policies took an additional 17.5 million people out of poverty, bringing the absolute poverty rate down by 9 percentage points more than if inequality had stayed high.’
He goes on to argue that there is no reason why progress wouldn’t continue in the future. Not only should we continue to strive to achieve the MDGs, further commitments also need to be made.
‘In 1990, there were 1.8 billion poor people (in a world of 5.3bn people). If the IMF/Bank projections pan out, by 2015, there’ll be 882.7m poor people left (in a world of 7.3bn). That represents real progress in both relative and absolute terms.
Here’s a thought. In the debate about what should succeed the MDGs, one obvious option is simply to extend the current set of goals and focus harder on the challenges facing the 15% of the world’s population that will still be below the poverty line in 2015.
If poverty does indeed fall by a billion between 1990 and 2015, then there’s no reason why it shouldn’t fall as fast over the next fifteen years, even as the global population grows by another billion. In other words, having halved absolute poverty, leaders could commit to abolishing it by 2030.’
In his conclusion, Steven argues that the world’s leaders should live up to what they have promised in the Millennium Declaration:
‘In the Millennium Declaration, the world’s leaders described the world’s central challenge as ensuring “globalization becomes a positive force for all the world’s people” and promised to “spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty.”
They were committed, they said, to “freeing the entire human race from want.”
With poverty in retreat, I think we should be doubling down on that commitment, and moving from halving poverty by 2015, to ending it by 2030. It’s a stretching target, especially if contagion from the economic crisis finally hits developing countries, and especially as the last of the poor will find it hardest to escape from poverty.
But it also seems to be a target that could be achieved.’
With news on the cuts of foreign aid and the cancelling of the Global Fund’s Round 11 of grant-making, this is an important reminder to all of us of the incredible progress that has been made and that the achievement of the MDGs is very much possible.
My name is Piper Paquen and I’m about to break the biggest story of the year. But it’s not this year. Instead, I am writing this from the future – from a world without polio.
It all started in August 2011 when I received a mysterious ring and the ominous instruction: Recruit, to see piece. The ring was missing this piece – so I set out to find it.
Over the weeks I discovered a monumental story: a debilitating disease, a powerful figure leading the movement to end an epidemic across America, a miracle and a worldwide effort to reach the most vulnerable people in developing communities. A war against a disease that would stop conflicts and replace bullets with vaccines – and a mass mobilisation that would beat back the disease by 99%.
This is the story of how our generation stood on the brink of eradicating the second major human disease in history. This is the story of polio.
Miss the last part of my series? You can catch up here.
On the 13th of November, 2013, the last recorded case of polio occurred in Pakistan. In 2014, there were no recorded cases... and in May 2015, the World Health Organisation declared South Asia the last region on the globe to be certified polio- free. Polio became the second major human disease to be eradicated in less than 40 years.
Celebrations were held all over the world and developing communities saw an increase in the workforce, better health coverage and a GDP increase per country of more than 6%. Aid dependence decreased because developing communities were able to channel new funds into infrastructure and education while rolling out existing projects to combat Malaria and TB. New possibilities were created by a generation born free of the disease, who would not contract it later in life. Advances in education would lead to improvements in transparency and greater accountability of governments.
Pakistan and Afghanistan, the last countries to beat polio, saw immediate benefits and placed crucial funds from UNICEF and the WHO into health programs and getting more girls into school. Conflicts accelerated by poverty slowed down and new government initiatives helped the countries build stronger relationships between regions and donors, isolating militants and using greater stability to strengthen civil society institutions.
Across the world, a new momentum fuelled by the success against polio brought advances in our understanding of HIV and AIDS. The Global Fund and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership advocated for a renewed emphasis on ending Malaria by 2020, following a sharp reduction in cases since the 2015 target, and new combination drugs (ATC’s) were developed that greatly improved the lives of millions of people suffering from Tuberculosis.
All this was possible because of a movement to end polio made of thousands of volunteers, campaigners and ordinary people like you who joined our call to close the funding gap and vaccinate against the final 1% of cases in 2011. It was possible because of Rotary International, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Polio Eradication Initiative who helped health workers reach some of the most remote parts of the globe and guarantee funding to let their work continue. It was possible because a generation understood that ending polio was not just achievable but was a matter of justice, of pride at attaining something truly incredible that would last forever.
This is just a glimpse of what we could achieve by taking small steps today. A world without polio is within reach – and it’s not far away. You can help make Piper’s story a reality by calling on our world leaders to provide crucial support to ending the final 1% of polio cases by signing the petition here- and you can bring the story of polio to your community and inspire others by learning about our polio ambassadors program.
On 28th October as the biggest ever gathering of Commonwealth Leaders takes place, The End of Polio Concert will bring thousands of campaign supporters from across the country, and the Commonwealth, to raise their voices in support of polio eradication. This massive display of public support will drive the issue of investment in eradication back into the international spotlight, and provide Commonwealth leaders with a mandate to close the funding gap currently limiting eradication efforts.
Together we can end polio and complete the missing piece. With a signature you will be adding your voice to the thousands of supporters calling for an end to a crippling and potentially fatal disease that threatens the lives and prosperity of millions. For every signature, Rotary will vaccinate a child in need and give us a chance to finish the story.
As part of our focus on health and poverty this month, we look at another amazing video by The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria – who work to combat these diseases across the world. The Global Fund contributes 2/3 of the international funding to fight TB and Malaria and almost a quarter of all money to fight AIDS worldwide – making their work vital to increasing the capacity of communities in developing countries across the world, by stopping preventable disease and allowing individuals to live enriching lives free from disease.
Their work is huge with thousands of volunteers and health workers in more than 150 countries who are able to save one million people every single year, making ending the gap in funding for global health even more important. That’s 3,600 lives every day – lives that keep breathing, keep living and achieving great things because of vaccinations, bed nets, HIV testing, advice, research and global outreach to developing communities most at risk from these three diseases.
Together with our partners Malaria No More UK, we are supporting the Global Fund’s One Million Lives campaign to fight malaria; a disease that causes around 225 million illnesses and 781,000 deaths every year, and cripples the economies of developing countries.
Malaria is preventable, but it kills a child every 90 seconds, or about half the time it takes to read one of our blogs. The Global Fund provide crucial grants to projects that help tackle these diseases, like the Affordable Medicines Facility for Malaria, working with the Roll Back Malaria partnership and DFID to make the most effective combination of Malaria treatment drugs (ATC’s) available to developing countries by lowering prices, subsidising procurement and eliminating the bridge between buyers and pharmaceuticals.
As the video shows so well, this is a fight we can win. With the right funding the Global Fund can use the support from everyday people – like you and me – to make miracles happen.
With the right funding the Global Fund and others can make sure that all children in the world are born HIV free by 2015, and by 2020 we can eliminate malaria. We have the medicines, skills and awareness to help end these diseases... and we have the manpower too. We know that small things can make big changes, like expanding the provision of malaria nets or providing basic skin tests for TB among high risk communities.
The work of the Global Fund is crucial for helping targeted projects and healthcare reaching the most vulnerable communities. Diseases like Malaria and HIV are entrenched in the complex cycle of poverty across the world and developing communities are often at the highest risk of live threatening illnesses whilst receiving the least access to treatment. Preventative measures are a key way in which the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and others are able to stem this tide, by co-ordinating immunisations, outreach of vaccines and awareness programs but they urgently require funding.
In Spring of next year, governments are getting together to decide how much more money to give the Global Fund. Now is the time for donors to step up and declare they will ‘Fund the Fund’.
Together with Malaria No More UK, we are asking you to sign our petition asking the British Government to double what it gives to The Global Fund. We need to make sure they’re doing all they can to save lives - by setting an example for the rest of the world to follow.
If the Global Fund has the extra money it needs, it will get us a long way towards saving 3 million children’s lives from malaria by 2015. Not to mention the millions more that will be helped by the Global Fund’s work on TB and HIV, so please add your name to the petition.