Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards 2015

Congratulations to HRH The Prince of Wales Young Sustainability Entrepreneur Prize winner Dr Sara Saeed (29) co-founder of doctHERs. Dr Saeed is creating a network of clinics in Pakistan where women with limited or non-existent access to primary and secondary healthcare can now have consultations with qualified doctors. The project’s key innovation is using technology to draw on the large number of qualified female doctors who currently do not practise, largely because of socio-cultural barriers. Read more about her work here.

We are humbled by the passion, ingenuity and commitment of our cohort of young entrepreneurs in creating a safer, healthier and brighter future for the future of the planet and everyone in it!

If you would like to stay informed about news from the Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Network, please register your interest here.

Prize Ceremony in London

May 16, 2016
  • Applications open
    September 23, 2015
  • Deadline for All Applications
    November 20, 2015
  • Finalists Announced
    April 13, 2016
  • Finalists Pitch to Judges
    May 13, 2016
  • Prize Ceremony in London
    May 16, 2016

Awards Blog

This Colombian enterprise recycles plastic and transforms it into construction materials that are used to provide high-quality, safe, low-cost housing. 

Jun 10, 16

Uncommon Cacao works directly with cacao farmers to deliver premium quality and transparently sourced cacao to the specialty chocolate market.

Jun 06, 16

When used in cooking, Dr. Gavin Armstrong's Lucky Iron Fish has been shown to substantially reduce instances of iron deficiency, which affects billions worldwide.

Jun 06, 16

On September 25, 2015, world leaders will sign up to 17 United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development. These ambitious goals set out to end extreme poverty, tackle climate change, empower women, secure universal water access, and reduce hunger by 2030. If the goals are met, they will ensure the health, safety and future of the planet for everyone on it. 

At Unilever, we support the Global Goals because we see this is not only a moral imperative, it also makes good business sense. The challenges that the Global Goals aim to tackle have a huge impact on our business and are aligned with our own ambition set out in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

Our best chance for meeting the Global Goals is if everyone is aware of them and takes action to achieve them. We are now working with others, including Project Everyone and Global Citizen, to raise awareness of the Global Goals and inspire action around the world.

The Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards are one significant way we want to inspire action—that is why the search is on for young innovators aged 35 or under that have already begun to address the challenges at the heart of the Global Goals.

In partnership with the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), and in collaboration with Ashoka, we are looking for innovative and scaleable technologies or initiatives that are contributing to one or more of the eight Global Goals we’ve identified as most relevant to our business and entrepreneurs. 

With more than seven billion people on our planet, the Earth’s resources are under immense strain. The planet is warming, water is scarce, energy is expensive, food supplies are uncertain, and the gap between rich and poor is widening. 

Progress has been made on many fronts through the creative efforts of entrepreneurs, researchers, governments, and communities. Yet many of the trends related to sustainability—in human and ecological systems—are still getting worse and the evidence suggests we must move faster to reverse, or manage, the escalating consequences to people and the planet

Together with CISL, we believe that the younger generation may have the most important contributions to make—the imagination and ingenuity of young people must be unleashed to identify sustainable solutions for what are often seen as impossible problems.

The Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards were launched in 2013 to inspire and support the innovation and creativity of young people who are responding to the greatest global challenges facing us today.

This year, seven young entrepreneurs will receive a total of €200,000 in funding and support to help take their sustainable solutions to the next level. The prize package includes funding, customised expert mentoring support, access to an online business development programme, a two-day accelerator workshop at the University of Cambridge, and networking with senior executives and sustainability leaders at Unilever’s headquarters. 

One entrepreneur will take home the greatest prize fund and be presented with the HRH The Prince of Wales Young Sustainability Entrepreneur Prize at an unforgettable event in London.

The winners of the previous Awards, in 2013 and 2014, demonstrate that innovative solutions can influence people across markets to buy smarter and live more sustainably, and can provide businesses with tools to improve their productive, efficient and responsible use of natural resources. The overall winner of last year’s competition, Daniel Yu, developed a simple software solution that helps medical clinics in the developing world digitise and manage inventory records—delivering better outcomes for patients and improving efficiency across the supply chain. The winner of the inaugural Awards, Gamal Albinsaid, created an ambitious and quickly growing waste recycling programme, which also addresses the demand for health care services from Indonesia’s poorest communities.

If your initiative is already helping people to live more sustainably and is ready to scale up to shape the better future described by the Global Goals, enter today! Help make this the generation that secures the health, safety and future of the planet for everyone on it.  

About Unilever

Unilever makes many of the world’s favourite brands, such as Lipton, Dove, Knorr, Magnum, and Surf. Our products meet people’s everyday social needs for washing, cooking and cleaning, and are used two billion times a day in over half the households on the planet.

We believe business must be part of the solution to today’s global social and environmental challenges and that the most scalable and sustainable way a company can make a difference to society is through its brands and how it does business. If we all work together we can create a world where everyone lives well and lives within the natural constraints of our planet.

It’s why we have put sustainable living at the heart of our business model and why our company purpose is to make sustainable living commonplace. The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, our blueprint for sustainable growth, commits to: 

  • Decoupling growth from environmental impact.
  • Helping more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being.
  • Enhancing the livelihoods of millions of people by 2020.


It’s also why we have created these awards with Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and are working in collaboration with Ashoka to find young entrepreneurs from around the world. We want to help seven young leaders to take their initiatives to the next stage and scale up on the path  a better, brighter, more sustainable future.

Sustainability is good for our business and our brands. Our ‘sustainable living brands’—brands that contribute to one or more of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan goals and have a sustainable living purpose—accounted for half the company’s growth in 2014 and grew at twice the rate of the rest of the business. Our brands leading the way on sustainable living include Dove, Lifebuoy, Ben & Jerry’s,Comfort and Domestos. 


About University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) empowers business and policy leaders to make the necessary adjustments to their organisations, industries and economic systems to respond to critical global challenges.  By bringing together multidisciplinary researchers with influential business and policy practitioners, we foster an exchange of ideas across traditional boundaries to generate new, solutions-oriented thinking.

Our partnership with Unilever on these ground-breaking awards for young entrepreneurs makes a vital contribution to our Rewiring the Economy plan.

Rewiring the Economy is our ten-year, ten-point plan to lay the foundations for a sustainable economy. It is built on ten interconnected tasks, delivered by three key groups of leaders: government, finance and business. Rewiring the Economy shows how they can be tackled co-operatively over the next decade to create an economy that encourages sustainable business practices and delivers positive outcomes for people and societies.

The Unilever Awards demonstrate how business can take a lead by seeking to support new models of value creation (Task 7), as well as by using their communication and marketing muscle to build public understanding of sustainable business (Task 10).  The Awards also exemplify the boundary-spanning nature of collaboration required to deliver the plan and show how a company can find innovative ways to develop the capabilities to act (Task 9).


About Ashoka

Ashoka is the largest network of social entrepreneurs worldwide, with nearly 3,000 Ashoka Fellows in 70 countries putting their system-changing ideas into practice on a global scale. Founded by Bill Drayton in 1980, Ashoka has provided start-up financing, professional support services, and connections to a global network across the business and social sectors, and a platform for people dedicated to changing the world. Ashoka launched the field of social entrepreneurship and has activated multi-sector partners across the world who increasingly look to entrepreneurial talent and new ideas to solve social problems.




  • Six finalists will each receive cash prizes of €10,000, along with support and mentorship (worth €10,000).
  • One winner will receive a €50,000 cash prize and will be awarded the HRH The Prince of Wales Young Sustainability Entrepreneur Prize at an event in London in Spring 2016 and €25,000 worth of support and mentoring.


All entrants will benefit from exposure to a range of leading sustainability experts, entrepreneurs and investors during the process, along with recognition via Unilever’s global channels and the networks of the University of Cambridge and Ashoka.

How to enter:

  • Click "Enter" in the menu and follow the instructions.
  • For advice about how to create a stronger entry, read these tips.
  • You must enter by Midnight GMT on 20 November 2015. No entries will be accepted after this point.


  • The competition is open to individuals from any part of the world. 
  • Applicants, or the the founder on whose behalf the applicant is applying, must be 18-35 years old at the time of entry.
  • Entrants are required to be the initiative’s founder, co-founder, or equivalent.
  • Initiatives must have grown beyond the conceptual stage—with the product, process, or enterprise already gaining traction among local communities or other markets.
  • Entries cannot be accepted from current Unilever employees.
  • Applications must be submitted in English. (The online programme, accelerator event and the pitch will all be delivered in English, and proficiency in written and oral English is required.)
  • Solutions must relate to one or more of the UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) listed below:
    • Global Goal 1  No Poverty: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
    • Global Goal 2 – Zero Hunger: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture
    • Global Goal 5 – Gender Equality: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
    • Global Goal 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation: Ensure availability and suitable management of water and sanitation for all
    • Global Goal 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all
    • Global Goal 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all
    • Global Goal 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production: Ensure responsible consumption and production patterns
    • Global Goal 13 -- Climate Action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts


Assessment Criteria

Entrants will be assessed on three main criteria:

  • Innovation: The best entries will demonstrate a creative approach to the challenge they tackle and the solution they propose. This innovation may comprise new products or practices, or new applications, or hybrid combinations of existing tools. The initiative does not have to involve inventing something entirely new, but entries should describe how their solutions are driven by original, ground-breaking ideas or are being implemented in a way that will make a new significant difference to the community that they are operating in.
  • Measurable Impact: Entries should explain how the initiative delivers positive social, economic, and/or environmental impact, using both quantitative and qualitative data. The best projects will tackle a significant sustainability issue and will clearly demonstrate potential for making a big difference by being expanded to new markets, sectors, or geographies.
  • Financial Sustainability: Entries should have a clear plan for reaching long-term goals and securing financial backing—they should describe not only how they currently finance their work, but also how they plan to finance it in the future. The strongest entries will outline how their solution can be sustained without relying on philanthropic donations or aid for core funding. 


Entries will also be evaluated on:

  • The leadership qualities of the entrepreneur, including how effectively they are able to engage with relevant communities and stakeholders to realise the full potential of the solution.
  • The contribution that the awards process and prizes will have on the success of the initiative.


Entries that make it to the next stage will be requested to submit additional information that will be reviewed by a selection committee. This will include a short business plan, some financial projections and an outline of how you intend to use the prize money. Templates and guidance will be provided.


Deadlines, Procedures and Rules

Applications must be submitted online through the Ashoka Changemakers website between 23 September and 20 November 2015  at 11.59pm ET.

Seven finalists will be announced in March 2016. All finalists will be required to join online sessions (Spring 2016)  to develop their ideas and build their networks. Attendance is also required at the Accelerator Workshop in Cambridge, UK, and the awards Prize Event in London, UK, at which the The Prince of Wales Prize will be awarded. 
Support is provided to all award winners and will be designed and structured around individual requirements through the online programme and for the 12 months following announcement of the prizes. 

Individual entries only are accepted. Where there are multiple founders of an initiative, only one person can enter the competition. Prizes will be awarded to individuals only and we cannot accommodate co-founders in the competition process. Co-founders may, however, take part in the ongoing mentoring process if the winning individual agrees this as part of the bespoke mentoring plan.

To be shortlisted as a finalist, you must commit to attending the accelerator workshop and prize event in the UK—dates will be confirmed during the shortlisting process. 

The cost of travel to the UK and accommodation during your stay in Cambridge and London will be covered by the competition.

If you have questions, please contact Isabela Carvalho ([email protected]).


Disclaimer – Compliance with Legal Restrictions

The sponsor of this opportunity reserves the right to disqualify at any time (in its reasonable discretion) any participant or entry for good cause, including, but not limited to, non-compliance with these Guidelines and Criteria, the Changemakers Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, or violation of any applicable laws, codes, or regulations.

Ashoka complies fully with all U.S. laws and regulations, including Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations, export control, and anti-money laundering laws. Any grants will be awarded subject to compliance with such laws. Ashoka will not make any grant if it finds that to do so would be unlawful. This may prohibit awards in certain countries and/or to certain individuals or entities. All recipients will comply with these laws to the extent they are applicable to such recipients. No recipient will take any action that would cause Ashoka to violate any laws. Additionally, Ashoka will not make any grant to a company involved in the promotion of tobacco use.

Global Goal 1 - No Poverty 
End poverty in all its forms everywhere 

More than 3 billion people live on less than US $2.50 a day, according to World Bank figures. More than 1.3 billion of these people live in extreme poverty, which means surviving on less than US $1.25 a day. Whilst these numbers have decreased in recent decades, they remain staggering.

Have you founded an initiative that creates opportunities for people in low-income communities to live better lives and lift themselves, and others, out of poverty? 

To read more about what Unilever is doing to contribute to this Global Goal, click here.

Global Goal 2 – Zero Hunger
End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture

The food system is broken. Millions of people are not getting enough to eat, whilst millions of others are eating too much of the wrong foods. Smallholder farmers are particularly vital to securing future food supplies, currently representing 85 percent of farmers worldwide and producing 70 percent of the world’s food. 

Calling all entrepreneurs with products and services that tackle nutrition issues and food security, or help smallholder farmers to improve their practices. 

To read more about what Unilever is doing to contribute to this Global Goal, click here.

Global Goal 5 – Gender Equality
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Women do 60 percent of the world’s work but earn only 10 percent of the world’s income. And whilst men reinvest 30 to 40 percent of income into their families, women reinvest 90 percent of their income.

Just think what the ripple effect will be on families, communities and economies when women are helped to do well, earn more, and are encouraged to speak out on the most important issues that affect their lives.

Are you working on a product, service, or initiative that is helping to empower women and girls?

To read more about what Unilever is doing to contribute to this Global Goal, click here.

Global Goal 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation 
Ensure availability and suitable management of water and sanitation for all

2.8 billion people live in water-stressed regions. This number is estimated to increase to 4 billion by 2025— more than half the world’s population.

Billions of people also still lack access to effective hygiene, safe drinking water, and a clean and safe toilet. It is estimated that 1,600 children under 5 die each day from diarrhoea caused by the inter-related issues of poor sanitation, hygiene, and unsafe water. 

We are seeking entrepreneurs with initiatives that improve hygiene practices or innovations that improve access to sanitation in remote areas. Or perhaps you are working on an initiative that conserves or reduces the amount of water used across communities, or helps people manage access to water and adopt tools and behaviours that help them use less in the home or at work?

To read more about what Unilever is doing to contribute to this Global Goal, click here.

Global Goal 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy 
Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all

Around 1.1 billion people worldwide are still living without access to electricity. Another 2.9 billion rely on wood or other biomass for cooking and heating, resulting in indoor and outdoor air pollution that leads to 4.3 million deaths each year.

Have you developed a product or service that helps give communities access to affordable, clean, safe, low carbon energy? 

To read more about what Unilever is doing to contribute to this Global Goal, click here.

Global Goal 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all

With a growing population, increasing urbanisation, and ongoing mechanisation of jobs, employment will remain a key social issue. Global unemployment was estimated to be nearly 202 million people in 2013, with a youth unemployment rate of more than 12 percent, or some 73 million young people. According to World Bank estimates, 600 million jobs will be needed by 2020.
Micro-enterprises are one vital way through which those with low-incomes can escape poverty and contribute significantly to economic growth, social stability, and equity. 

We are looking for entrepreneurs who are working to improve skills, create business opportunities, and provide access to markets to help people develop and grow small-scale enterprises that benefit them and the communities they operate in.

To read more about what Unilever is doing to contribute to this Global Goal, click here.

Global Goal 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production
Ensure responsible consumption and production patterns 

A 70 percent increase in the amount of solid waste generated by urban residents is forecast between now and 2025. The annual cost of solid waste management will increase most severely in low-income countries, and is projected to rise from US $205 billion to $375 billion in a decade.

Are there entrepreneurs out there with ingenious initiatives that help to reduce, reuse and recycle waste throughout the pre-production, production and consumption lifecycle? Initiatives to reduce packaging should demonstrate significant cost benefits in materials, energy and transport.

To read more about what Unilever is doing to contribute to this Global Goal, click here.

Global Goal 13 – Climate Action
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts 

The global temperature has risen by 0.8⁰C since pre-industrial levels and scientists now consider that a rise above 2⁰C represents “dangerous” levels of global warming. Climate change is a multiplier of social and environmental risks, and the impacts will be unevenly distributed across the world, including disruption of weather patterns, rising sea levels, decreased ice-cover, and acidification of the oceans.

We are looking for innovative technologies and solutions that build the resilience of communities and economies to “locked-in” climate change, or that can radically reduce the consumption of energy or its carbon intensity.

To read more about what Unilever is doing to contribute to this Global Goal, click here.

Global Goals For Sustainable Development

Awards Entries

Title Contributor Location
Safi Organics Samuel Rigu Nairobi, Kenya
Avatar Sustainable Technologies Bhavin Bhayani Syracuse, United States
GRIS water saving system Alberto Vasquez Budapest, Hungary
SPOUTS of Water Seul Ku Seguku, Uganda
Illuminum Greenhouses, Kenya Brian Bett Nairobi, Kenya
EarthEnable Gayatri Datar Kigali, Rwanda
Dazin Deepak Ashwani Bhutan
Vandebron Jaap Grolleman Amsterdam, Netherlands
Entomos Matthew McLaren Cambridge, United Kingdom
New Hope Ecotech Thiago Pinto São Paulo, Brazil