New partnership to catalyse economic growth and alleviate poverty

Unilever has joined Acumen and the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership in an initiative that aims to improve the livelihoods of as many as 300,000 smallholder farmers and their communities in Africa, South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Fresh thinking in supply chains

The Enhanced Livelihoods Investment Initiative (ELII) is a three-year, minimum $10 million (€8.8 million) investment that will catalyse economic growth and alleviate poverty among low-income communities in the developing world, while creating more inclusive and sustainable value chains.

One of its primary goals will be to create and scale up privately held enterprises which will support smallholder farmers and link them to Unilever’s global supply chains and distribution networks. A number of Unilever’s foods and refreshment brands could be involved in the projects.

CEO Paul Polman says: “This partnership has the potential to dramatically increase the scale of what we can do to support smallholder farmers, empower women across our supply chains and in turn help build sustainable, viable businesses that alleviate poverty. Ultimately, we see this as a new model for creating a vibrant ecosystem of enterprises across supply chains.”

Acumen invests in business models that deliver critical goods and services to the world’s poor. The Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership – established by former US President Bill Clinton and Canadian philanthropist Frank Giustra – creates enterprises that generate social impact and financial returns by addressing gaps in supply and distribution chains in developing countries.

Helping to pull people out of poverty

According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, 2.5 billion people are involved in smallholder agriculture globally, accounting for an estimated 500 million small farms producing 80% of the food consumed in emerging markets.

In addition, the increasing global demand for food in developed and emerging countries, driven in part by population growth, has created opportunities for the expansion of smallholder agriculture.

However, it is difficult for many smallholder farmers to access and adopt beneficial agricultural innovations that can help pull them out of poverty, as the companies providing them face challenges in reaching these customers and achieving profitability.

The ELII will help these companies overcome those challenges.

Supporting ethical farming

Similarly, responsible sourcing of raw agricultural products relies heavily on the ability to enable farmers to run viable, profitable farms that can guarantee a reliable supply of high-quality raw materials while embracing best practices in ethical farming.

The ELII has been specifically designed to create, invest in and accelerate the growth of agricultural enterprises and innovative business models that can bring smallholder farmers into global markets while improving the livelihoods of their customers, families and communities.

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