On September 20-22, 192 UN member states will meet in New York to discuss how much has been done and how much needs to be done to achieve those eight goals that all of them had set together for the overall development of the human race in this millennium. Each country will present its plan of action to meet the target, year 2015, to achieve the goals.
Although the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are quite ambitious and tough to achieve, they do not seem impossible. Thanks to the unique strategic inventions and enterprising creed of ‘humanitarian entrepreneurs’, there is hope and positivity in the air.
One such humanitarian entrepreneurial venture is Vestergaard Frandsen. The organization has aligned its business goals with the UN MDGs and focuses on Goal Four “reducing child mortality; Goal Five “improving maternal health; and Goal Six” combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Founded in 1957, with focus on helping to achieve the UN MDGs, the company has evolved into a multinational leader.
Vestergaard Frandsen is playing a significant role in making possible the achievement of these goals by making ‘life-saving products” and ensuring that they reach the right destination. The company’s approach was honoured in 2009 with the Social and Economic Innovation Award from The Economist magazine, and the 2010 Financial Times Social Innovation Award for Most Innovative Small For-Profit Company. Vestergaard Frandsen has been a signatory of the UN Global Compact since 2006, and it claims to be targeting to make 2010 the best year yet in terms of progress towards the MDGs.
The lines in the message from CEO Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen, in the company’s 2009 CSR report, reads: Humanitarian entrepreneurship represents our longstanding commitment delivering lasting positive change in local and global communities. Our bottom line is never just calculated in profit, but in the good our company does for the least fortunate…
In the current financial climate, investments from the growing list of companies seeking to make a positive contribution to global public health need to be more deliberate and specific. These contributions benefit not just their bottom lines, but also empower communities in developing nations.
Today, efforts that are being made to control malaria do have some potential, and MDG targets of a two-thirds reduction in child mortality by 2015 are possible because there are enough products available to strengthen and expedite the fight against diseases. For instance, The Global Malaria Action Plan has a goal of universal bed net coverage by the end of 2010, and it is very much possible as Vestergaard Frandsen ensures adequate supply of PermaNet.
As many mosquito species are becoming increasingly resistant to insecticides, Vestergaard Frandsen has taken a multi-pronged approach to fight insecticide resistance (IR). It has not only created products, but has also taken up advocacy activities to promote IR awareness. It formed a public “private partnership with the Centre Suisse de Recherche Scientifique (CSRS) in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. The collaboration consists of mosquito-rearing facilities, a research laboratory where bio-efficacy testing will be conducted, and a bio-molecular lab for detailed analyses of a variety of resistance mechanisms in mosquito populations.
To help bridge the global water gap that further results in the gender equality gap, Vestergaard Frandsen has created a revolutionary, point-of-use solution: LifeStraw. Women and girls bear the responsibility of fetching water for their families in much of the developing world, and on average they walk several kilometres each day to the nearest water source. With LifeStraw water-filtration tools, families can filter water closer to home and girls can better spend their time in school, learning vital lessons to further their independence.
The lifesaving CarePack, a unique concept by the company, is a kit that includes PermaNet bed nets, LifeStraw water filters, educational materials and condoms. The concept is designed to provide products that last for three years without repeat intervention, which is a crucial component for cost efficiency in a rural setting. The pack has been a great success in rural Africa, where the company continues to spend a considerable amount of time and money in identifying and helping people affected with HIV. In September 2009, the company tested and counselled nearly 50,000 people in Lurambi district of Kenya, in using tools and techniques to prevent malaria, HIV and waterborne diseases. It has also funded the Emusanda Health Centre for regular check-ups, preventative care, and counselling of HIV-affected people in the region.
In keeping with its high standards for human and labour rights, Vestergaard Frandsen has taken steps to ensure that the company does not sanction child labour, as well as all forms of forced and compulsory labour. In 2008, the company implemented new Business Conduct Principles (BCPs), which expressly prohibit this type of activity and call for biannual independent audits to ensure they are upheld.