Unilever Bangladesh, The UK Government, And EY To Fund Early-Stage Businesses To Foster Plastic Circularity And Climate Innovation3 min read

Unilever Bangladesh Limited (UBL), the country’s leading Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) company, is delighted to announce a new collaboration with the UK Government, EY, the SAJIDA Foundation, and the British Asian Trust to launch the TRANSFORM Climate Challenge, said a press release.

This new impact accelerator aims to promote climate resilience and plastic circularity through innovative businesses in Bangladesh.

Unilever, the UK Government, and EY are experienced collaborators on the TRANSFORM initiative, which has positively impacted the lives of 10 million people, 3 million of whom are in Bangladesh.

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Today they join forces with the SAJIDA Foundation and the British Asian Trust on the TRANSFORM Climate Challenge, to support social innovators working in the areas of regenerative agriculture and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WSH) and are together expanding the scope to also include plastic circularity.

The TRANSFORM Climate Challenge launch event was held at the residence of the British High Commissioner to Bangladesh. The British High Commissioner, H.E. Sarah Cooke, and Zaved Akhtar, Chairman and Managing Director of UBL, were in attendance. Senior officials of UBL and representatives from partners of the initiative were also present at the event.

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Under the TRANSFORM Climate Challenge, innovative businesses can access more than BDT 5.5 crore in grant capital, business mentoring and have the opportunity to test innovations in corporate value chains. Having received a large number of applications on WSH and regenerative agriculture, the Challenge is now open for applications from Bangladeshi enterprises working on​ the collection and processing of plastic waste​ and enhancing recycling capabilities for plastic waste.

Entrepreneurs can apply from 1 November 2023. Through TRANSFORM, the UK Government will provide successful applicants with grant funding of up to BDT 9,000,000 per enterprise to test and scale their projects. This is combined with learning, exchange, and networking opportunities with other grantees and business support from Unilever and EY through TRANSFORM.

This program will be informed by research led by EY on mapping the regenerative plastic value chain in India and Bangladesh. The new report highlights the impact of the surge in plastic waste generation, exacerbated by inadequate waste management infrastructure, limited recycling facilities, and inadequate public awareness. It also shows the need for innovative solutions managing plastic waste across the value chain and the gap in the resourcing of financially viable business models to achieve long-term sustainable solutions.

E. Sarah Cooke, British High Commissioner to Bangladesh, said: “Partnership and innovation are key parts of the TRANSFORM model. It empowers entrepreneurs who know their communities best and works with them to test innovative solutions. The combination of the UK Government’s grant funding, together with Unilever and EY’s expertise and network accelerants, will help support social enterprises to increase their positive impact in tackling major environmental challenges.”

Zaved Akhtar, Chairman and Managing Director, of Unilever Bangladesh Limited (UBL), said: “Our experience has shown that solving complex plastic waste management challenges requires disruptive solutions from innovative startups and new businesses. Collaborating with forward-thinking entrepreneurs who are open to experimentation has been key to enhancing circularity. While our initiatives promote systemic change to keep plastic in the recycling loop, we acknowledge that tackling plastic pollution is a collective effort. The partnership between the UK Government, Unilever, and EY, leading to the creation and expansion of TRANSFORM, reflects this collaborative spirit.

In the TRANSFORM Climate Challenge, conducted in collaboration with the SAJIDA Foundation and the British Asian Trust, businesses will receive not only funding but also crucial mentorship and guidance. I congratulate the team for crafting a holistic program that paves the path toward circularity in our country. TRANSFORM’s innovative enterprises have already created new, scalable solutions to problems across the world and within the Unilever supply chain. We are proud to expand the model through the TRANSFORM Climate Challenge and are excited to hear from more Bangladeshi innovators who can drive change from the ground up.”

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