• The World Economic Forum’s New Champion companies explore business models, technologies and sustainable growth strategies that will be needed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
  • The New Champions awards recognize excellence in sustainability, digital disruption and agile business governance.
  • The Pioneers of Change summit, 16-20 November, will explore the innovation needed to bounce back from the pandemic.

It’s hard to think of another time when it’s been so crucial for businesses to look forward and innovate.

From their impact on the planet and society to how they can participate in building a better future, the World Economic Forum’s New Champion companies are doing just that – exploring the new business models, emerging technologies and sustainable growth strategies that will be vital in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The Forum’s New Champions awards has recognized three organizations with the potential to create real long-term change through the areas of sustainability, digital disruption and agile governance.

Winning projects must have the potential to deliver a substantial impact on business and society, be financially viable and ready to operate at scale – or already doing so.

Here are the three winners.

1. Excellence in Sustainability – Gemini Corporation

Global recycling company Gemini Corporation wants to help eradicate waste and drive growth of the global circular economy – giving “a second life” to all waste.

Founded in 1989 by chairman Surendra Patawari, it collects hundreds of thousands of tonnes of recyclable plastics from locations across the globe, as well as recycling huge amounts of rubber, metal, and paper, including 50 million tyres, 1 billion plastic bottles and 1.5 million refrigerators.

As well as helping to keep all this waste and surplus material in productive use, the company gives back to society through a number of initiatives in India.

These include providing free medical, educational, environmental and social care services to 12 villages in the state of Rajasthan, building two schools in India to provide free education for 400 underprivileged students a year, and planting and maintaining 100,000 trees in the Indian desert.

The company says it now wants to tackle the increase in plastic waste due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bright ideas are needed to build back better from the pandemic
Image: Anthony Indraus, StockSnap

Honourable mentions in the Excellence in Sustainability category go to:

KOIS: KOIS is an impact finance pioneer, turning projects with a high social and environmental impact into concrete investment proposals for the public and private sectors. KOIS focuses on three fields: health, education and employment, and the environment. Through their innovative finance projects and investments, they have helped to treat over 36 million patients, assist over 27,000 jobseekers and build over 2,500 sustainable housing units.

Denim Expert: Denim Expert is a niche denim manufacturing plant in Bangladesh that is actively working to promote sustainability and inclusivity in the apparel industry in the country. In 2019, the firm set sustainable goals and targets across several areas including reducing consumption of energy and water, CO2 emissions, and waste generation. In association with USAID, the firm is also working to provide opportunities to transgender people and human trafficking survivors.

Green Delta Insurance Company: Green Delta Insurance Company Limited (GDIC) is the largest insurance company in Bangladesh. Working with the Ministry of Health and Economics, the firm worked to provide affordable Universal Health Coverage which now impacts 82,000 households directly and 65,000 people indirectly.

2. Excellence in Digital Disruption – Optel Group

Businesses face “unsustainable environmental and social pressure” if they don’t have full transparency of their supply chains or aren’t able to measure or report on their impact, according to Optel Group.

Its technology helps companies in industries like pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and food and beverages track their assets in real time, mitigate risks such as counterfeiting, analyze their impact and resource use and verify the provenance of their products.

And it says its platform is already tracking more than 15 billion products a year, connecting 300,000 stakeholders and 15 million consumers.

That’s resulted in impacts including authenticating that a palm oil supply chain is responsible by monitoring things like deforestation activities and the social conditions of the workers. Its traceability technology has optimised the number of times reusable plastic containers can be used and has helped to achieve a 50% return rate for consumers sending end-of-life products back to the manufacturer.

And the company tracks more than 15 billion medications a year globally to protect consumers from fraudulent products.

Honourable mentions in the Excellence in Digital Disruption category go to:

Temenos: Temenos is helping banks to embrace digital transformation through advanced banking technology include Cloud and Software as a Service and Artificial Intelligence. During the Covid-19 pandemic, their technology allowed banks and credit unions to get vital government funding to small businesses quickly. An example is their project with Atlantic Union Bank (AUB) where they built a digital loan portal that helped AUB approve 6,500 applications - totaling $1.4bn small business funds - in just 13 days. When the program wrapped up, they had helped around 200,000 SME employees.

Puravankara: Puravankara Limited is a real estate conglomerate, with presence across India and overseas. It is one of the first builders to use precast technology in construction, which has reduced waste and cut construction time by 20- 25%.The brand has also transformed the experience of buying a house by introducing an online booking platform called “BookMyHome”, providing transparency to home buyers.

Zuoyebang Education Technology: Zuoyebang enables students in China to upload their homework questions and search for answers, with the help of Artificial Intelligence. With 800 million active users, it is one of the biggest online educators. Zuoyebang has taken the lead in sending "spring synchronized free courses" to more than 31 million children across the country in response to the Ministry of Education's call to ensure learning continued despite the pandemic.

3. Excellence in Agile Governance – Risk Insights

Risk Insights is a risk management advisory and consultancy. In May this year, the company launched a new corporate ratings tool for South Africa that uses artificial intelligence to rate listed companies by their environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials.

South Africa is a resource-based country facing multiple ESG challenges, including high greenhouse gas emissions from the country’s mining and manufacturing sectors.

How do I follow the Pioneers of Change Summit?

We have a rare and narrowing window of change to build a better world after the pandemic.

The World Economic Forum's inaugural Pioneers of Change meeting will bring together leaders of emerging businesses, social entrepreneurs and other innovators to discuss how to spark and scale up meaningful change.

To follow the Summit as an individual, you can become a digital subscriber here. As a company, you can participate in the summit by becoming a member of our New Champions Community.

Risk Insights’ solution is an online rating tool, which rates all companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange with an ESG score of one to four, with four being the strongest ESG rating.

Risk Insights’ founder and managing director Anushka Bogdanov developed the tool with a team of young data scientists with strong maths and engineering skills from South Africa’s townships.

“It’s now acknowledged that companies that have inclusive and meaningful social strategies – and responsibly include factors like race, gender, age and workable plans to deal with big issues like climate change and societal conflict – will be more successful in the future,” Bogdanov says.

Risk Insights is now using the tool to rate the Nigerian, Kenyan and Mauritian stock exchanges. It hopes to rate the New York and London stock exchanges by the end of 2021.

As a part of the New Champions Community, businesses enjoy access to Forum networks and expertise, which offers visibility and time-sensitive insight into strategic decision-making on the systemic issues. Apply here to join.