Every year, Hult Prize inspires student entrepreneurs to solve the world’s biggest challenges through innovative social enterprises with positive global impact.
Through the year-long competition, over 100,000 young people in 120 countries work to create high-impact startups that address an annual challenge in alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Finalists pitch their businesses to a panel of expert judges, and the winning team receives $1M USD in funding to make their idea a reality.
The 2022 challenge was “Getting the World Back to Work.” It inspired 20,000 proposed startups.
During the Global Finals at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting, six teams pitched solutions as diverse as brewing beer from unsold bread to providing employment for people with disabilities. The winner of the 2022 Hult Prize, announced at the meeting by U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, is team EcoBana, from St. Paul’s University in Nairobi, Kenya.
EcoBana’s vision is to enable local production of sanitary pads based on banana fiber. The affordable, eco-friendly pads allow more girls and women to stay in school or seek employment. Pad production recycles organic waste from the banana harvest and reduces plastic use in period products.
In his acceptance speech, team member Dullah Shiltone said, “It’s high time for men to stand up on a global stage and talk proudly about menstrual hygiene. It’s not a problem for women only. This is a human problem, and menstrual hygiene is a human right.”
Kenyan President Ruto congratulated the young team—the members are between 20 and 24 years old—on his personal Facebook page.
The theme of the 2023 Hult Prize competition, “Redesigning Fashion,” challenges participants to launch an innovative, for-profit social venture in the clothing and fashion industry to make it more sustainable.
The fashion industry is the world’s third-largest manufacturing sector, employing 300 million people and contributing $2.4 trillion to the global economy. Unfortunately, the fashion industry is also responsible for up to 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions—more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. It consumes 215 trillion liters of water a year and accounts for 9% of the microplastics found in our oceans.
For the majority of fashion industry workers, conditions are dangerous and exploitative. Compensation is often below a livable wage, especially for women, who comprise 80% of the workforce.
The 2023 Hult Prize invites participants to rethink every stage of the fashion industry’s ecosystem. It calls for ideas that create measurable positive impact on people and the planet and support the United Nations in meeting its Sustainable Development Goals by the 2030 deadline.
For the first time in the 23-year history of the Hult Prize, each runner up will receive $100,000 in funding. Combined with the $1 million grand prize, that brings the total annual prize pool to $1.5 million.