History shows that a good idea can come from anywhere, especially in the technology sector, where teams collaborate all the time to solve problems.

Global Citizen partner Accenture’s Sustainability Innovation Challenge aims to harness and inspire the collective intelligence of its innovators worldwide to design solutions for some of the world’s greatest environmental and social issues. Participants commit to a six-month program to build sustainability skills and pressure-test their ideas through rapid prototyping, life-centered design, 360° value, storytelling, and building for scale. 

During the 2022 Challenge, more than 1,400 ideas were submitted by 2,500 Accenture people.

The participants received consistent support to advance their innovations, including mentoring from a brain trust of sustainability leaders from Accenture, its clients and partners—including startups, NGOs and nonprofits, and academia.

Global Citizen asked members from four of the 2022 winning teams questions about their collaboration method, creative process and more. 

Category: Future of Climate Action Education

Profiled winner: Ben Aronson

Location: Washington, DC

Project: Ceru is a flexible learning platform providing educators with resources to monitor students’ eco impact and inspire next-generation sustainable thinkers.

Tell us about the “Aha!” moment for your project when the lightbulb went off, and you knew you had an idea you wanted to explore.

The “Aha!” moment for our team came when one of our mentors, who used to be an educator, told us that our take on incentivization through gamification might work great in schools, where teachers often look for ways to keep their students engaged. Putting our initial idea into the context of schools, with teachers and students as users, things really clicked. Our solution could be a fun, engaging way to use technology to help teach about sustainability and motivate students to become climate champions.

Who stands to benefit most from your project? Who or what are you hoping to help?

We hope that this idea will eventually make climate action education more accessible to schools and classrooms from all backgrounds and with varying resources. We believe that even the smallest actions have an impact on helping to keep our planet clean and hope to be able to connect those dots for students all around the globe.   

What is one action that you think every Global Citizen can take to make a difference for their own environmental impacts?

My hope is that our idea will unleash the voice and ingenuity of the next generation of climate leaders, but my wish is that every Global Citizen will use their powers for good to make our respective communities more sustainable, inclusive and equitable. 

Category: Future of Climate Resilient Communities

Profiled winner: Kyrin Pollock

Accenture office location: Boston

Project:The International Small Group and Tree Planting Program (TIST) is an existing program that improves farmers’ abilities to adapt to and mitigate shocks caused by climate change by improving the biodiversity of their local ecosystems, accessing educational resources and planting trees. We were helping them expand and enhance their program. 

Who stands to benefit most from your project? Who or what are you hoping to help?

TIST places the well-being of farmers front and center. Their program allows farmers to access new revenue streams by creating and selling carbon credits from newly planted trees. Not only do smallholder farmers gain additional income streams from access to carbon markets, but the connections made with other farmers create resilient social ecosystems. Farmers teach one another about a wide range of topics from conservation farming, health, water, sanitation and beekeeping. In addition to all these benefits for the farmers, tree planting improves local biodiversity. It has been an amazing experience to help TIST continue to grow and prepare to expand into previously untapped areas.

How did you use technology/innovation to enable/strengthen your project? 

As global awareness of climate change continues to increase, there is more scrutiny into the validity of carbon removal projects. TIST uses technology to enhance trust. Measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) tools can be used to measure tree growth/carbon removals and feed into a robust database that is transparent, accurate and auditable.

What is one action that every Global Citizen can take to make a difference in their community?

One practice that I learned from the TIST farmers is Kujengana, a Swahili word that means “to build each other up.” After every group meeting, farmers share Kujengana, or positive feedback, with one another. I think eco action should be approached in a similar manner. Focusing on what does not work can lead to inaction, whereas reinforcing what we do well creates a culture of learning and adapting.

Category: Future of Food 

Profiled winner: Irina Niculicea

Accenture office location: London

Project: Next Frontiers Farming strives to use multi-platform technology to help enhance tracking and tracing of cocoa supply chains to give farmers, food and beverage-related companies and consumers greater transparency.

Who stands to benefit most from your project?

By providing the right tools, my team – complied with people from the UK, France and India – are hoping to empower cocoa farmers at scale by giving timely advice to change toward sustainable practices and ultimately, result in income uplifts. The tools can also create transparency into how a product is being farmed and processed. This insight can help meet decarbonization targets.

How did you use technology/innovation to enable/strengthen your project? 

Our multi-technology idea incorporates satellite data for monitoring and verifying sustainable farming practices on the ground, whereas blockchain or distributed ledger technology is used for traceability and transparency across the value chain and creating trust with the customer. The project puts the cocoa farmers in focus with an idea that extra revenue generated from selling sustainable and verifiable cocoa products can be re-distributed back to the farmers. 

What is one action every Global Citizen can take to make a difference in the future of food? 

Every Global Citizen has a power to drive demand for sustainably sourced food: check labels, research companies and strive to not buy food from companies associated with exploited labor, deforestation and environmental degradation. Some companies give information on products that are traceable back to the production (by utilizing blockchain or distributed ledger technology). Consumers can easily scan the QR code and see the history of the product and how it was manufactured. 

Category: Future of Net-Positive Water

Profiled winners: Preeti Gupta and Shuchi Aggarwal

Accenture office location: New Delhi (NCR), India

Project: WOTER (Water. Ownership. Treatment. Ecosystem. Reuse) is a hyperlocal marketplace for trading recycled wastewater. 

Tell us about the “Aha!” moment for your project when the lightbulb went off, and you knew you had an idea you wanted to explore.

According to the World Resources Institute, one quarter of the world’s population live in countries with extremely high water stress. During our research, our team found that there is a nascent industry which uses cutting-edge technology to treat wastewater and produces high quality treated water. However, they are not able to get enough buyers. It was our “Aha” moment as we realized that we might extend the life of water and solve future water crises by creating a hyperlocal marketplace for trading recycled wastewater.

Was there a point in the Challenge that didn’t go as expected and forced you and the team to change direction? If so, how did you handle that?

Initially, we spent our research effort on recycle and reuse of industry effluent wastewater. However, it required longer time and deeper analysis of varied chemical compositions. So, we changed our approach and brought our focus on reusing treated sewage wastewater. We learned that there are lots of decentralized sewage treatment plants in India but our research showed only a very small percentage of this high-quality treated wastewater is being consumed. So, we are now looking to pilot and onboard treated wastewater sellers, treatment providers and industries as consumers of treated wastewater on the WOTER Exchange.

Who stands to benefit most from your project? Who or what are you hoping to help?

We believe the water industry, wastewater treatment provides, and consumers could benefit from the WOTER Exchange. 

  • Industries are under regulatory pressure to meet net zero. Consuming the treated wastewater may help achieve water sustainability goals, meet water demand during seasonal variations at a lower cost, and help increase brand value/goodwill.
  • Wastewater treatment plants could connect with industries to sell their treated wastewater, thereby, increasing revenue. 
  • For society, the WOTER Exchange may help improve water tables levels and prolong the usable water available on Earth for longer time. 

We believe the WOTER Exchange could bring behavioral changes and more awareness for recycling and reuse of treated water, as well as reduce groundwater pollution.

What is one action that you think every Global Citizen can take to make a difference in the future of net-positive water? 

Global Citizens should be aware of the various water stress challenges. Everyone should inspire the communities—and industries they work with—to look for ways to recycle and reuse treated wastewater. 


Defeat Poverty

What Inspires an Idea in Accenture’s Sustainability Innovation Challenge?