"Design For Good" Seeks to Address World’s Most Pressing Issues

A new, non-profit initiative named Design for Good is bringing together design leaders from some of the world’s biggest companies and institutions, to develop open-source products and services that address some of society’s biggest challenges. Launched today, the initiative will explore tangible, measurable solutions that respond to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals – a collection of 17 interlinked global targets intended to ensure a more sustainable and equitable future.

Every year, a different goal will provide a theme for Design For Good’s work. For its first project, the collective will seek to address “Goal Six” – defined by the UN as “ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”. The UN estimates that billions of people around the world still lack access to safe drinking water, managed sanitation, and basic hygiene. These alarming figures are what prompted Design For Good to focus its efforts on solutions for issues such as access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene; the promotion of desalination, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies; or the implementation of integrated water resources management.

“We have chosen to begin with Goal Six for three reasons,” says Benedict Sheppard, Trustee of Design for Good, and Partner at McKinsey & Company. “Firstly, it was one of the most mentioned goals during COP26. Secondly, it can benefit from a wide variety of design disciplines: from physical design of sanitary products to digital design for drought management, to service design for re-use ecosystems. Thirdly, it is a truly global challenge, with urgent needs on every continent.”

The founding partners of Design For Good – General Mills, Logitech, McKinsey & Company, Microsoft’s Xbox, Nedbank, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Philips, and the Royal College of Art – have each committed to up-front investment in terms of both funding and resource. The design leaders at each of the founding companies will then make up an advisory council to support volunteers from the nine organisations. Solutions will be worked on for six months, at which point they are submitted and assessed against the UN targets and indicators. The most promising new solutions each year will be awarded funding for accelerated scaling and implementation.

This year, Gilbert Houngbo, Chair of UN-Water and trustee of Design for Good, will help cultivate the support of local NGOs in communities most affected to provide insights into real-world needs and constraints, to ensure designers’ solutions are sustainable.

As we’re pushed deeper into the climate emergency, eyes are increasingly turning to big companies for solutions and assistance. Last week, Facebook and Google‘s parent companies Meta and Alphabet joined a $1 billion USD initiative to increase carbon capture, spearheaded by payment processor Stripe.
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