The Innovation Exchange challenge competition, delivered by KTN Global Alliance Africa, is supporting Unilever to identify innovative approaches towards new circular business models for reuse and refill models for informal trade in South Africa.

The most promising solution provider is selected by Unilever and may be given a commercial opportunity to deliver their solution in partnership with Unilever and receive support from KTN.

Challenge Background

Plastic is very valuable. It helps Unilever to get their products to consumers safely and efficiently. It’s often the lowest carbon footprint option compared to other materials, yet far too much plastic ends up in our environment. Global research has shown the flow of plastic into the ocean each year could triple by 2040. This must stop.

By 2025 Unilever will:

• Halve the amount of virgin plastic used in packaging and achieve an absolute reduction of more than 100,000 tonnes in plastic use.
• Help collect and process more plastic packaging than sold.
• Ensure that 100% of plastic packaging is designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable.
• Increase the use of post-consumer recycled plastic material in packaging to at least 25%.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution and to bring about change different solutions need to be considered. This requires out of the box innovative thinking and new business models, especially for reaching small traders and family owned shops in South Africa, where the packaging of product currently centres on small sachets, with an associated high plastic content. However, cost savings and convenience, rather than the reducion of plastic waste, may be biggers drivers for cosnumers with low disposable incomes.

This is where Unilever want your help. How can re-fill and re-use be applied in the informal setting such as spaza shops and dukas, to bring the Wow factor that consumers want to use and in doing so drive the circular economy?


Also see our parallel challenge for innovative approaches towards new circular business models for reuse and refill for online customers: click here for details.

Download the brochure for both challenges here.

Global Alliance Innovation Exchange

Global Alliance Innovation Exchange is an Innovate UK KTN programme specially designed to help UK and international organisations search for game-changing solutions to innovation challenges. Through the programme, we support innovation transfer by matching industry or societal challenges to innovative companies from across a diverse range of sectors. Our success is built on our deep sector expertise, trusted independence and global network.

Find more Global Alliance Innovation Exchange challenges here.