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Acumen and Unilever launch toolkit to measure impact of investment on women and girls

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The Lean Data toolkit, created with the support of the International Center for Research on Women, aims to bring a gender lens to impact measurement

Acumen and Unilever have partnered to bring a gender lens to impact measurement with a new toolkit designed to better understand how programs and services are affecting women and girls across the globe. Created with Acumen’s Lean Data team, the toolkit, A Lean Data How-to Guide: Understanding Gender Impact, delves into the work of five different programs within Acumen’s portfolio and Unilever’s initiatives to develop a new, highly effective framework that entrepreneurs, impact investors, corporations, donors and philanthropists can use to measure their impact on women and girls.

Women and girls make up more than half the global population, yet represent a staggering 70 percent of the world’s poor. While investing with a gender lens has gained momentum in recent years, tools that effectively measure how different programs, services, and products impact women and girls have not kept pace. Developed with the support of the International Center for Research on Women, the toolkit aims to unlock insights into how impact investing, the social sector and global business as a whole can better serve and empower girls and women.

“Acumen has been on a journey to explore how we apply gender considerations to our investing over the last few years,” said Tom Adams, Acumen’s Chief Impact Officer. “Now we’re taking that to a new level by significantly improving our ability to understand how our work creates meaningful change for the women and girls served by our companies, including if and why this might differ to their male counterparts.”

“At Unilever, we want our business to be a leading force in challenging and changing the harmful norms and stereotypes that are a barrier to women’s economic empowerment,” said Katja Freiwald, Director of Global Partnerships and Advocacy for Women’s Empowerment and Livelihoods at Unilever. “Better and faster gender impact data will help us to understand how best to listen to, engage with and impactfully invest in programs that support women across our value chain. By continuing to create and support opportunities for women in society and across the global economy, we believe Unilever’s business—and business as a whole—will be transformed.”

A Lean Data How-to Guide: Understanding Gender Impact will be rolled out in two phases. The first will be presented at the Global Gender Smart Investing Summit in London, England on November 1- 2, 2018 and the second will be launched in conjunction with International Women’s Day in March 2019.

Phase one will introduce the five programs and companies in India, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Phase one will also provide an overview of the context and methodology used in designing the Lean Data surveys and some initial insights from the first two projects completed, Shakti Colombia and LabourNet.

  • Created by Unilever, Project Shakti is an inclusive last-mile distribution program designed to empower female micro-entrepreneurs in rural areas. Initially piloted in India, the program has expanded to multiple countries, like Colombia, where Unilever works with approximately 10,000 micro-entrepreneurs.
  • LabourNet is an Acumen investee that provides on-the-job training to India’s invisible, informal workforce to improve their livelihoods and create sustainable pathways out of poverty.

Phase two will include detailed information on each of the five impact projects, a complete analysis of all of the data gathered, lessons learned and recommendations on how Lean Data’s principles and tools can be applied by entrepreneurs, investors, corporations and others to better understand the impacts on women and girls.

“ICRW works worldwide to advance gender equity and social inclusion,” said Sarah Degnan Kambou, CEO and President of the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). “Corporations and social enterprises are essential partners in that mission. Their efforts to create gender equitable workplaces, engage women throughout their value chains, and develop products and services that meet the needs of women and girls can have tremendous impact. Providing critical information about what works, takes the guess work out of investment decisions and programming priorities. Together, we can ensure that women and girls are fully integrated into the economy and have every opportunity to unlock their full potential.”

To access phase one of A Lean Data How-to Guide: Understanding Gender Impact, visit


About Acumen

Acumen is changing the way the world tackles poverty by investing in companies, leaders and ideas. We invest patient capital in businesses whose products and services are enabling the poor to transform their lives. Founded by Jacqueline Novogratz in 2001, Acumen has invested more than $115 million in 113 companies across Africa, Latin America, South Asia and the United States. We are also developing a global community of emerging leaders with the knowledge, skills and determination to create a more inclusive world. In 2015, Acumen was named one of Fast Company’s Top 10 Most Innovative Not-for-Profit Companies. Learn more at and on Twitter @Acumen.

About ICRW

For more than 40 years, ICRW has been the premier applied research institute focused on gender equity, inclusion and the alleviation of poverty. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., with regional offices in India and Uganda, ICRW works with non-profit, government and private sector partners to conduct research, develop and guide strategy and build capacity to promote evidence-based policies, programs and practices. Learn more at

About Unilever

Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of Beauty & Personal Care, Home Care, and Foods & Refreshment products with sales in over 190 countries and reaching 2.5 billion consumers a day. It has 161,000 employees and generated sales of €53.7 billion in 2017. Over half (57%) of the company’s footprint is in developing and emerging markets. Unilever has more than 400 brands found in homes all over the world, including Persil, Dove, Knorr, Domestos, Hellmann’s, Lipton, Wall’s, PG Tips, Ben & Jerry’s, Magnum and Lynx.

Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) underpins the company’s strategy and commits to:

  • Helping more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being by 2020.
  • Halving the environmental impact of our products by 2030.
  • Enhancing the livelihoods of millions of people by 2020.

The USLP creates value by driving growth and trust, eliminating costs and reducing risks. The company’s sustainable living brands are growing 46% faster than the rest of the business and delivered 70% of the company’s growth in 2017.

Unilever was ranked as an industry leader in the 2018 Dow Jones Sustainability Index. In the FTSE4Good Index, it achieved the highest environmental score of 5. It led the list of Global Corporate Sustainability Leaders in the 2017 GlobeScan/SustainAbility annual survey for the seventh year running, and achieved four A ratings across Climate Change, Water, Forests and Supplier Engagement in CDP’s 2018 Global Supply Chain report. Unilever has pledged to become carbon positive in its operations by 2030, and to ensure 100% of its plastic packaging is fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. For more information about Unilever and its brands, please visit For more information on the USLP: