One of Marks & Spencer's goals is to become the world's most sustainable retailer. To do this, they had a look at their entire supply chain to make sure at every stage, their suppliers were working in the most environmentally friendly and socially responsible way possible. With the support of M&S, local communities are transitioning to organic and sustainable farming methods, sustainable energy consumption and fair employment practices.
To document this process we traveled to the Sorwathe tea plantation in northern Rwanda to see the impact of this work. We created a photo story that was published in various outlets and was used widely across their social media channels.
As part of this effort, M&S is funding the NGO, Emerging Leaders that teaches leadership courses in local communities. This is in the form of training and mentorship that partners with companies to bring the latest hi-tech leadership coaching into their workforces.
The training has clear and measurable effects on efficiency and quality as well as being a great benefit to the community. Those trained walk into work taller, are more proactive and develop initiative and courage to question the status quo. Many have not only stepped up to leadership roles within their place of employment since training but also in their communities, as coaches, teachers, organizers, and mothers and fathers. The training is addressing the fact that poverty is not just about a lack of wealth but also requires a change in mindset to leave behind, and in Rwanda's case, the courage to deal with some deep traumas.
In Rwanda, the entire nation still bears the physical and emotional scars and still struggles with the deep fear and trauma from a genocide where 20% of the population was brutally murdered. Despite this, the feeling today is one of immense hope and an absolute resolution to prevent the catastrophic failure of ethics and failure of action in its leaders of the past.
This new generation of entrepreneurs, mentors, and leaders. With a little help they are not only becoming effective leaders and managers but great leaders, leaders with humility, courage, integrity, morality and the ideal that the true purpose of authority is in the service of others.
We created the below portrait series to celebrate these people - The new leaders of Rwanda. This portrait series went on to place running-up in the Sony world photography award, the world's largest photography competition.
But more important than winning awards; It was inspiring for us to witness the way the work of M&S was having on the community. Progress such as embracing solar power, wider use of English in schools and the introduction of sustainable agriculture practices and better working conditions. With momentum like this its hard not to be hopeful about the future.