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Human development pillars

What are the human development pillars and why invent your own?

The United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) works well as a high-level measure. Countries that score well on it genuinely do tend to be delivering for their citizens, and vice versa. However, like all metrics it has its limitations. Many companies that we believe to be sustainable do not map directly to any of its constituent components – income, education and health – and so we have spent some time thinking about how we could expand this idea.

Taking inspiration from many different sources, we have determined ten broad pillars that we believe encapsulate the essence of human development in a slightly more detailed way, and to which we could readily map companies. We believe that our investee companies should all be contributing in a tangible way to at least one of the ten pillars.

These pillars cover a range of areas that we believe to be central to the spirit of sustainable human development, and quality of life for people around the world, particularly in emerging markets. Most of them are self-explanatory and link back in clear ways to Amartya Sen’s concept of ‘development as freedom’¹ and the HDI.

While many of the contributions that our companies are making are not ground breaking, eye-catching or headline grabbing, they are no less powerful or important to sustainable human development.

It is the essential medicines in Bangladesh, the first time mortgages in India, the gas cookers in rural China and the safe low-toxicity paint in India that are helping and will continue to help hundreds of millions of people in emerging markets to live longer, better and healthier lives.

Our 10 human development pillars

Health and wellbeing
Nutrition

Nutrition

Healthcare and hygiene

Healthcare and hygiene

Water and sanitation

Water and sanitation

Physical infrastructure
Energy

Energy

Housing

Housing

Economic welfare
Employment

Employment

Finance

Finance

Standard of living

Standard of living

Opportunity and empowerment
Education

Education

Information

Information

Footnotes

  1. According to economist and 1998 Nobel prize winner, Amartya Sen, freedom is both the primary objective of development, and the principal means of development. 'Development as freedom' - Oxford University Press.