Last week as the U.N. General Assembly sat down to debate future Millennium Development Goals, the Caterpillar Foundation stood up in pursuit of their own initiatives. Sponsoring the Global Citizens Festival in New York City, the Foundation took the stage to announce a $2.5 million investment in the Global Poverty Project, a grassroots movement with the focus of to ending extreme poverty by 2030.
Caterpillar Inc. is the worldâ€™s largest manufacturer of construction equipment, whose primary function is the development of infrastructure, energy and natural resource assets. In 2013 alone the corporation hauled in a staggering $55 billion in revenue, however with great profit comes great responsibility.
Enter Michele Sullivan: the first female president of the Caterpillar Foundation, a philanthropic sub-division of CAT Inc. Sullivan has taken company outreach to a global scale, specifically concerning the education of girls from impoverished communities. For such work, Sullivan has been named to the Diplomatic Courtierâ€™s list of the 100 Top Global Woman.
Riley Griffin: Why is the Global Poverty Project important to the Caterpillar Foundation?
Michelle Sullivan: We are not only powering tonightâ€™s concert, we are powering a whole movement. The grant we have committed to goes far beyond today. With universal access to sanitation and education, we will help to end extreme poverty. On the company side of Caterpillar, we build the infrastructure of society. The Foundation, on the other hand, does the same by allowing each person the opportunity to build their own path to prosperity. The common thread is infrastructure, physical and societal. We need the villages to be sustainable communities as they grow into cities.
Most importantly, impacting the lives of girls has an incredible effect. A whole family prospers when you invest in a girl. Their education is the most crucial action we can take to end generational poverty. There are exponential returns to be seen in society when you invest in a girl.
RG: What responsibility does the private sector have to the issue of global poverty?
MS: I believe global poverty is everyoneâ€™s responsibility. But of course, the private sector is and should be involved. We believe in sustainable commitments to solutions of innovation. Thus, it is our responsibility as citizens and employees of Caterpillar to support events like the Global Citizen Festival. You must have activism to really make things become a part of a culture. You canâ€™t just throw money and start a movement; each person must do their part. When you look in the mirror, ask yourself: â€śWhat am I doing for someone who does not have what I have?â€ť
RG: What effect does the youth have on modern activism?
MS: The youth are critical. They are more digitally connected then ever. Someone from here will be speaking to someone in India. Nonetheless, it takes all three sectors, public, private and NGOs to make this kind of social movement work. Tonight, at the Global Citizens Festival you have the World Water Act, the Global Poverty Project and private corporations like Caterpillar coming together with the youth to fuel the anti-poverty movement. The post-2015 Millennial Development goals depend on all three sectors working together.