Hult Prize invites CUNY students to make fashion sustainable


Courtesy of Muhammad Elbadri

Caryl Anne Francia, Business Editor

Baruch College’s Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship launched its application for a university-wide competition to qualify for the 2023 Hult Prize.

The Hult Prize is an annual, yearlong competition that challenges university students from around the world to develop a for-profit venture. Described as the “Nobel Prize for students,” the competition is run in conjunction with the Clinton Foundation, a nonprofit organization led by former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The upcoming competition tasked entrepreneurial-minded students with “redesigning fashion” to make it more sustainable. Clinton announced the topic during the final round of the 2022 competition, saying that “clothing is a basic need.”

The former president added that the fashion industry is the global economy’s third largest manufacturing sector, generating $2.4 trillion in revenue. But he noted that clothing manufacturing “comes at a steep environmental and social cost,” due to the pollution it emits and the poor conditions factory employees work under.

“The good news is there are already forward-looking members of the fashion industry doing good work that is inspiring to others,” Clinton said in part. “There’s a lot more important work being done in this area, and I know that the teams from this year’s whole competition will make a big contribution.”

Students’ ideas must align with at least one of the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals. Some of the goals include climate action, decent work and economic growth, gender equality, innovative and sustainable infrastructure, reduced inequalities and responsible consumption and production.

Each venture must also address an area of impact in the fashion industry’s “value chain,” which includes manufacturing, distribution and consumption.

“It’s not just about clothing, style and what’s the latest trend,” Hult Prize Campus Director Muhammad Elbadri said during a Nov. 16 informational session. “There are so many different areas within the fashion value chain, where you can create innovation.”

Even if students do not have an idea yet for the competition, Elbadri advises them to pick a part of the fashion industry’s value chain that they feel passionate about.

Elbadri invites students from all CUNY campuses to submit applications for the competition until Feb. 25. Students must form teams of three to five members before registering. Only one person must submit the application for the whole team.

“The most important thing really is trust and just finding team members that you believe are focused on the mission, whatever that may be for you,” he said.

The Field Center will hold the in-person qualifying competition on Feb. 28, in which each team will pitch a business plan for their venture. The center will also hold an event on Jan. 31 to prepare students in advance.

Although one team will win, Elbadri said “it’s going to be an amazing experience” for all competitors.

The winning team will be sent to the regional round in Boston, where the Hult Prize Foundation is headquartered. Teams that win the regional competition will go through a four-week “Global Accelerator” mentoring program over the summer.

Selected teams will move on to the final round in Paris, where judges will choose which students will receive a $1 million grant to kickstart their idea.

CUNY students may read more information about the Baruch event from its official website.

“Don’t worry too much about a quick turnaround — as long as you believe you can have this product out within one to two years,” Elbadri said. “Regardless, don’t limit yourself trying to keep costs and overhead low.”