The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship has named the Guatemalan entrepreneur Philip Wilson the winner of the 2011 Central America Social Entrepreneur of the Year award. The award recognizes the work of his company, EcoFiltro, which provides access to potable water with low environmental impact.

The idea of EcoFiltro is to offer access to clean, potable water by using a water filter made of a mixture of mud and sawdust that is then impregnated with colloidal silver (a bactericide). The filter eliminates bacterial contaminants, providing 100% secure water purity for consumption. The EcoFiltro filter is sold through a pyramid business model that allows populations with a wide range of income level to access the filter. There is also financial benefit for the families using it since the filter is more economical than buying bottled water, and thereby contributes to preventing environmental degradation caused by disposed plastic containers. By 31 August 2011, Ecofiltro had distributed more than 96,000 filters since its inception six years ago.

Since 2009, the Social Entrepreneur of the Year prize is awarded in Central America and the Dominican Republic every second year by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, in partnership with the International Labour Organization. Candidates for the award are judged based on three main criteria: innovation, sustainability and direct social impact of their work. An independent panel of preeminent judges met on 13 December 2011 to determine the winner among four finalists. The other finalists were:

Alejandro del Valle, Biopersa – Guatemala
Founded in 2008, Biopersa purchases and/or gathers cooking, industrial and agro-business fat to transform it into biodiesel. It offers a waste management solution to industrial kitchens and businesses. It also offers biodiesel to customers interested in reducing the carbon footprint of their transport fleets.

Ricardo Teran, Agora Partnerships – Nicaragua
Founded in 2005, Agora connects knowledge, social networks and capital so that social entrepreneurs can grow their businesses and therefore strengthen their social impact on communities in poor countries.

Samuel Yankelewitz, Recyplast – Costa Rica
Since 1994, Recyplast recycles plastic waste from banana plantations and other sources (agricultural and residential). The plastic is transformed into a resin that is used as plastic wood in “corners” for the platforms for banana exports, thus helping solve the problem of plastic pollution in the banana business.

The award ceremony for the Central America Social Entrepreneur of the Year took place on 15 December 2011 in Guatemala City at an event hosted by the Guatemalan Comité Coordinador de Asociaciones Agricolas, Comerciales, Industriales y Financieras (CACIF).

The Jury 2011:

• Abigail Noble, Head for Latin America, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship
• Carmen Irene Alas, Publisher and Chief Executive Officer, Revista Estrategia & Negocios, El Salvador
• Antonio Fletcher, President, National Council of Private Enterprise, Panama
• Salvador Paiz, President, Fundacion Sergio Paiz Andrade, Guatemala; Young Global Leader
• Carlos Amador, President, Federation of Private Entities of Central America, Panama and the Dominican Republic
• Marisol Argueta, Senior Director, Head of Latin America, World Economic Forum USA