Partners News

23B -The successful path of Habiba Al Marashi

Habiba Al Marashi is an Emirati environmentalist. In 1991 she founded the Emirates Environmental Group, which she continues to chair.

In 2004 she founded the Arabia CSR Network (ACSRN), devoted to corporate social responsibility across the Arab peninsula. This is a multi-stakeholder platform, the first in the Arab world. The platform helps businesses and governmental institutions to strengthen their engagement in sustainable development.

She took time to answer some questions before the session “Multinationals, regions and cities” she was moderating.

What makes you most proud of all that you have done?

I think my role as a mother is a role that I am very proud of. I have raised four children, and each one of them is a qualified person in their own thing. They are all living their life independently, successfully. They are contributing on their own ways. I look at that as one of my achievement. I am grateful and I feel privileged that Allah is giving me all of this.

I think that starting a movement against the tide has been an achievement that is recognize by everybody. It humbles me to see how much I have managed to impact policy changing on the national level in my country, to see how I have managed to rally the masses on the sustainability journey and to capture the attention of the private sector to make them an effective partner. The environment that my government has provided me with enabled me to do my work.

These are all achievement I value very much.

Is your project harder to promote because you’re an Emirati woman?

I always say: “if you did not succeed, is because you did not managed to sell it properly”. It does not matter who you are, where you are from, what is your gender. If you have a call in life and you believe in your mission, if you structure it properly you have your audience.

What does your presence here mean for women?

I believe strongly in women empowerment, in women given the opportunity and giving them the environment to excel. I push myself to be involved and present in this kind of global platforms. It is very important for us to be part of the decision-making process, of the change movement that is happening around the globe. I think at the core of sustainability, women should be there.

How do you consider the future, concerning sustainable development in the Arab world?

I am a very optimistic person and that is why you see me continue against this journey for the last twenty-seven years. I know that regardless of the ridiculing sometimes of all what you can do on an individual basis, this is a work for the government to deal with, this is a work of the male world. You have to persevere, and you have believe in yourself. You have to believe that the impact that you are doing on the ground, on the individual level, counts. And that is what keeps me moving and what motivates me. I attend events nationally, regionally, globally and always I get inspired by what I hear and what I see. That gives me the energy to go back and continue, innovate, roll out, push the boundaries and achieve.

Do you think your project is feasible all over the world?

It is not just one project. I run more than one organization. I would say that every person in their own country would be the best ambassador for running and doing what needs to be done or whether is on the environmental, social, humanitarian or political angle. We should have faith and believe in the human capacity in dealing with issues.

The models that I have developed are very practical models: simple, straight-forward, with clear messages. I think in the way we structure programs, we keep in mind that is has to be scalable. It has to be implementable and practical. I even make it appoint for every project that we do, after implementation, we write a full procedure for it. So that we can share it with others that are asking for it.


Yann Arthus Bertrand : Looking down on our home The vernissage of Earth Seen From Above

As an artist and activist, « artivist » would say the director of La Maison de la Photographie, Yann Arthus Bertrand spent forty years flying over Earth. To show its beauty, its inhabitants, to spread love, his love, for nature, for others. Today, he is closing the World Forum for a Responsible Economy and made an apparition at the vernissage of his exhibition in Lille-Fives.


Your pictures show the beauty of the world but also represent the urgent need to help the planet, what can you say about that ?

First, you do not have to « help » the planet, it does not make sense. We can talk about protecting life on Earth. We have to stop saying « helping the planet ». What is important now, is save the comfort in which we live, the climat which had permitted us to develop : that is the most important. Not « saving » the planet.

All these pictures are visions of the world. You cannot do this type of work, meeting people, scientists, farmers, without being transcended yourself. You realise the problem. This is a sort of reflexion on the way we live, which is destroying our ressources.


Is your engagement coming from this perception of the world ?

No, no, this is a job which change a man completely. We cannot photograph for fifty years, and mostly twenty years of interest in biodiversity, nature, without being transformed. When you see what is happening today, it is unbelievable. How can we all be there, having a good time, drinking, and talking about the end of the world ?

The call from the 15.000 scientists in Paris last year, talking about the same thing, the end of the world, is important. They are shaking us up : Tomorrow it will be too late, wake up ! This is more relevant than what I could say.

Regarding the World Forum theme, « super local », do you think that new economical models can change our relation toward the world ?


I do not know a thing about economy. Our world today is some sort of religion of growth. Religion of throwing, producing. All around us, we show it in the papers, on television, on the radio, on the street ! We say : « Buy so you can be happy ». After all this religion of growth, we have to produce, this is capitalism. We destroy the planet, every one of us ! But we also benefit from it. This is complicated, getting out of capitalism, getting out of this religion of growth. It is a system which keeps us alive.

Every head of State today only dreams about one thing. A growth jump. And this jump is not acceptable for the environment. It is kind of schizophrenic, we are completely lost in front of all this. It does not make me want to talk about it anymore. We do not know what to do, we do not have a solution. As long as we keep working with this system of growth, we cannot move forward. So yes, of course, things are moving but it is not sufficient compared to what we could do. I will not criticise good initiatives but it is not sufficient ! We need a real revolution. A change of life. Although, it seems impossible.


So what is this revolution you are talking about ?

It is spiritual. My son is thirty and is an organic vegetable farmer, he became vegan. He says « I do not want to be like my father, a well-known photographer. I want to be useful, plant, live simply with a sufficient salary. » I think he is right.


These movements calling for local consumption, local investments, with these, are we on the right path ?

Of course. You go to a supermarket here, you will understand quickly. There are products from all around the world. I was in Tahiti last week and they served me salmon from Norway ! Knowing that there are fishes all round in the lagoon ! It a sort  of comfort tyranny. It easy to eat salmon from Norway so why not in Tahiti ?

Here, we benefit all from the system, which is no longer viable. However, we do not find any other solution that following from the system. It is difficult to change the growth because here it pays for how hospitals, roads, schools. Nevertheless, what we did with a billon people cannot be the same with seven billions.

Moreover today, every countries in development is trying to follow us. Then, if we keep giving on this example of comfort which is killing the planet, they will do the same.


Clemence Hervieux and Estelle Kammerer

31A – The day taps (almost) ran out of water in South Africa

Today, Claire Pengelly told us everything about the management of the water crisis that South Africa had to face for the last three years. The GreenCape Organization saw in the drought an opportunity for significant change in the water consumption. Even though the Cape is now out of danger, the audience felt the dramatic tension created by this crisis through Claire’s passionate tale.

How do you make sure that the solutions remain effective at the end of the crisis? that the Cape doesn't suffer from this kind of extreme drought again ?

I think that the key thing is that we have to expect for increased variability in our rainfall and we have to plan for it. And I think that is the recognition that government officials have made as well as the residents within the city.

That kind of planning is starting to take place whereas before you would try and run things as efficiently as possible and you would model your future planning on previous models based on historical rainfalls. […] You can still use those models but you have to assume that things are going to change much more quickly. You need to have extra capacity, because you need to be able to draw on that capacity when you need to.

But you still have to balance it out with the cost of it. You know, we could build desalination that could supply the whole city but that would be incredibly expensive and inefficient.

The other big issue in this crisis is that it was so unexpected, so everyone was running around trying to make things happen as it was happening. Now, the government is developing scenarios around different events that may occur and is starting to plan around it. So we have an idea of what these things look like, and it is not going to be only a drought, it's going to be a flood, it's going to be a fire, it's going to be other natural disasters. We need to start having […] longer-term strategic thinking to this kind of situations.

Where do you get your funding from ?

We are funded by the Western Cape Government, which is a provincial government, and by the city of Cape Town as well as a number of other government institutions and donor organisations such as the World Bank. […] We were very lucky to be well funded, as a consequence all the work that we did with the companies was for free. That means it was so much more accessible and we could things so much more quickly.

Can your solutions be useful to other provinces of South Africa or other countries suffering from drought ?

I think so. The key thing that really came out of it and that I would like to communicate with other areas is to think about the business sector as a key partner in addressing challenges like this. We obviously looked at them at reducing their usage, but when you face a crisis like this, there is a lot of willingness to engage further than simply securing your own supply.

You need to find channels of effectively mobilizing business in a way that is also useful for your own purposes. […] You need to think about them as a partner, try to work with them and collaborate on these problems together.

That's the key lesson that we have to take from this, there are obviously others but that is the major lesson. You need to start seriously thinking about climate change scenarios and thinking through what that looks like. Playing through the ideas in your head and start to actually tease that out in various situations. That would be my advice.


Elsa Touzard

30B – “B Corp”, be responsible

Some companies claim to be “B Corp”. But what does that actually mean?

As Paolo Di Cebare repeated, today we live in a closed system on metal and an open system on energy. An increase of 2°C average has already been reached in many countries and 8 billionaires own the same wealth as 3.6 billion poorer people in the world. With the development of technology, we are entering an exponential trend into a closed system.

All of those facts are true and alarming. But what is the role of business in this? That is the question that Benoit Doithier, directorate general of Antica Erboristeria SpA, Blandine Stefani, the B corp director from Danone and Elizabeth Soubelet, founder of Squiz tried to answer through the appellation “B Corp” of their enterprise.

A model to follow

When Paolo Di Cebare remarked that in the arranging of companies, the business part of the company and the social and environmental ones were most of the time at two separated places - These can even be situated in two different towers - He began to realize that there was a major problem: if the two parts cannot communicate, how can they be both ecologically responsible and profitable? He then decided to use the term “for-benefit enterprise”, to ally profit with a positive impact on society and the environment for his society. This is how Nativa became the first certified benefit corporation in Italy.

How to become a B Corp?

The community B Corp was founded in 2006 in the United States to gather all companies wanting to make benefit while still rendering good societal impact. To become a B Corp, or Benefit Corporation, companies have to obtain a score of 80 points on the B impact score.  

The company Antica Erboristeria SpA, represented by Benoit Doithier, became the 10th certified B Corp company in Italy when it attained the B impact score assessment. With its brand Herbatint, the business proposes natural cosmetics all over the world but everything is produced in Rome. The major objective of the company is to work closer with their stakeholders. Benoit Doithier explains: “we have integrated in the evaluation of the suppliers a way to assess their impact in order to see how we can do better together”.

For Danone, the score has not yet been reached in every continent. Two years ago, Danone North America decided to merge with WhiteWave Foods, which is specialized in bio products. Thanks to this, Danone North America became the largest certified B Corp in America. The ambition for the whole group is now to be certified as a B Corp in the entire world by 2030.

For Elizabeth Soubelet, who created ecological and practical alternatives to throw-away products, the score was reached through the local, social and environmental impacts of Squiz : all of their packaging is made with local materials 30 kilometers away from their headquarters, 2% of their turnover goes to associations or NGOs every year and thanks to their products, 38 million single-use pouches have been saved from landfill or incineration in 4 years.

So, why becoming a benefit corporation?

As a small enterprise, “Squiz wants to enable everyone to become a consumer in the circular economy simply and through everyday objects made of thoughtfully-sourced materials and manufactured as locally as possible”, explains Elizabeth Soubelet.

For Antica Erboristeria SpA, the most important thing is “to have an impact to inspire the stakeholders” and “play a role in this big thing”, the protection of the environment.

Danone has different reasons to become a Benefit Corporation. The main one is to be on the path for improvement and to join a movement of companies who want to build a different future. “As a large organization, we have a huge role to play” added the B Corp director for the brand, Blandine Stefani. Danone also wants and needs more transparency from their stakeholders, employers and consumers.

A true hope for the future

Currently, 2650 companies are certified B Corp. By remaining optimistic, as Blandine Stefani said, we can be hopeful that in ten years time, we will look back and say “how was it possible to do business without B Corp?” But for this, companies need to realize they have to be more responsible.

Clara Nord

23B - Crepes, Waffles and sustainable development

The case of Crepes & Waffles, with Felipe Macia Fernandez in Colombia

Felipe Macia Fernandez is the son of the founders the biggest Colombian food-chain restaurant. The combination of quality foods and low-price meals was a leading factor in his commercial success. Today, the second generation is taking over the company, facing contemporary challenges. The sustainable development director gave a conference about his projects and ambitions for the future of his work with local Colombian communities.


How did you make it to director of sustainable development of Crepes and Waffles?

F.M: I started studying economics in Colombia. But then, as I started studying, they told me « The main problem in economy is that human needs are unlimited, but resources are limited ». Then I thought there was something wrong. Why did you invent the system if that is the problem? Our system destroys everything and promotes a lot of consumption.

I ended up moving on from economics and went to Australia. I studied sustainable development and business. I was there for two years and a half. When I finished and graduated, I went to a farm and lived in a little trailer. I started working and studying generative agriculture, ecological agriculture.

I was farming for four months, understanding how soil works, how you could do ecological designs in farms. Then I went back to Colombia because agriculture is a big opportunity for Colombia to solve environmental and social problems. I worked for communities there for two and a half years, doing conservation models and production of food.

Three years ago, I joined « Crepes and Waffles » to put what I have learned in place, this time in a big company.


Where you inspired by anyone while working towards sustainable development?

F.M.: Well there are many people. last week, I was with Vandana Shiva in London. She is very inspiring. I think she has a very nice way of putting all these subjects in practice.

Who else? Well, there is a farmer, he is Swiss but lives in Brazil. He has developed a syntrophic agriculture. It is a big forest that produces food. When we see it from above, you think that it is a forest but it is actually food producing. That is very inspiring.


How do you think Crepes and Waffles creates economic value?

F.M.: Well, I think that we are a large company, the largest restaurant chain in Colombia. We have five thousand employees. We have a very successful business in the industry. We propose good food that looks like art or beautiful architecture, at  a reasonable price for everyone. Everyone in Colombia can access places and products. We do not have a limited target. We also create jobs.


How do you think Crepes and Waffles creates social value?

F.M.: We have two ways of creating social value in « Crepes and Waffles ». First, by working with women that are head of households and come from low income communities in Colombia. When we hire our collaborators, they can access education, health and housing. The company supports them. 90% of our employees are women and 75% are head of households: they are the only economic support of their family. We do a lot of personal flourishing within the company.

We also work with farmers in Colombia. It is the first time they sell on the market for some of them. We work directly to offer them a fair price for their products: we work with them to promote ecological agriculture, generate ecosystems where they live and promote local development.



You recently joined BCtA (Business Called to Action), in what does your work consists with them?

F.M.: We are part with Business Called to Action, we joined last year. We are with B-Corp as well. Our project is the one in Monte Santa Maria. It is a project in the North of Colombia, it is aimed at protecting dry tropical forest which is the most threatened ecosystem in Colombia. We are working with around a hundred farmers there. They are building ecological corridors to regenerate this ecosystem. We are buying their products which is mainly bean and honey and now we are going to buy four more products from them. It solves climat change, it is a response to biodiversity and it is inclusive with communities.

This is our project with Business Called to Action: sustainability goals.


What are your hopes for the future of Crepes and Waffles and Colombia?

F.M.: For the future of Crepes and Waffles, the hope is that we keep on being authentic and original in the way we do business; that we preserve our values, despite the fact that we are growing; that we keep on riding the road to grow all this project, becoming an example and do things differently than other businesses.

For Colombia, my hope is that it preserves its essence and its nature and that people who live there acknowledge that we live in a very privileged country, nature-wise. That they have a chance to achieve well-being without having to destroy all the natural wealth that we have.


Estelle Kammerer


11B - Companies and territories: the new global order

In this the twelfth edition of Lille’s World Forum, Philippe Vasseur as founder and president presented an expectant audience with a new challenge. The panel of invited speakers and actors from across the globe aims at inspiring, by sharing the success of companies from around the world.



“Local complements global” – P. Vasseur

Topic for this year revolves around territories as the focal point of study. Territory has always been an important part for any company and business, because of the market issue, but today, the responsibility on the local level even more important. The role of the State or Supra-State needs to be redefined to respect and encourage local initiative. There is no antagonism between global and local: they are deeply intertwined. It is time to recognize localized businesses as promising investments in a globalized economy.


“Without prosperous local economies, the people have no power and the land no voice”– W. Berry

Judy Wicks, cofounder of BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies), explained that by decentralizing our economy into our local economy it is bringing wealth and power back into communities. There is no such thing as one sustainable business, we can only be part of a sustainable system. Sharing knowledge is then essential to promoting a maintainable model. Business does not “grow or die”: it should act like nature and be capable of adapt to a new sustainable form of local economy.  

Behind all this greenery and inspiring quotes, there is a concrete business philosophy at hand. Judy Wicks’ model can serve modern economies well and is a testimony of a future, durable and conscious initiative. Where we let human nature flourish, so will business.

« Everything great that ever happened in this world happened first in somebody’s imagination.” – A. Lindgren


Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Network around UK, questioned the lack of imagination plaguing modern enterprises. Our economic model is causing an “epidemic of loneliness” amongst what seem to be powerful people. Transition groups are therefore essential for Hopkins, to envision a future with clean air, and where the feeling of belonging is given due importance.

This translates to concrete projects all over northern Europe. Within them, the local level is empowered, and the imagination is brought into the conversation. Citizens are given a chance to creatively reclaim their localities, by finding their individual ways to solve particular issues.

The transitions movement is a beautiful proposition for people that feel unpowered and lonely. To this goal, schools and education programs should encourage the imagination of the youngest, to develop a new generation, capable of pursuing those goals.


“Drink the local wine”“Good ethics is a good business” McCain brother

Max Koeune, Global CEO of McCain Foods, is a model of a “multilocal” industry. The history of the McCain brothers is the perfect demonstration of how we should be actors of our own territory. We need to adapt projects to the local level to assure their success.

Today, McCain company is facing two issues: the global warming and countryside’s desertification. Investments, technology, education, contextualization and adaptability to the specific territory are the keys to face these major issues. The company is developing to a new sustainable model, aiming to being more respectful of the environment and sustainable in the future.

“Everyone is solely responsible for all of us” – A. de Saint-Exupéry

To conclude this opening session, Philippe Vasseur reminded the audience that a sustainable model included solidarity and equity of all territories. There is beauty and a necessity in realizing that we all share a common destiny.

Aurélie Gestas


13B – Local action: the key solution to socio-economic and environmental challenges

With great enthusiasm and an optimistic approach, conference 13B’s speakers displayed concrete examples, demonstrating how and to what extent local action and bottom-up initiatives have considerably changed economies in their communities. Marie-Hélène Foubet, from France, Rob Hopkins, from England and Luciano Marcos Silva, from Brazil, all work along with individuals and populations, on a local scale, to make great changes on a wider one.


People as key actors

“The inhabitant at the heart of everything” is Marie-Hélène Foubet’s work central idea. Currently headmistress of Groupe SIA Habitat, an innovative real estate company, Foubet solves socio-economic challenges by making accommodations adapted to the territory and to their future residents. Before initiating further phases, she gets deeply involved in the needs and desires of the people who are going to occupy the installations – focusing on individual requirements. The notion of ‘client’ is then blurred, while the notion of ‘inhabitant’ is deepened and emphasized.

Rob Hopkins, leader and founder of the ongoing social experiment named The Transition Network, further continued the discussion. He considers that communities coming together to reimagine and rebuild our world are essential to surpass the difficulties we face nowadays. One such city is Liège and its ‘Ceinture Alimen-Terre’ project. They undertook the relocation of the agricultural production to transform the city and its link to the periphery, so that the majority of food comes from the land around the urban area.

“Do not invest on banks: invest in the local territory to make things change, impact invest”, he concluded.  

The director of the INSEA non-governmental organization, Luciano Marcos Silva, considerably stressed the importance of people in challenge-facing initiatives. This organization changed the economy of the Brazilian region of Minas Gerais by developing a new economic system based on recycling, valorizing and selling residues. In such system, environmental and socio-economic defies are sorted out: work is created, trash gets taken care of and connections between economic agents are created.


Story-telling as a strategy

Powerful stories and narratives invite upper-level actors to engage with the ideas presented by the people. These are all bottom-up initiatives. Hopkins and Silva exemplify such things with individual experiences.

The first did so by recalling the situation of an important milk factory in his home city, Wiltshire. When it shut down, the community requested to settle upon the fate of the facility. To achieve so, the people campaigned for seven years until attaining their goal. Succeeding the municipality acceptation, a consultation took place for a year and a half and five and a half thousand people got involved. Finally, the installation became a museum.

The second one, brokered a federal law in favor of his project in Minas Gerais by the same means. His organization, along with the people, managed to get the recognition of recycling as a job with dignified, human conditions for the macerators.

Therefore, in view of the extent of social and environmental challenges, local action, communities and individuals are essential for the evolution of current and future societies. Not only can they accomplish their purposes on their own, but they can as well engage important actors and impact on a larger range.


Paula Franco

24A - Dr. Carmen Hijosa, turning a pineapple into shoes

Dr. Carmen Hijosa, the founder of Ananas Anam Ltd, was presening in this afternoon’s conference on “getting the circular economy rolling”. This innovative and ethical entrepreneur created Piñatex, a natural textile made from pineapple leaf fibre. She exposed her vision for a more sustainable future that connects people, the environment and the economy. Her company has received awards for being the most innovative in circular economy, following an international call for projects convened by the EU-LAC, InnivationAL and Reseau Alliances.


What does it mean for you to be part of this 12th edition of the WFRE?

It is the first time that me coming to the World Forum and it has been wonderful. Being part of this conference on the circular economy was very interesting. This way of economy is what I truly believe in.

Seeing examples of ideas from different parts of the world is truly inspiring. I think that sharing all those point of views is what makes our economy stronger. This World Forum is an inspiration for all of us: it is exciting to be part of it.


Do you think it is possible to expand your model in other parts of the world?

Absolutely, that is the whole idea. We made a pilot model in Philippines and once it will be fully developed, we can transfer all this knowledge into any other country growing pineapples. Those tropical countries are usually quite poor. So, this can really bring forth a revolution and would help those countries to reuse waste and create jobs. So, definitely.


Are leather companies ready to make a change in their material in order to be more sustainable?

A couple years ago, I went to see the leather companies. I wanted to work with them, but they thought the project was absurd. It was not possible to start the conversation as they did not perceive leather as a problem in itself. But now, it is starting to change. People are more and more aware that the leather is not sustainable and know that alternatives exist.

Two weeks ago, during the Première Vision event in Paris, a leather company came to us. They told us that they are facing new challenges especially with the fact that leather is not sustainable and they cannot find a solution. That is a first step. So, there is a very interesting shift.


How do you see the future?

I see the future as very good and bright. As I said, it is necessary to focus on our waste than looking for new resources. We can do so much with our waste. I have hundreds of new ideas in mind. Now, we must keep on going and develop new products based on reused materials. The future is in the cycle of use and circular economy. This is what we need to believe in.

In our societies, we do not think enough. But there is a solution, there are alternatives in front of us. We just need to think. Before we buy something, we must ask ourselves the question: Do I need this? Why? Is it sustainable?  We need to be more responsible about the environment, the economy, the people. Because now more than ever, it is more than a necessity: it is an emergency.



21B - Seventeen rays of hope for the future.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) defined by the United Nations is a pivotal aim that will allow us to transform our world and walk towards a newer and better future. These seventeen goals endeavor to engage all leaders to address the challenges our societies face.
In a very stirring and inspiring conference, world leaders Santiago Peralta, José Benitez, and Dieter Brunner, conveyed how their companies engaged in the SDG. Such initiatives have reconstructed the lives of communities and have improved the performances of their industries. Why and how should companies integrate the Sustainable Development Goals into their companies?

Sustainability asserts a bright tomorrow

“The most productive work is the one that comes from the hands of a happy person”, remarked Santiago Peralta at the beginning of his speech. By doing so, he pointed out the central place of the SDG in his chocolate company Pacari and why other businesses should incorporate such goals as a main focus. The success of his multi-award-winning company comes from his desire to create products made out of premium ingredients, as well as his intention to put small scale farmers as the referent object of the company.

Pacari involves itself in various social projects. In order to optimize farmers’ lives, he cooperates in the building of new sustainable earthquake-proof households for them, equipped with water filters and flashlights. Additionally, agro-tourism is generated around the farmers’ task within the company.

In Paraguay, a country with a poverty rate of 26,4%, José Benitez began his egg company Nutrihuevos believing that “each egg contributes for a better country”. His sustainable management program seeks to improve the quality life of Paraguayan women, and to give them access to microcredit. With such a project, his business has increased by 50% in three years. Their commercial projection for the following eight years looks just as promising.

Furthermore, the Slovenian CEO of Iskraemeco d.d, Dieter Brunner, along with his company of smart electric meters, analyzed the integrity of the SDG and incorporated them within their creed. He not only focuses on the reduction of consumption, but also on labor standards; which are, according to him, some of the major issues of the electronic industry. He proposes a local and responsible production of electronic devices, as well as a fair and positive treatment of employees.

Education and dedication, the way to go sustainable

“Young people belong to the generation that will make the change happen”, said Dieter Brunner. Yet, by emphasizing on the importance to educate - not only young people nor only the management team of a company, but also the producers - the partners and the customers in order to set the society in a long-life products and recycling.

Santiago Peralta, adding to the Slovenian CEO, weights the significance of being sustainable from the very conception of the enterprise as well as from the beginning of the process followed by the company. From the designing phase, the Sustainable Development Goals have to be the focal point of the heads of companies.
However, incentives are also needed: businesses need support to implement SDG. Public policy and political actors have a crucial role.

Lastly, while undertaking a sustainable goal, the company might as well be undertaking other ones. The 2030 Agenda’s SDG are considerably interdependent, so corporations should study the interconnection from one SDG to another to optimize the impact and build a colorful, vivid future, full of social equality and environmental responsibility.

Paula Franco

20B - Societal change by humans for humans

One of the answers to the questions of our changing economic model is the development of local economies. How can small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) bring life to the local economic fabric while still meeting the needs of the local population?


Relationships at the heart of progress

« You can do things I cannot. I can do things you cannot. But together we can do great things. »

This quote from Mother Theresa summarizes the spirit the 20B conference's speakers tried to embody.

Suvankar Mishra, from India, Abdoulaye Gning, from Senegal and Charlotte Sewell, from the UK gave three concrete examples of SMEs that tackle societal challenges and bring solutions to global issues in each of their countries. They are all based on cooperation between actors and emphasize the human dimension of doing business. Nourishing the relationships with the communities they help is one of their priorities.


Democratizing the future of farming

Suvankar Mishra's company Blooom addresses the global farming problem. To keep the 9,1 billion people that the Earth will bear in 2050 well fed, the food production should be increased by 70%. However, agriculture is a complex system that depends on many variables and only those with good information, inputs, technologies and tools can thrive. « Unfortunately, only big corporations have access to those and the 120 million smallholder farmers of India chronically underproduce », regrets Mishra.

The solution that he proposes to that complex problem is a digital platform that aggregates data and transactions as well as enabling farmers to have direct interactions with markets and financial institutions.

But in many areas of India, the smart phone penetration is low and people are often illiterate. The idea is to combine this technology with educated people trained to be micro-entrepreneurs and serving as change agents on the field. As Mishra says: « to introduce change, you need to build trust. »

The resulting solution is a highly functioning human-technology hybrid model: it analyses the needs of each member of the food value chain and creates benefits for all. By bringing actors together through digitalization, Blooom allows them to improve and produce better.


Breaking taboos about female hygiene

Abdoulaye Gning, co-founder of ApiAfrique with his wife Marina Gning, explained how they came up with the idea of their social business by recalling his personal experience. During his yearly vacations in Senegal, he was appalled by two issues: the fact that 45% of young girls skip school when on their menstruations and the amount of waste that hygiene creates. In the first two years of his life, a toddler produces up to a ton of waste that will take 450 years to biodegrade.

ApiAfrique brings an answer to both of these concerns: washable nappies and washable pads that can be reused up to 400 times and are chemical-free.

This business doesn't only provide a practical solution to the African hygiene crisis, it also aspires to empower women by raising awareness and breaking the strong taboos about female menstruations in Africa. With local women’s testimonies and local language translation, their digital awareness program is adapted to the social and cultural context of each African community.

Shaping the food industry in a human form

The third example is a family business in the UK since 1997:  the frozen food company Cook, presented by Charlotte Sewell. Their slogan « made like you would at home » is not false advertising since all of the food is hand-cooked and home-made with local products.

Most importantly, the driving purpose of the company is to promote human relationships. Charlotte Sewell gave the example of an elderly man who had fallen in his house. His family was warned by the employees of the nearby Cook shop who were worried by not seeing him. This shows the level on which they connect with their customers.

Employees can give a “Care Card” to any customer coming on hard times. It gives them 30% off all products for a period of 12 months. For instance, people who have relatives in the hospital and don't have the opportunity to spend quality time at home have been offered this discount.

The company also designed human shaped benefits for employees, such as having their birthday off or a hardship loan up to £ 1 000. Moreover, they do not hesitate in employing people facing barriers to employment such as homeless people, former inmates or mentally ill individuals.

In the end, these three businesses create a shared and durable prosperity at a local level, based on trust, fairness and progressiveness, making them forces for good in society.

Elsa Touzard