Wednesday, 25 December 2013

One month at Yesilist

Yesilist, the platform for
sustainable living and consumption in Turkey
As the first stage of my Green Sense Tour, I worked for one month as a consultant at Yesilist. Yesilist is the green platform in Turkey. It provides information on sustainable living and consumption. As a matter of fact, living in a sustainable way in Istanbul, for instance, is challenging. On the one hand, Yesilist tries to answer these questions by providing a guide listing companies who offer sustainable products and services. On the other hand, Yesilist has a dynamic blog providing topical information on different aspects of sustainability. Yesilist exists since 2010 and the amount of followers has been growing steadily.

Ergem, the CEO, asked me to help out with the following questions:
  • How can the business model of Yesilist be sustainable in the long run?
  • Being an outsider, what inefficiencies do you see at Yesilist?
  • How to involve the followers of Yesilist into an active community where they are enabled to contribute to Yesilist?

To analyze the business model, I conducted a SWOT and PEST(EL) analysis. Furthermore, I conducted a benchmark of Yesilist’s business model to business models of similar successful companies and organizations. In addition, we conducted a survey with the followers of Yesilist and I conducted an interview with each of the employees of Yesilist. To reveal inefficiencies, I confronted my theoretical knowledge and experience at other organizations with the practices at Yesilist. To empower and involve the entire team of Yesilist I conducted a workshop with them to discuss about Yesilist’s strategy, business model and potential solutions to inefficiencies. I used this workshop as the basis for an extensive report with suggestions.

To involve Yesilist’s followers more closely, I organized a MakeSense Hold-up together with Ayse Nur. The hold-up gave some interesting ideas and made the participants enthusiast about Yesilist and MakeSense. Unfortunately it failed to give a concrete implementable outcome.

I added two more things to my TODO-list. Firstly, I wanted to learn from the expertise on marketing that Yesilist holds. For that reason, I drafted a marketing campaign on organic food. As the earlier conducted survey had suggested, I took yuppies as the target group. Thus, I designed a marketing campaign based on the tagline ‘experience organic food’ featuring cooking- and tasting workshops and a visit to the organic market in Sisli.

Lastly, I wanted to finish what I started two years ago. In the spring of 2012 I brought a group of people together around different fields of sustainability in Istanbul. The main outcome was a second-hand shopping guide for Istanbul. Because of technical issues, the guide hadn’t got published yet, so I wanted to take the opportunity to do it. With the help of 10 wonderful volunteers, this time, we put the guide online on Yesilist in both English and Turkish. Let’s shop second hand!

Lessons learned
  • An outsider coming for a short period to a company, may see inefficiencies and solutions to them that team members don’t see.
  • When giving suggestions for improvements it is important to give concrete guidelines on how to implement these changes. Don’t spray confetti and then leave.
  • Involve the entire team of a company when talking about strategy and business model. Everybody should be able to contribute and discuss, so that everyone is on the same line.
  • In a period of one month, I could do a lot of work, but I could have realized even more if I had focused on one topic, rather than working on different projects in the same time.

Goodbye drink at Yesilist with my wonderful colleagues

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Istanbul has its MakeSense Hotspot

Istanbul has its own MakeSense community. In less than one month a dynamic group of Gangsters (MakeSense members) emerged to make Istanbul a more social and sustainable place.

It was at the end of October that I first talked to Ayse on the phone. I mentioned shortly that I would go dumpster diving soon. She immediately countered: “Hey, we should organize a Disco Soup!” It characterizes Ayse so well: a girl full of enthusiasm, energy and drive to change the world around her. The perfect partner in crime. Together we started working on a MakeSense Hotspot in Istanbul. I was amazed many times about how easy and fun it was to collaborate with her.

Jeremy and the changemakers of the second hold-up.
Very practical outcomes and a great atmosphere that evening.
On 16 November we did our first MakeSense Hold-up for Yesilist, the green platform in Turkey. The hold-up targeted the following challenge. “How to build an active community of Yesilist supporters who are eager and enabled to contribute?” 18 participants, a lot of energy and good vibes, but no real implementable solution to the challenge of Yesilist. It was learning by experience. The Sense Drink thereafter brought 30 young enthusiasts together. But it was the second hold-up for Connect One Threads, an idea of Jeremy to start a business for organic cotton, that kickstarted the Istanbul Hotspot. Even though there were only ten participants, we made the crucial step of empowering them while the hold-up was still fresh in their mind.  A few days later, on 7 December, we namely organized a meeting in which we launched MakeSense Istanbul.
On this launching meeting we further explained MakeSense, talked about the goals of MakeSense Istanbul and set the agenda with the upcoming activities together with the new Gangsters. This was crucial to empower them and to give ownership. We concluded the meeting by dividing the roles for the Hotspot. Ayse and Jeremy will be coordinating the team together. Nazli will be an amazing communicator. Turker and Jeremy will organize the next hold-up. Last but not least Ceyda, Robin, Ayse, Nazli, Jeremy and Burcin will organize a Disco Soup. Istanbul, prepare to Make a lot of Sense!

Lessons learned
  • Sense Drinks are wonderful to make people socialize with Gangsters, but it is a hold-up which truly engages people.
  • Involve interested people asap after a hold-up.
  • Start your hotspot by doing a launching meeting. Immediately give new Gangsters ownership and responsibility.
  • Prepare upfront how you will cluster the ideas in a hold-up.
  • Use different platforms to announce activities. Think of Facebook, MeetUp, Eventbrite, CouchSurfing etc.
  • Personal messages can be effective in mobilizing people, but only really work once. 
Ideas. Creativity. Energy.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

How my Expedition became a Green Sense Tour

It was Géraldine who introduced me to MakeSense. In July 2013 she organized a MakeSense hold-up in Ghent. My gut feeling told me to go there. Even though I couldn’t stay for longer than an hour, it made an impression on me.

My first hold-up in Ghent with Géraldine and Elien.
When I told Géraldine a couple of weeks later about my plan to travel, meet and help sustainable entrepreneurs, she mentioned MakeSense again. ‘Joris, you should become a MakeSense Gangster!’ A Gangster? Excuse me…

She explained that MakeSense is a growing community of young changemakers who are passionate about helping social entrepreneurs. Community? Check. Young? Check. Changemaker? Check. Helping social entrepreneurs? Green entrepreneurs qualify as social entrepreneurs. Check!

I found out soon enough what it meant to be a MakeSense Gangster. It is finding a gang of like-minded people all over the world. It is talking to other passionate people and feeling there is a click. It is finding other changemakers to join forces to create impact. I even found out about gangsters who are doing Sense Tours. While travelling they meet other Gangsters and make a difference for social entrepreneurs. Bruno Pison, for example is now on a Food Sense Tour for 400 days to meet sustainable actors in the field of nutrition.

I decided to turn my Expedition to Sustainable Entrepreneurship into a Sense Tour. A Green Sense Tour to be specific. I want to involve the MakeSense Gang closer in my project. I believe I can make a difference for MakeSense. I help MakeSense by convincing changemakers on my way to join the movement. I help MakeSense by starting up local MakeSense movements. I help MakeSense by doing Hold-ups (MakeSense workshops) to tackle challenges of green entrepreneurs. I believe MakeSense can make a difference for me. MakeSense gives me a ‘family’ everywhere I go. MakeSense gives me a framework to create impact. MakeSense gives me a sounding board and opens doors.

For my Green Sense Tour I greenified the MakeSense logo.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Green Sense Tour - Our Challenges

I want to make a change for the world. I want to set up my own sustainable business. Therefore, I have decided to go on a Green Sense Tour. As a MakeSense Gangster I am helping sustainable entrepreneurs, meeting change makers, learning, sharing and exciting during my trip! MakeSense is community of 800 changemakers (November 2013) who are passionate about helping social entrepreneurs. Find out more about MakeSense on my blog.

Some facts about my Green Sense tour

  • I will be travelling for 300 days - this is from October 2013 until August 2014.
  • I will not fly. I will travel over land or over sea.  I prefer hitchhiking.
  • I will go to the Middle-East (Turkey and Israel), West Africa and Europe.

To create impact during this Green Sense Tour, I have given myself the following challenges:

  • I will find 150 challenges of sustainable entrepreneurs all over the globe. That is one per two days. By registering these challenges on the MakeSense Platform, others gangsters are challenged to help green entrepreneurs.
  • For 5 of these challenges, I will implement the solution myself during one month together with the green entrepreneur.
  • I will start 5 MakeSense hotspots. One hotspot for each time I work for a sustainable entrepreneur during one month. Such a hotspot is a local MakeSense community. By starting such hotspots, I will try to leave a sustainable impact in each city I visit.
  • I will convince at least 50 changemakers to become a MakeSense Gangster. 10 Gangsters for each hotspot. In this way, the hotspot will be able to thrive by itself.

To make this happen, I need your help!

  • Become a Challenge Scout! Help me find sustainable entrepreneurs. Help me to convince them to register their challenge on the MakeSense Platform. Send me an email or comment on this post!
  • Help me with starting a hotspot! Do you live there? Do you know any people there? Let me know! Send me an email or comment on this post! Right now I am starting a hotspot in Istanbul together with the fabulous Ayse Nur.
  • Become a part of the Green Sense Superheroes! I will consult these superheroes regularly for advice during my Green Sense Tour. Do you have experience as an entrepreneur? Are you an excellent coach? Or do you simply want to support me? Send me an email or comment on this post!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Four sustainable businesses to fight poverty

On October 23-24, the 16th International Business Forum took place in Istanbul. The goal of the conference was to promote green and inclusive businesses. Such businesses contribute to sustainable development in regions of intensive economic transformation, as is the case in the Central Asian, Southeast European, and Middle East and North African regions. Apart from respecting the environment, these businesses also help to lift people out of poverty. Here is a closer look at the four award-winning businesses highlighted by the conference.

Waste to wealth

TARA Machines and Tech Services is a social enterprise that develops small business packages for micro-entrepreneurs containing production technologies and machinery for green building materials. TARA Machines helps to set-up these micro-enterprises across the country. The company ultimately converts industrial waste into green building materials. This method decreases the need for natural resources and makes building materials more affordable. 

One of the products TARA Machines offers is a pressing machine to produce bricks from fly-ashes (a waste product of power plants) without using electricity. With this technology, one man can produce cheap, energy efficient and ecological bricks to build a house. Furthermore, he can sell these locally produced bricks to people in his community. TARA Machines received the Changing Markets Award IBF 2013.

Waste picker to entrepreneur

Ciudad Saludable creates efficient solid waste management systems. By enabling the development of micro-enterprises that collect and recycle waste in Peru, this initiative empowers and improves the livelihood of waste pickers. These micro-enterprises reduce waste volume in municipal landfills and generate income by separating recyclables.

To date, Healthy City has organized over 11,500 waste collectors, creating employment and improving health and living conditions for more than 9 million people living in rural and poor urban regions in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, and India. Ciudad Saludable received the Changing Markets Award IBF 2013.

Affordable eco-friendly toilets

Banka Bio Loo provides affordable, eco-friendly bio-toilets. The company tackles the health hazards of sanitation facilities in India by creating toilets that can be installed anywhere without the need for any external support. The bio-toilets do not require energy or heavy infrastructure and relieve the pressure put on groundwater resources.

The sanitation situation in India has been alarming, with more than an estimated 100 million households not having access to toilets, more so in rural areas. The people are forced to defecate in the open, posing health hazards, raising environmental concerns, and leading to water contamination. Banka Bio Loo offers an increasingly recognized solution to this problem. Banka Bio Loo received the Changing Markets Award IBF 2013.

Go to school during menstruation

Technology for Tomorrow (T4T) develops and produces a wide range of products which are more resource-efficient and cost-effective than those used conventionally. Many of the products work with the culture and behaviours of the people, allowing the technologies to easily assimilate into communities. The results have not only been successful but also changed the behaviors of the impoverished to sustainably increase health and safety.

T4T offers a wide range of products, from building materials, cooking and heating systems to a water filtration system. Another product is T4T’s sanitary napkins. T4T produces its MakaPads from local papyrus and paper waste without using electricity. The product sells for 50% less than other brands and allows young women to go to school instead of staying at home during menstruation. Technology for Tomorrow was awarded the Public’s Award IBF 2013.

Source: IBF
Credits pictures: IBF

This article also got published on, the green living platform in Turkey. Joris Depouillon is doing an internship there. 

Friday, 11 October 2013

Ecolabels in Tourism (Experiment)

The experiment

This is an experiment. I want to make my first article an open source article. Indeed, the article hereunder is only a draft of an article on ecolabels in the touristic sector. I want you to contribute to it by reading this post and giving your feedback, tips and ideas. Based on this feedback, I will elaborate, shorten or change the article. Ideas I have not elaborated yet are in brackets […]. The following article might contain inaccuracies - please let me know.

Would you like to contribute to this experiment? Leave a reply (click on the word 'posts' under the article) or email me answering the following set of questions:
  • What did you like?
  • What would you change?
  • What do you want to know more about?
  • Ideas, feedback, tips?

The article

Ecolabels in tourism are plentiful and diverse. What does it cost and, above all, what does it yield? Let’s have a closer look at the case of Flanders.


Worldwide there are 48 ecolabels which apply to touristic companies according to the website The fact that an overview site of ecolabels exists is exemplary for the problem in the sector. There simply are too many ecolabels to understand for normal people. What are the differences between those labels?

A first distinction between ecolabels is their range. Geographically speaking, some ecolabels operate worldwide. Others operate in specific areas. Nordic Swan, for example, is an ecolabel which covers mostly touristic companies in Scandinavia. Green Key or Travelife have a worldwide presence. Sector wise speaking, some ecolabels certify a wide range of sectors. Others are specialized to touristic companies.
[What is more beneficial for companies?]

Secondly, companies issuing the label can be NGOs, governments or companies. These types of organizations have different motivations.
[What is the influence of the type of organization: motivations, examples etc.? ]

Thirdly, ecolabels differ with regard to quality. A first dimension of quality is the set of criteria which an organization has to meet. A second dimension is the control procedure. Does a physical audit take place? And how frequently are companies reassessed? Some ecolabels in the touristic sector remind of greenwashing. Consumentenbond, a Dutch consumer association investigated five different ecolabels and judged only one label (Green Key) credibly. Some labels allowed hotel owners to certify themselves. Other labels implicitly allowed child labor.

An interesting fact is that a same ecolabel can mean something else in a different country. In the Netherlands, for instance, Green Key has three levels (bronze, silver and gold) and applies to a wider range of touristic companies than the Green Key label in Flanders.


The costs for an organization to get an ecolabel are threefold. Firstly, a company has to make internal costs. The company has to implement necessary changes to its operations, infrastructure and organizational structure in order to meet the criteria of the ecolabel. Secondly, the company has to pay verification costs. Indeed, an audit takes place to verify whether the company effectively meets the criteria of the label. Thirdly, the company has to pay a yearly fee to the organization issuing the label. For the certified company, this fee allows the use of the label in its communication. For the issuing organization, this fee enables the organization to operate.

These costs differ according to the size and type of a touristic company. A hotel with 100 rooms will face higher internal costs than a simple bed and breakfast. Costs payable to the issuing organization are also higher, because of a more elaborate verification audit. Furthermore, issuing organization have different prices for different types of touristic companies. Green Key Flanders, for example, charges a lower price for youth hostels than other types of organization. This kind of price differentiation allows the label to penetrate in lower-cost market segments.
[Give an indication of height of costs for tourism ecolabels in Flanders]


What are the benefits of an ecolabel for a touristic company? To answer this question, let’s have a look at the motivations of two distinct groups of companies. A first group of entrepreneurs have an ecolabel out of conviction. A second group of companies think business.

Companies which get a label out of conviction typically are smaller companies, where the owner manages his company. These people are aware of the importance of sustainability. They want to convey this message to their customers.

Companies, which get certified because of economic reasons, typically are larger businesses. Think of an international hotel chain which needs an environmental policy in order to differentiate itself from other chains. An ecolabel simply is part of their business strategy to target the environmental customer niche. It is a matter of branding.

Customers who want to sleep in a certified hotel, generally want to pay a higher price for this. This creates higher margins and makes this target group attractive.
[Exploration of sustainable customer segment]

[Exploration of how to lever an ecolabel to get more customers and increase margins]


[Give an overview of the labels in Flanders]

In September 2013 Joris Depouillon worked at Green Key Flanders.