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.