Home > Awareness > Sustainability meets economy

For me personally the image of business and the economic view on the world has always been quite negative. The first thoughts that would pop up in my mind would be “They only care about money, have no heart, are self-centered, don’t care about ethnical rules and destroy our planet.”

But economic thinking doesn’t necessarily have to be like that – that’s what I learned last weekend.

In fall I joined a group in my university called SIFE (Students In Free Enterprise) which today is a global network that was founded in the USA. Last weekend I attended one of their coaching seminars.

The philosophy of this organization basically is to apply the knowledge you gain by studying at university to establish sustainable projects for a good cause. The criteria that have to be considered in every project are to help people in need and the planet and make profit at the same time. They believe that only if a project generates profit it can be sustainable, because it can be independent and finance itself.

In my opinion, we can learn a lot from these projects for establishing our own projects as they are created in a real sustainable way which means that after they are settled, no more sponsoring is needed. This always includes teaching the people involved the necessary skills in order to help them to become independent.

Here are only two examples of our project:

The first project is a multinational project called “Palm Plates”. As you all know, when there are special occasions in a lot of companies and food is ordered, almost everyone uses one way plastic plates to eat. This huge amount of plastic causes a lot of problems for our planet (plastic islands in the oceans, etc.). In India, however, new kinds of plates that are made out of old palm leaves which are bio degradable and therefore better for our environment have been developed. Our aim is to get more and more German companies to use palm plates. We found a Finish palm plate distributor who cooperates with a factory in India. Our work for the project is to persuade companies in Germany to buy the product. One way to do it –besides the ecological aspect – is that part of the money they spend on the plates is supporting an orphanage right next to the factory in India. Some of our team members even visited the factory and the orphanage in India and made sure the Finish distributor wasn’t a fraud. Running this project we are able to help three parties: the environment by reducing the use of plastic, the Indian people by creating jobs and supporting the orphanage and the Finish distributor by helping him to access the German market!

The second project I want to introduce to you is about plastic bottles. In Germany, there is a deposit system for plastic bottles which already is a huge step to save natural resources as the plastic can be reused for new bottles. But still – a lot of people just throw their bottles away. The idea of the project is to make people donate their plastic bottles instead of throwing them away. That’s why we put up containers in cities all over Germany where you can donate your plastic bottles. In order to not only support the environment but also help people in need, jobs were created to empty the containers and bring the bottles to a collection station. The people who do these jobs are people that have been unemployed because of illnesses that don’t allow them to work on a daily basis. But as the workload is not that big, they are able to do this job and earn some money (some of the deposit money is their salary and the rest of the money is donated to social projects) and that way integrate into society again. A lot of people are not willing to donate a huge amount of money, but just donating 25 cents in form of a bottle is ok for them. That’s why this project is so successful. There are collected many bottles everyday and that way natural resources are saved and people can be employed. And above all – after setting up the project, it is running all by itself and is sustainable!

I hope I could give you some ideas about how a project can be set up in a sustainable and successful way and show you that sometimes the economic view on a problem can be very helpful indeed!

Quick Info:
  • Date: Winter 2011
  • Location: Karlsruhe, Germany

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