Learning the basics

On the 9th of March our team of the Sustainable Startup Program will be hosting CSR Hub NRW — a series of workshops about the basic elements of Corporate Social Responsibility at the Factory Campus in Düsseldorf.

The event is especially interesting for startup entrepreneurs (to be) from various industries and people with an interest in sustainable business. What to expect — a practical introduction to topics related to social, ecological and responsible entrepreneurship as well as innovative business models.

kerbholz_madeincologne_wearecity_koeln-17During the workshop Moritz Blees, co-founder of the successful Cologne based startup Kerbholz will share his insights into their Business & Revenue Model (they make wrist watches and sunglasses out of wood) and our team will moderate a topic about the Sustainable Business Model Canvas. We will elaborate on the canvas building blocks social costs and social benefits — an interesting theme for my next post. I’m also very excited that we managed to join forces with the CSR Hub — an initiative of the Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production (CSCP). In 2016 I had the opportunity to work with CSCP during the Sustainica conference.

I believe that the workshop offers a great opportunity to get familiar with the CSR-basics and is free of charge (taught in German). And our team has the opportunity to advocate sustainable business practices among startup entrepreneurs in the region. Feel free to join us on the 9th in Düsseldorf!

Mapping for a good cause

Since October 2016 I have been adding schools and other points of interest in rural Tanzania to Openstreetmap.org – a community of mappers that contribute and maintain data about roads, trails, cafés, railway stations and so forth, all over the world.

The Tanzania Development Trust (TDT) www.tanzdevtrust.org is a charity that supports projects in Tanzania and they also work with the OpenStreetMap tool. TDT funds development projects in Tanzania since 1975 and is supported by international volunteers.


The first TDT project I worked on was focussing on the area around Mugumu, Serengeti to help protect girls at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM). Maps of rural Tanzania are helping social workers access remote villages and rescue girls who are being forced to undergo female genital cutting.

For more information about FGM please visit the WHO website.

It is quite a strange experience, while tagging buildings and roads on your computer screen, that you are able to help people to navigate in a region I’m not familiar with – and that at 10.000KM distance! It is great that digital technology can actually have a direct impact on our fellow residents. But at the same time are girls both in health and psychologically seriously injured during ritual ceremonies. Therefor FGM is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights. It reflects a culture of deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women.

My internet consumption each month is >25 hours (easily) and I thought why not combining my online presence and volunteering at the same time? For me online volunteering worked out pretty well and in average I am spending 2-3 hours every week on the mapping. If you like to support the Tanzania Development Trust or similar good causes, you could have a look at the United Nations Volunteers website.

Bukit Lawang

In December last year we went on a trip to Indonesia. One of the places we visited was Bukit Lawang. A small and popular village located on the edge of the Gunung Leuser National Park — a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is home to numerous birds, plants and mammal species like the Sumatran orang utan (Pongo abelii).

The 2.5 million hectare Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra site comprises three national parks: Gunung Leuser National Park, Kerinci Seblat National Park and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park. The site holds the greatest potential for long-term conservation of the distinctive and diverse biota of Sumatra, including many endangered species (source: unesco.org) so we booked a three-day jungle trek in the hope to find orang utans.


We encountered five orang utans and several other animals – an experience to be well remembered. Walking through this kind of forest makes you feel small. Plants and trees are growing everywhere – absolutely amazing.

But besides all the beauty and excitement I also sensed that the village and the Gunung Leuser National Park is facing some challenges too. For example the amount of litter in the village is something which can not be overlooked. Plastic packaging, bottles and other stuff is scattered around the place. During the trekking we spend the nights at two different base-camps. Also here were traces of litter evident.

I assume the amount of visitors will increase in the years ahead and I would like to see that as something positive as it brings prosperity to the residents and many trekking-businesses. But the increase of visitors also puts pressure on the amount of waste produces – not to mention the collection and processing of the waste. And as most people come for jungle trekking the increase of visitors will also put a burden on the forest animals. Other challenges are palm oil production and illegal logging (the harvest, transportation, purchase / sale of timber)

I have email exchange with Bukit Lawang Jungle Trekking – one of the many trekking businesses in the village. They organised our jungle trip in a very professional way and with one of the directors I reflected my thoughts. It’s a relief that they have the same opinion and in fact they initiated the CARE NOW project to fight some of the issues. This initiative focusses on education, training and support of local communities about waste (management, reduction, separation, processing) and the impact on the environment. Another project they support is the BUKIT LAWANG TRUST. The purpose of the trust is to engage in environmental and wildlife projects in connection with the endangered Sumatran orang utans.bukit-lawang_gunung-leuser-national-park_2016

I truly hope that other local businesses take an example of Bukit Lawang Jungle Trekking and that local authorities will anticipate timely in order to secure the future of the people, the park and its wildlife.

A fresh start

Whoosh… time flies when so many things are taking place. Several months have passed since the successful edition of Sustainica & Planet B. The Sustainica project was a personal milestone as it gave me lots of experiences to reflect on as well as new opportunities and ideas.


For 2017 the focus of the Sustainable Lifestyle Initiative is to contribute to conscious entrepreneurship, sustainable development and environmental matters. I partly do that by publishing stories on this blog and through the temporary assignment I currently work on  – the Sustainable Startup Program. Why these topics in particular? After some years in the private sector I developed a personal and professional interest in these fields and some of these experiences I’d like to share with you.

My next post will be about an exiting trip we made to Bukit Lawang in north Sumatra. Stay tuned!

A look back before looking ahead

In the first six month of 2015 we were most of the time busy with fine-tuning the concept of Sustainica. It was (and is) important to define the exact niche market and also what kind of consumer groups we wanted to focus on. In July ’15 the Sustainable Lifestyle Initiative was finally established – the formal kick-off…

Till December ’15 we were primarily busy with finding collaborative partners, establishing a panel of experts, working with dedicated freelancers on the website and marketing matters and we did of course a lot of sales. Herewith an overview of the work we accomplished so far:

  • We already welcomed over 40 participating businesses & designers in the field of Sustainable lifestyle & Innovation
  • We closed partnerships with the NRW-Forum (curating art exhibition Planet B), City of Düsseldorf, UNEP 10YFP Consumer Information Programme, Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production gGmbH (CSCP) and UPS Deutschland
  • We brought together 4 multidisciplinary experts and a team of dedicated freelancers
    We have a partnership with Communication agency O3PR for marketing-and PR campaigns
  • We are partnering with Ecosign-Akademie für Gestaltung in Cologne, the German Federal Ecodesign Award in Berlin and Transnatural from Amsterdam
  • And we welcomed the first speakers for the Conference: Corsus | Corporate Sustainability, Ecosign-Akademie and Natrufied architecture

In 2016 we’re expecting to welcome many more businesses & designers to participate in the fair. We’re also planning to release an extra page on Sustainica dedicated to the conference. Beginning of February we begin with an intensive marketing-and PR campaign with Communication agency O3PR and parallel we start with the planning and positioning of the so far registered companies.

A lot is going on and more to come soon!

Partnership with the NRW-Forum & City of Düsseldorf

Great! On June 1 and Nov. 8 2015 we established two important partnerships with the NRW-Forum museum and the City of Düsseldorf – the department for Economic Development . A small but definitely an important step to build on.

NRW-Forum by night_©Endermann
The NRW-Forum museum by night and in the distance Tonhalle Düsseldorf – the concert hall. Image by Endermann

It’s very exciting to receive positive feedback from the organisations with whom you’d like to work. Both parties agreed to support the Sustainable Lifestyle Initiative in the development of Sustainica 2016.

It helps us with collective (and creative) problem solving, capacity building (actions that boost our ability and effectiveness to deliver greater help to the community), the exchange of knowledge and of course networking.

And now – let’s roll!