Le réseau « Bioplaneta » de l´innovateur social Héctor Marcelli offre aux résidents mexicains locaux les outils de base pour créer de nouvelles entreprises durables et à succès. “Bioplaneta” met l´accent sur la rentabilité économique, en remettant à flot les entreprises nouvelles et fragiles et en même temps stimulant les habitants à protéger l´environnement et leurs communautés.
Reported by Talli Nauman
In Mazunte, a small town on Mexico's Pacific coast, the owners of a cooperatively owned cosmetics company dubbed their brand new factory the "Miracle of Mazunte."
Shortly after the closing of what was once the town's sole employer—Mexico’s largest sea turtle slaughterhouse—the Mazunte Natural Cosmetics factory was able to replace lost jobs. But to survive, the owners had to prove that their environmentally friendly venture could be a commercial success. Today, the factory has become a cornerstone of the entire region's economy – making it even more of a miracle than expected.
This once-struggling enterprise was able to succeed against all odds for several reasons. It built a growing base of customers by constantly diversifying its product line, and in addition to providing manufacturing jobs, the attractive adobe cosmetic factory doubles as a tourist magnet, funneling additional revenues to nearby businesses too.
It also boosted the local economy thanks to the guidance of social innovator Hector Marcelli, who introduced a new system of saving a portion of profits to serve as startup capital for other local businesses.
Marcelli's non-profit Bioplanet Network gives local residents the basic tools to create thriving sustainable businesses. Bioplanet emphasizes the need for a timely return on investment, keeping fragile new ventures afloat, while encouraging residents to protect their environment and enhance their communities.
When members receive seed money for a business, they are not asked to re-pay the donor. Instead, once they are operating in the black, their stakeholders must agree to give an equivalent amount – either in money or services – to another start-up fair trade venture.
Thanks to Bioplanet's successful efforts, the Mexican government is working with the organization to help its members export their products and become part of the global marketplace.
"For the first time in the country's history, they are putting down money to support fair trade and organic commerce for communities to export," Marcelli said of the government. "The politicians are seeing that the products seem successful, and they want to be in the photo," he quipped.
The Bioplanet Network links an expanding group of cooperatives, non-profits and locally owned small businesses with a variety of philanthropic and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Farmers, craftsmen, artists, and ecotourism attractions that are rooted in conservation and social service, and offer quality goods or services, are eligible to receive support from the Bioplanet Network.
Network members are located in rural communities that have been passed over by Mexico's entry into the global economy. Some date back over 20 years, to a time when Marcelli started working with them as a founder of EcoSolar, one of Mexico's first environmental groups, and the launch pad for businesses like Mazunte Natural Cosmetics.
When other NGOs began offering similar support, Marcelli jumped at the chance to unite these separate efforts to bolster the newly emerging entrepreneur class. Today, the network's members have built a lucrative supply chain among themselves, supporting and mentoring each other at every turn.
Mazunte Natural Cosmetics for example, has signed a contract with Sanzekan Tinemibuys to sell its holiday cosmetics baskets on consignment, and it buys sesame oil from Tomatal Ecological Producers. Like Mazunte's adobe cosmetics factory, Tomatal's thatch-roofed adobe processing facility doubles as an ecotourism attraction.
Each of these has a potential to become part of the expanding globalized economy. And Marcelli says that’s a good thing.
"I personally am an absolute fan of globalization," Marcelli said. "It is the dream that I had since childhood: a world without boundaries, global communication. The problem is how it works."
But Marcelli is changing exactly that – how it works. Through the Bioplanet Network, Marcelli hopes to continue to change the system so that Mexican government policies will put the network members' needs at the forefront of trade and development strategy to encourage investor partnering, and enroll more community-oriented enterprises.
Marcelli envisions a day when Bioplanet's members have benefited sufficiently from its efforts to say they no longer need help; when they all will have managed to make money from protecting their environment, and can continue sharing their wealth.
The cycle of wealth is in smooth rotation under Bioplanet’s system, but does globalization invite the world to participate in equal economic exchange, or does it just leave a country open to potential exploitation?