The Gold of Bengal Project - The Jute-lab

The Gold of Bengal Project - The Jute-lab: An innovative material for a sustainable Bengladeshi development!

Muzillac, FranceBangladesh
Year Founded:
2013
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Start-Up
Budget: 
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The decline of the Jute sector in Bangladesh threatens millions of jobs and rural development. The NGO has identified a promising innovation to internationally revalue the jute trade. This sustainable material could turn this ancestral industry into a highly competitive asset for the country.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if the Golden Fiber of Bangladesh was the key to both the global need to use more eco-friendly materials and to Bangladeshi sustainable development challenges?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Jute is the 2nd most cultivated fiber in the world and Bangladesh is the largest exporter of this commodity (85% of the global exportations). Historically used for bag making and ropes, products with low added-value, the competition with plastics and the lack of diversification resulted in a drop in demand. This trend jeopardizes 30 million people working on the value-chain and the economic rural equilibrium already affected by climate change.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The Jute Fiber is a natural alternative to synthetic fibers used as reinforcement in composite materials. The composite market reaches an annual production of $110 billion dollars in the aeronautic, transport, sport and leisure sectors…For 85%, the composite market is held by the very polluting fiberglass reinforcement (rejects 580 Kg/CO2/ton), whose handling is unhealthy for employees as well. The solution rests upon the synergy between local assets and technical research in order to maximize the positive impacts of Jute composites. The introduction of jute reinforcements on the global composite market will re-galvanize the local industrial sector and encourage the development of new activities with high local added-value.

Awards

Bourse du Rêve for entrepreneurship; Convergences for a sustainable partnership; GSVC France for social innovation; Sparknews Award for social innovation; Théophile Legrand for textile innovation
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

As a consequence of frequent flooding issues (due to natural disasters, high population density and geographical situation), the Bangladeshi flotilla is the biggest in the world. Recently, safer boats made out of imported fiberglass have replaced less resistant traditional wooden boats,a change which impacts the local economy and the environment. In 2013, we produced the FIRST100% natural fibers boat “Gold of Bengal”, with a team of 20 people in a local shipyard! Inaugurated in the Jute Minister's presence, it has been tried outduring an expedition to Indonesia. Apart from its huge promotion impact (thanks to the awarded movie we made), this innovative prototype showed the viability of the material.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Thanks to our involvements during international trade shows, conferences, TV-program (5M audience), and to partnerships set up with university programs to introduce the jute fiber in scientific research, GOB’s work has already significantly improved public awareness on the jute sector and agro-composites. Our activities have launched two businesses, and about 20 have been made by international clients, apart from our own prototypes. We have launched three innovative reinforcements with 2 Jute mills and we are currently transferring one of the technologies to a new local business. Our future activities will allow new business opportunities in the jute sector, strengthening existing ones while facilitating the access to more appropriated and responsible products. Finally, the introduction of a natural alternative to synthetics fibers will lead to a lower global ecological footprint!

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

The full impact will expand correlatively with the share of natural fibers in the composite market, which is to reach 22% (11% today, $2,1b) in 2020 according to the JEC group because of energetic industrial challenges and new environmental regulations. As a highly resistant, cheap and abundant material, the jute fiber has a great potential to become a big share of this emerging market. GOB's applied R&D and innovative products development could be replicated in other areas where ancestral fibers, such as abaca, coco, flax, sisal, kenaf .are grown, in order to provide sustainable outlets.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

GOB of Bengal Project is currently evolving from a pilot project to a social business, as the only actor able to link local jute industrials and global composite actors. Thanks to our expertise on the material, our industrial network in Bangladesh and our international market network, we will keep ensuring our revenues through the facilities we provide to Jute mills, composite industrials or final clients: Development of innovative reinforcements, market linkages, workforce training, sustainable supply-chain control, composite items production…

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

While the diversification & market linkage of jute products is the object of many public and NGOs initiatives (ex: Jute Diversification and Promotion Center; Care, Tradecraft, Caritas…), these are limited to widening the range of existing outlets such as fashionable bags and clothes. Besides the lack of value added content, these products always lack innovative technical improvements. In that perspective, Gold of Bengal project is striking and unique as it upgrades existing know-how’s and local industrial infrastructure while answering booming global demand for sustainable materials.
Team

Founding Story

As I was working in a shipyard in Chittagong, I have been captivated by these endless jute fields and the shinny vision of the Golden fiber drying along the roads. Jute was everywhere and this is how replacing glass-fiber with this local fiber appeared to me as an evidence. I decided to build a small boat “Tara-Tari1” made out of 40%jute fiber and to sail back to France in it to prove the pertinence of my intuition… This adventurous journey enabled me to gather partners and to come back to Bangladesh to launch the Gold of Bengal project!

Team

Apart from my coordinator role, the team is composed of 6 young minds: two engineers are working on the prototyping and R&D on clean production processes; two engineers are in charge of the production and development of our 1rst innovative fabric (“The Pàt”); one commercial is in charge of the PR and finance. These 6 full-time employees are supported by two local workers and by an amazing network of laboratories, universities and volunteers.
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

I have been approached by a member of the Ashoka team: Arianna De Mario

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

I am the founder of the Gold of Bengal not-for-profit organization created in December 2013 and of its Jute lab program.

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

Responsible Consumption and Production.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

The access to education is probably the most amazing chance I had in my life and I feel the need to put it to good use for environmental and poverty issues.
At first, I have created with two friends in 2003 a program “Antipode Inde” to raise money and build houses in South-India for underprivileged families. Then I went to Auroville to manage the development of air turbines systems to draw water from the ground. In 2006-2007, I Co-created the company Gaïa, to valorize ecotourism in dedicated villages. Despite our feasibility studies and business plans, we did not manage to find appropriate land with legal authorizations. This experience gave me the exciting and sometimes bitter taste of entrepreneurship and despite the disappointment; It was clear than my next project will be the good one. This intuition has been strenghten by many entrepreneurs’ testimonies “Most of the 1rst business initiatives fail; only perseverance pays”. My next initiative was the production of my boat Tara-Tari, my solo-journey and the beginning of a new story. 4 years later we are a solid team of young minds from various background supported by thousands of volunteers…

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

The NGO Gold of Bengal relies on a huge network of partners: Companies (CPHD-Composite Fiber, Jabaida and Janata Jute Mills…), Laboratories (Quantis, Kairos, Ifremer…), Universities (UBS, Sustainable Design School…), Nautical and furniture’s Designers (Marc van Peteghem, Joran Briand…), Public Institutions (La Guilde du Raid, JDPC, Bangladeshi Jute Research Institute…), foundations (Fonds Explore, Anber…), and on the unreserved support of individuals and volunteers.

Among many others, two very special person for Gold of Bengal are:

- Saim Faisal: CEO of CPHD-Composite Fiber, Bangladeshi business partner-entity to whom we are transferring the first innovative reinforcement we have developed. Saim Faisal has invested for a year now in a complete production chain to launch the production of this fabric and closely follow the activities of Gold of Bengal in Bangladesh.
saim.faisal17@gmail.com

- Roland Jourdain, French Navigator, Winner of the Route du Rhum 2006&2010, founder of the Explore Foundation and of the Kairos laboratory. The Explore fund is a key support of Gold of Bengal development. As a great leader actively committed inthe protection of the environment, Roland and his personal advices are very precious to develop my management skills.
roland@kairos-jourdain.com

Both of them stay available to send recommendation letters.