Bureo a Start-Up Chile Alumni was honoured in a reception at the United States Embassy in Santiago, Chile. They were presented with the Award for Corporate Excellence in Sustainable Oceans Management on behalf of the U.S State Department, by Ambassador Carol S. Perez and Executive Director of Start-Up Chile Rocio Fonseca.
Bureo is a for-profit enterprise operating internationally with establishments in Chile and the United States. Within Bureo is a complex recycling program called ‘Net Positiva’ which tackles plastic pollution on Chile’s coast through net collection. The fishing nets are collected and manufactured into skateboards, sunglasses and other sustainable products. The organisation interacts directly with local fishing communities, providing access to disposal points as well as financial incentives for doing so.
The problem they tackle is not exclusive to Chile’s coastline, it is a global issue as plastic pollution grows to crisis levels. Plastic fishing nets are extremely harmful to marine ecosystems as the material damages reefs beyond repair. In 2015, The Ocean Conservancy reported that the level of plastic in the ocean not only disrupts marine ecosystems but also poisons the global supply of seafood.
A similar effort is being carried out in the Philippines by Interface, they remove discarded nets and encourage recycling of nets by providing financial incentive in the local community. It is important that initiatives are well supported to grow and scale in order to outpace the rapid levels of waste entering the ocean. Plastic waste can be attributed to rapid over-development in fast developing countries where waste management is either non-existent or the infrastructure is inadequate to deal with the volume.
Bureo’s efforts to impact this problem was also recognised by Patagonia’s Venture Capital Fund, Tin Shed Ventures in the form of an impact investment. Impact investments are defined as investments that set out to achieve positive social and environmental impact, alongside a financial return, while measuring the achievement of both. The fund invests in environmentally and socially responsible start-up companies and has an impressive portfolio including B Corporation Solar Fund and re-usable e-commerce company Yerdle.
During the evening, Bureo accepted the award and delivered words of acceptance in front of an audience of friends, family, academia, and the startup community. Founder Ben Kneppers spoke about his personal experience working in Chile as well as the founding trio’s journey to where they are today. He spoke fondly of Chile, highlighting that ‘Chile gave us the opportunity’.
Perhaps their arrival in Chile was serendipitous as a Reuters Foundation poll of nearly 900 experts found that Chile was one of the five most exciting places for business leaders wanting to have a social impact. Similarly to Chile’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, social entrepreneurs are privy to the same benefits of an enabling environment such as access to investment, skilled staff, government support and a public understanding.
Towards the end of Kneppers address he noted that, ‘We are on the right track to show that business can do good for the world’. Bureo is a testament to showing that business can do social good, and Chile is a great place to do it.
Anne-Marie Morrell | @annemarie_sling
To date, Bureo have recycled 170,040 ft. of fishing net.