15 June 2022

Circularity Tales: a holistic approach to sustainability in Greece

At Impact Hub, we believe in the power of circularity to create a more sustainable present and future. That’s why we are currently on a mission to mainstream circular principles across our global network. For our second story of the Circularity Tales series, which is showcasing great examples from entrepreneurs taking action on the theme, we spoke with Line Didelot, Co-Founder of ANKAA Project, a Luxembourgish and Greek non-profit organisation that stands for equitable pathways towards education and employment from a holistic perspective on sustainability.

Impact Hub: Thank you very much for joining us, Line! Going straight to the point: why does ANKAA exist? What is it about?

Line Didelot: ANKAA Project is a non-profit organisation that stands for equitable pathways to education and employment. Our approach is holistic and we offer educational programs for vulnerable communities (refugees, migrants, asylum-seekers, people out of employment) in Athens. So far, 1300 students have already benefited from it.

In addition, we create high-quality upcycled products, like backpacks, accessories, aprons, etc. Our social business model advocates for sustainable products created under fair and ethical working conditions. As social and environmental challenges are interconnected, we include a positive approach towards the environment and the principles of circular economy in all of our activities.

Impact Hub:
So you’re addressing relevant challenges from different angles – that’s super interesting! On the topic of circularity, what is its place at ANKAA?

Line Didelot: At ANKAA, we do not consider circularity to be a nice-to-have contemporary concept, but something that we believe that needs to be implemented in all operations of a business of today. Circularity cannot be an addition to a current business model but must lay the foundation of the business in all aspects; from the product itself, to the design, the business operations, and functioning – that’s why it’s part of ANKAA Project’s DNA. Basically, since we started in 2017, we have had a circular approach to all aspects of our venture.

For instance, if it was about sourcing materials and furniture, we were scavenging items from the streets of Athens or refurbished materials that would otherwise be thrown away. Our products are made from upcycled materials, like the boats with which refugees arrive on the Greek islands of Chios and Lesvos. In our tailoring classes, we use old fabrics or scrap fabrics to create smaller products (earrings, keychains, etc.), so we make sure to utilise all parts of our materials. 

Even our approach towards education and employment is circular, as the tailors employed in our project have been former students and/or trainees. Food waste of our kitchen is composted so it can later be used in our garden to close the loop.

Impact Hub:
That’s amazing – let’s hope that more and more ventures get inspired by initiatives like yours! And talking about inspiration, which circularity practices would you recommend to any impact businesses out there who want to start implementing it?

Line Didelot: A shift in our mindset is needed, as the planet of today is at risk and all actors have to bear the responsibility of it and work towards a better tomorrow. So a simple practice I would recommend to people starting on that journey would be related to procurement. 

Before purchasing anything for your venture, ask yourself: do you really need it? Are there any possibilities to get it second-hand? Could we continue using what we have before buying something new? And if you really need to purchase something new, think about your impact. Instead of buying the cheapest item that might break after a short while, why not research durable, better-quality, local alternatives?

Our actions might seem like a drop in the ocean, but each drop causes a ripple effect.”

Impact Hub: Following up on this theme and considering that ANKAA is already well-placed in this circularity journey, what have been your biggest challenges throughout that path? How has Impact Hub Athens been supporting you on that quest?

Line Didelot: ANKAA is a non-profit organisation that has developed social business activities since 2020. The constant biggest challenge of ours is fundraising – we still need to invest a lot of resources to upscale our activities. 

On the other hand, participating in the ClimAccelerator program led by Impact Hub Athens has been a valuable experience. Being part of it has helped us to learn and implement new useful tools to overcome certain challenges and to take a more strategic stand on our social business activities.

Impact Hub:
Talking about the ClimAccerator program, what did you enjoy the most from it and why?

Line Didelot: I enjoyed the networking opportunities and the possibility to connect with other inspiring ventures. Getting to know other projects that have the same mindset when it comes to the environmental challenges of today has been very inspiring and affirmed that there is no strength without unity.

Impact Hub:
Cool stuff! So looking ahead, what’s in store for ANKAA Project?

Line Didelot: We are working towards growing and diversifying our social business activities. We do not only want to work on one collection but become the go-to partner for designers and ventures regarding sustainable and ethical manufacturing in the region.

We realised that the fact that ANKAA Project has become a hybrid model between nonprofit and social business activities is an opportunity for us. Our social business model supports the non-profit model and vice versa. Additionally, growing our activities in terms of customer acquisition would help us move one step closer to financial sustainability for the entirety of the project.

Impact Hub
: Line, this has been a great conversation, thank you very much! Any final words for a more circular world?
Line Didelot: There is a climate crisis. Our governments and policy makers are not taking the necessary drastic measures that are needed. We, as founders of various ventures, need to be part of the change and cannot wait until the big players take their responsibility. We need to push circularity and solutions to environmental and social challenges first. Our actions might seem like a drop in the ocean, but each drop causes a ripple effect. We may never know how far our simplest impact action could go, but they surely make the difference.

Stay up to date with ANKAA Project by checking their website.

Circularity is part of our broader Environmental Strategy – discover how Impact Hub Global Network is addressing our time’s most pressing issues here. For more inspiring stories like this, head to our blog.

To learn from already-tested approaches, discover new activities and opportunities to integrate the Circular Economy knowledge into your entrepreneur support programs design and implementation, discover our toolkit!