Being a startup and a venture studio at the same time: How Greenish is cleaning the Nile

(Photo courtesy of Greenish Facebook page)

During one of December’s cold days in Cairo, youths gathered on the shore of the River Nile in what was deemed one of the biggest collaborations to collect garbage and waste from the waterway. After a tiring but fruitful day, and with the help of volunteers, a total of 1.5 tons of garbage were collected.

One of the key partners in the cleaning event was Greenish, a social enterprise that started in 2017 and invested its efforts in saving the environment.

Business Forward sat down for a chat with the cofounder of Greenish Shady Abdullah, during which he touched upon Greenish’s aspirations, projects and venture studio.

Why Greenish?
The Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) revealed last year that Egypt disposes 80 million tons of garbage annually. Recently, the Ministry of Local Development and the Ministry of Environment have started initiatives to clean the streets of Egypt, while a new garbage law is in the pipeline.

“The exacerbating environmental problems were the reason I started Greenish,” Abdullah tells Business Forward. “There is an exceedingly huge number of plastic bags in the Nile, and there are no sustainable solutions offered to manage the waste problem.”

Greenish primarily started in order to raise awareness about why waste management is important, and also how it can be done. In 2016, before Abdullah started Greenish, he went on a tour across Egypt and visited various cities including Alexandria, Nubia, Siwa and around the Red Sea to deliver environmental awareness sessions on how manage waste.

“We visited places which we believed are most impeded by the problem of increasing waste,” Abdullah elaborates, affirming that big resorts usually dispose their garbage in the sea which negatively affects the residents as well. In Cairo, on the other end, high-end neighborhoods usually dispose their garbage in less privileged neighborhoods.

What is the business model?
Through its workshops and educational content, Greenish targets children and adults who recycle due to their understanding of the negative effect of plastic waste on their lives.

Working with the government and institutions like the GIZ, Greenish creates sustainable solutions to the country’s waste dilemma.

In January 2017 and after Greenish had secured an investment from EdVentures, the social enterprise started to grow other startups that are also focused on environment, turning into a venture studio. One of them is called Mashanna, a startup that delivers organic vegetables and fruits in bags that are environment-friendly to their customers’ doorstep.

“Greenish has now become something similar to an incubator to startups and initiatives that seek solutions to save the environment,” Abdullah emphasizes, adding that the social enterprise is aiming for an impact-driven expansion, rather than a revenue-driven one.

Greenish’s projects
One of Greenish’s main targets is the Garbage City located on the outskirts of the Mokattam neighborhood.

“We want the waste collectors to be part of what we do. We want them to be the main stakeholders,” Abdullah adds. Today, the social enterprise delivers workshops for waste collectors to improve their value chain – and accordingly improve their wages.

“Instead of only sorting the garbage, why don’t they also clean the products in order to earn more money, hence improving the value chain?” Abdullah says, expounding that the waste collectors do not mind cooperating with Greenish as long as they get something out of it. “We had to study their wages and value chain in order to intervene with the right methodology and content.”

In 2019, Greenish aims to establish eight entities in Egypt that will act as hotspots providing the enterprise’s services. From 2020 onwards, Greenish is planning on expanding in the Middle East.

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