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​​Defence of the business model - the regenerative start-up

by Louise-Océane Delion, marine biologist and scientific content creator for Koraï

In the face of environmental breakdowns, unprecedented in human history, it is becoming urgent to rethink how we live and organise ourselves as a human society.

Climate change, extreme weather events, melting glaciers, biodiversity collapse, global pandemics, depletion of natural resources... The alarm bell has been rung.

These ecological disruptions that occur in all four corners of the world highlight certain limits that we must face: the finitude of planetary resources, but also the limits of our development as we know it, i.e. a continuous development based on the extraction and exploitation of these same finite resources.

Each of us is affected by these global changes. Each of us also has our share of responsibility, at our own scale. It is irrelevant to focus only on one culprit or one responsible industry... It is about being able to transform all industries and all sectors of our society, in a collaborative way, in order to limit the disaster and adapt to this changing world.

In the notorious triangle of individuals (civil society), companies (the private sector) and governments (the public sector), everyone can find their place to act and transform our way of living. The objective is to be able to regain our place as human beings in a living web from which we have extricated ourselves for too long, in order to continue to live adequately on this planet, rather than suffer our own destruction.

With Koraï, we decided to act within the private sector by creating a start-up. Our mission is to regenerate Africa's marine ecosystems by involving companies that wish to solve the ecological and social challenges resulting from biodiversity loss and climate change.

In today's world, where profit is associated with resource extraction and positive actions for the planet are associated with non-profit organisations, the form and relevance of our business model are often questioned.

In this article, we explain to you why we created a start-up to address the decline in marine ecosystems, why a corporate model is more relevant than a non-profit model in the face of the emergency, and how capitalism has a vital role to play in the regeneration of resources and the living world.

The limits of the non-profit sector

"Why not create a non-profit organisation?"

This is probably the question we are asked the most when we mention our choice of creating a start-up. This is because the majority of projects that aim to "do good", whether from a social or environmental point of view, take the form of a charity. For most of us, the non-profit sector is the only model that exists today to implement virtuous actions.

But the non-profit sector has many limitations that can hinder the development of these same actions.

First of all, since profit cannot be generated, it is difficult for a charity to set up a commercial approach and generate profits to be used for the deployment of the organisation. Thus, the non-profit model depends on public subsidies, grants and donations. Public subsidies are more or less decreasing everywhere, and donations depend on the public’s generosity or philanthropists that must be successfully mobilised. This dependence poses major financial constraints on the deployment of the actions.

Moreover, charities mainly rely on the volunteer help of people who wish to offer their time outside their main job and who wish to commit themselves to a cause. Although the values that unite these people around the project are remarkable, the limits of time and energy dedicated to the actions are much more present than when a whole team of full-time hired people is involved.

Today, all charities and NGOs agree on one point: the financial resources they have available to develop their actions are insufficient. The search for funding is a central part of all organisations, often to the prejudice of their actions and sometimes even hindering the founding values of the organisation when it has to join forces with the private sector to find sufficient funds.

Breaking boundaries through business

If there is one reason why charities turn to the private sector, it is because money is there, and in order to develop impactful actions, funds are needed.

So why not create a business directly, with the ultimate objective of achieving virtuous actions, in the same way as a charity?

The business model of the company overcomes the limits imposed by the non-profit world by allowing profit to be generated, which can then be reinvested into an environmental or social objective. A commercial activity then allows the independence of the company, reinforcing the strength and durability of the project.

The profit generated is also useful for job creation. A company has the capacity to bring together a team of people who have the opportunity to make a career by using their time and energy for a virtuous goal. In addition to improving the economic situation of each individual, developing a workforce also accelerates and accentuates the company's capacity for action.

A limitless capitalism in a finite world

Although this business model is ideal, it is far from being the one adopted by the majority of companies today.

Our global economic model, the capitalist model, is also a model with limitations.

We are currently caught in a capitalist spiral where our economy is intimately linked to the extraction and exploitation of natural resources. The global market has been built on a model that sees the planet as a place of infinite resources, which we can exploit without considering the true cost and where financial profit becomes the ultimate goal.

Unfortunately, we have failed to consider the living world and its finitude in our model. We have neglected the whole natural world around us, extracted ourselves from it, and started to reach its limits. We have slowly, gradually but surely destroyed what serves as the foundation for our development.

But should we abandon the idea of capitalism? Is there not a way to experience capitalism in a more virtuous way? And to use profits to regenerate natural resources and all that we have destroyed?

Towards a regenerative capitalism

Our financial system is a powerful global mechanism to organise and coordinate ourselves. Couldn't we use it to gather the resources needed to address the environmental emergency?

Rather than throwing out the capitalist model for what it is and where it has led us today in terms of global change, we can adapt and use it strategically to better protect, reuse and regenerate the planet's resources and ecosystems on which we depend to live.

This would mean considering the profit generated not as an end in itself, but as a leverage point for achieving the objectives of protecting and regenerating the living world.

It would mean considering growth not only in terms of financial profits but in terms of lively growth, where terrestrial and marine ecosystems regenerate and multiply themselves.

It would mean moving away from a purely extractive model towards one that reinvests its capital in the service of the planetary common good.

Capitalism has too often been synonymous with profit, to the detriment of the planet. But we now have the opportunity to transform it so that capitalism promotes a positive impact on all life forms.

And it is exactly by adopting this system of regenerative capitalism that Koraï was created.

Koraï, the start-up serving marine ecosystems

Or we should say that it is by adopting this economic model that Koraï has reinvented itself. Koraï exists for many years but is not originally a company that focuses on the regeneration of corals.

Koraï is originally a family business specialising in the export of corals for aquariums. Based in Nosy-Be, the coral farm has a classic business model. But in 2020, the global pandemic that suspended its activity and the passing of the owner forced the transformation of the coral farm.

Jeimila and her brother took over their father's coral farm and decided to transform it into a virtuous business, moving away from the system of coral exports for aquariums towards a regenerative model, using the coral farm as a nursery to contribute to the regeneration of the surrounding coral reefs.

The project is thus transforming itself and developing a more ambitious objective, which goes beyond the borders of Madagascar with the ambition of participating in the regeneration of Africa's marine ecosystems.

Koraï is, therefore, the perfect example of the transformation of the business model in favour of the living world, using its commercial activity and, therefore, its capital, as a regenerative force.

Knowing that there is an urgent need to raise funds to restore land and marine ecosystems that are disappearing all over the world, this type of business model appears to be the most suitable to respond to this emergency.

The start-up model allows the development of innovative ideas that respond to modern problems in society, whether they are environmental or social. This is why Koraï was created: to respond to the collapse of Africa's marine ecosystems by accelerating their regeneration through an innovative economic model.

Companies exist to respond to the expectations and needs of society, taking into account the current social and environmental issues. In view of the current environmental emergency, it is more than necessary for each company to contribute to the regeneration of ecosystems, using their capital as a leveraging force.

The adaptation to the global changes we are experiencing will take place through the companies that decide to actively participate in the implementation of solutions and contribute to the regeneration of the living system on which they depend.

At Koraï, we enable your company and your collaborators to use a part of your capital to contribute to the regeneration of the marine ecosystems of Africa. Contact us to participate together in the regeneration of the living system on which we all depend.

References - Going further

Hawken, Paul. Natural Capitalism : Creating the next Industrial Revolution. Boston : Little, Brown and Co., 2000.

The 8 Principles of a Regenerative Economy -

Is capitalism incompatible with a healthy climate ? Think Sustainability Podcast

Listen on Spotify

Saving Coral Reefs with Coral Gardeners (purpose-driven business) - The Ocean Impact Podcast

Listen on Spotify

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