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Entrepreneurs Track 6: Sustainable Business Networks in the Euro-MED Region

Why is it crucial to have Sustainable Business Networks?



Sustainable business networks, usually business associations or federations, constitute a remarkable agent within green economy ecosystems, capable of boosting eco-entrepreneurship, and scaling up the impact of their members by enlarging their social capital, promoting their businesses, stimulating innovation, and bringing their voice to decision makers. In this context the session was meant for managers and members of networks of this kind across the Euro-MED region to exchange best practices and success stories, and to look for opportunities of international collaboration. Also, organisations interested in setting up similar networks in their region, or rendering their “traditional? ones more sustainable, were welcome to join the conversation.


What is the potential of these sustainable business networks?

Four goals guided the session:

  • Demonstrate the impact sustainable business networks have on strengthening green economies, with success stories
  • Exchange best practices in creating, managing and growing networks of these nature
  • Guide the interest of parties in the creation of new networks
  • Explore opportunities for international cooperation between the networks, defining a common vision, and outlining a roadmap. A first joint initiative is already underway:  


 First Ariadna Benet, moderator of session, introduced keynote speakers :

Luis Morales - Ecove 

Ecove is a member of the Spanish Business Association, representing green startups and with 40 members. They belong to with the objective of pushing a low carbon economy. They are scaling up the Spanish network. It is important to have public-private consortiums and to apply for calls/funds (Spanish or European level). The EU approved last year a new package for circular economy (the application to the Spanish law and context has been requested).

Emna Belaifa - Representative from Conect 

Conect has 21 branches, and each branch has 10 employers. There is an international branch to improve exportation to other countries, as well as branches in France and Italy, amongst others. Conect is participating in SwitchMed and in a second programme as well. They help entrepreneurs with their business plans (business model canvas) and connect them with financial associations to develop the SMEs, working in 16 cities in Tunisia (starting 2014), and the ideas received are distributed among the partners that follow the programme through a web platform. There are partners that work with TICs, partners that only work on the financing part. Five thousand jobs and 1,000 SMEs were created in 2 years. “Micro-menting? programme working with mentors working with more than 100 entrepreneurs.

Ariadna Benet summarized the two presentations by highlighting Common practices and differences between both :

  •   Common practices: networking for funding and for sharing experiences
  •   Differences: probably in Tunisia there is a strong focus on supporting entrepreneurs and building business, is this the case of eco-entrepreneurs? They are more focused on lobbying. In Spain, they also focus on technical training and mentoring workshops once in a while. In Tunisia lobbying also takes place with private and public actors.

Then, Ariadna Benet asked Luis Morales what benefits the entrepreneurs get from participating in their workshops. Luis Morales answered that they organise workshops within the IMPACT HUB network (100 of hubs or co-working spaces in Spain and a network of 2000 members). The main benefits from participating are the connections, the possibility of promotion for their projects (and to gain visibility with the scaling up of their ideas), the connection to potential partners and/or financial institutions and business angels, it also gives the opportunity to learn from each other and exchange ideas or help each other, they find new customers, …

Limits and potentialities of Sustainable Business Networks


The 11 participants were split in 3 groups (groups of 3-6 people were made, each to discuss one of the issues) around the key topics concerning typical areas of work of Sustainable Business Networks. Advice was also requested for setting up new networks or incorporating the sustainable approach into existing ones:



The discussion was on tools that could be implemented to promote eco entrepreneurship:

  1. Incubation programmes (with mentors, business associations, …) particularly for those in the early stages that they have still not launched their idea or set up their start up
  2. Celebrating different type of activities with stakeholders: workshops, meetings, breakfasts, … bringing relevant key note speakers or influencers and representatives from successful cases in order to try to inspire others (this can be done in a periodic mode dealing with different topics)
  3. Marketplace for more mature start ups
  • PROMOTION OF MEMBERS Group (participants from Italy, Israel, Spain in the group)

They came up with 3 different networks in their countries on different topics such as women, fashion …

  1. AFAEME (Spain),
  2. the Women Professional Network, and
  3. the Eco-fashion network.

In order to have a sustainable business, a network of various agents is necessary to support the network and the same values in order to build the network together (an overall body).

It is necessary to ensure the support of a Hub as well as environmental compliance for SMEs. In the case of innovation an assessment can be important.



Next Steps Mentioned at the End of the Session


It is necessary to define a shared vision for our common Euro-Med region on the following issues:

  •     Identify international calls and common needs
  •     Share successful cases
  •     Incubation and support for entrepreneurs
  •     Share the knowledge, technical skills and resources and efforts of all the networks from the Mediterranean going beyond the national barriers



How can these objectives be achieved?


  •   Meetings between the MENA region
  •   Visibility platform (the example of Conect)
  •   Involve multilateral institutions (SEED) or a trusted partner to organise national events in the countries involving different stakeholders