Alberto Sanchez, his sister Maria and his colleague Sergio Baamonde are young Spanish entrepreneurs who have bet on an edible seaweed sustainable business to have a better future. The trio begun their edible seaweed company a few years ago and continue to produce most of their product by hand (production of the goods, harvesting and washing the seaweeds).
In this short interview I spoke with Alberto, the CEO of the company, about the impact of Spain’s austerity programme post the financial crisis, and the emergence of edible seaweed businesses over the past decade or so.
Spain has faced austerity: as professionals, do you think it has jeopardized sustainability in your country? Could you explain why?
I don’t know if sustainability could be jeopardized in Spain. But it’s obvious that Spain faced bankruptcy and the economic policies of the government have aimed at cutting some budgets. This has affected Spain’s economic development. Increases in taxes such as VAT and income tax have led to a loss of competitiveness for Spanish companies. In the same way, these policies have generated difficulties for many people with consequences regarding the Spanish internal market – not to mention social frustration and discontent amongst ordinary people who have to cope with constant job insecurity.
Galicia is a Spanish region where seaweeds have been harvested in a sustainable way for more than twenty-five years. What have the different stakeholders done (policies, integrated management or programmes) to preserve this natural resource?
In Galicia, it’s necessary to be granted permission to start a seaweed production company, although this was not the case in the past. Moreover, one must abide by new European directives that include the promotion of good management of natural resources, innovative activities regarding nature conservation and the sustainable management of seaweeds. Companies, associations of fishermen and authorities are involved in the process.
Your team plan to grow mushrooms. Numerous studies have shown the particular place of mushrooms in ecosystems. As researchers, do you think that their particular properties could be used to tackle the effects of climate change?
Although there are new studies that assume that mushrooms could be used to tackle climate change, I don’t totally agree with these studies because mushrooms are themselves part of the most affected organisms by climate change. An extensive bibliography could be found on this subject such as “Mushroom fruiting and climate change (Kauserud et al.) and “Climate change impacts, adaptative capacity and vulnerability of European forest ecosystems”….(Lindner et al.).
What do you believe a business should do to protect the planet?
In my opinion, every company should be environmentally responsible. This could mean different things to a company. For example, using better environmental technologies in production processes, improving the sustainable management of natural resources, trying to reduce energy consumption, and training employees on an on-going basis.
What advice would you share with someone looking to get into sustainable business?
My personal experience has taught me that if you want to follow a similar journey to ours, you have to be positive and must be aware it can take a long time and be difficult. However, I have learnt that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
Special Thanks to Lionel Pambou who helped me create and translate the questions in Spanish