Luxembourg: Oikopolis celebrates 25 years
by Redaktion (comments: 0)
A quarter of a century has recently been completed by Luxembourg’s organic marketing initiatives BIOG, Naturata and Oikopolis. To celebrate this anniversary, the Oikopolis group, a business network that developped from Luxembourg’s organic farmers‘ cooperative BIOG, invited its friends and partners, companions and associates to join founding pioneers and today’s staff for a special ceremony in the cultural centre of Mamer. The gala was hosted by Biog and Naturata, because the latter, a Luxembourg-based wholefood retailer, was the first sister company to follow the BIOG cooperative in 1989. A specialised wholesaler, Biogros, was to follow two years later, and as distribution structures kept growing, OEKimmO property management joined the group as the central service provider of Oikopolis Participations. Apart from being the mother company of these four joint-stock companies, Oikopolis Participations, itself a limited company (SA), is a holding company meant to support other, preferrably small, businesses with an orientation similar to ist own, that is: with ecological and social objectives. (Photo from left to right: Marc Emering, Claude Turmes, Fernand Etgen, Carole Dieschbourg, Ueli Hurter, Änder Schanck, Roland Majerus, Tom Kass)
The support new member companies of the ever growing Oikopolis network can count on is not barely – and not even necessarily – a monetary one… although one of the holding’s main aims is to secure the financial means for essential investments these smaller structures wouldn’t be able to undertake on their own. On the other hand, there’s a special sense of cooperation that characterizes Oikopolis‘ working together with its partners, organic or non-organic, along the entire value chain. Thus, conventional supermarkt managers meet organic farmers, and consumer representatives exchange their views with food processors and distributors – not to mention Oikopolis‘ organic wholesalers and retailers. Effects are obvious: discussing product volumes and prizing in these round-table talks is an open process that allows for mutual comprehension of each party’s special requirements. As a result of such joint efforts, price pressure on the farmers has been considerably reduced.
Success stories like that please Oikopolis representatives and extern observers alike. This became manifest during the 25th anniversary conference that boasted not less than seven speakers. To start, four "insiders" – Tom Kass, Demeter farmer and president oft he Oikopolis Participation’s advisory board, Marc Emering, organic poultry farmer and wholefood pasta-making factory founder as well as BIOG’s president, Roland Majerus, chairman of the supervisory board of Naturata wholefood retailers, and Aender Schanck, Luxembourg’s organic farming pioneer and nowadays CEO of the Oikopolis holding company – provided the audience with interesting information on Oikopolis history, structures and philosophy. At that point, a researcher and two politicians took the floor to praise the Oikopolis organic marketing initiatives‘ achievements and the prototype function of its communication structures. It was guest speaker Ueli Hurter, business consultant and co-director of the Section for Agriculture at Goetheanum’s Swiss School of Spiritual Science, who called the Oikopolis project a true "lighthouse amidst an ocean full of economic systems and theories“. Having travelled stormy seas and foggy routes, the signal sent by this landmark was as clear as comforting and encouraging, he said. According to Mr Hurter, this "land in sight“ is an invitation to the voyager errant to set foot on the ground of associative trading methods, already practised by the Oikopolis group which he called "kind of a future lab“.
Carole Dieschbourg, Luxembourg’s Minister for the Environment, took up where the guest speaker had left off and placed her greeting message under the motto "he who sows an utopia, may well harvest new realities“. In this context, she affirmed, future-oriented agriculture applying organic standards has long since arrived in the very heart of our societies, but still needs further stimulus and promotion. Immediately afterwards, the Minister for Agriculture, Viticulture and Consumer Protection confirmed there were various reasons to foster organic agriculture. Saving resources and the preservation of biodiversity were only two important aspects to be named in this sense, Fernand Etgen said and pointed out the government’s intention to support farmers willing to convert to organic, all the more so when small farmers have but little chance to survive in the age of globalization. The small and the big also interferred in Marc Emering’s speech. As a matter of fact, the BIOG cooperative’s president regretted that organic farming is still seen as a niche production by many people, whereas "we too want to grow – and that means: yes, we can feed a country!“ At that point, many a listener may have wished that, here too, Luxembourg would become a model to follow thus being, once more, "kind of a future lab“, as Mr Hurter, the guest speaker from Switzerland, had stated.
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