Selling olive oil and chocolate for a better world

“Companies have the power to break consumer habits”

March 15 2022

“Because I care!” Halfway through the interview, Fanny Lecroulant, full-time MBA alumna of Nyenrode Business University, gets up out of her chair. As if the question why she gave up a successful career in engineering for an uncertain existence as a social entrepreneur was a strange one. “It was not a big sacrifice for me,” she emphasizes later in the interview. “I wanted a more meaningful job, and I have that now. This gives me much more satisfaction. I’m happy!”

Trained as an engineer, the Frenchwoman worked as a project manager for a railroad contractor. In 2020, just before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, she decided to quit her job because she wasn’t entirely happy. She followed the one-year full-time MBA at Nyenrode to retrain as a business administrator. Her reason? She expects that as a business administrator, she can make a greater positive contribution to society. With her MBA degree she is now throwing herself into social projects, whether as a paid job or as a volunteer. One of these projects is Lots of Lesvos.

Greek olive oil made by and sold for refugees

Lots of Lesvos is a social for-profit enterprise that sells Greek olive oil. The profit they make goes to the NGO Movement on the Ground. With the revenue, they organize and finance projects for refugees that live on Lesvos. The projects focus on education, connection and a more humane environment, among other things. At the same time, the goal of Lots of Lesvos is to support the local olive farmers with a sustainable revenue model for the work they perform together with refugees. In this way, Lots of Lesvos fosters connections on the island and a more hopeful future for its permanent and temporary residents.

“During the program, I heard about Movement on the Ground. I loved what they did and decided to help them as a volunteer. Currently, I am helping Lots of Lesvos to increase the number of sales channels, organize logistics, and look for partners and investors. We are in the start-up phase; the first batch of olive oil was recently sold. Our main goal now is to develop a sustainable revenue model.”

Growth of sustainable consumer choices

Selling olive oil from an idealistic perspective suits Fanny well. “I have been involved in social projects for some time and try to put sustainability first as a consumer myself. However, I find that it is often difficult to make sustainable choices. I have regularly felt guilty after making a purchase that was not sustainable or ethical. Often there is no sustainable alternative, or that option is much more expensive or requires sacrifices. My ambition is to empower consumers to make more value-driven choices. With projects like Lots or Lesvos, for example, or later as a consultant for idealistically driven start-ups.”

Fanny believes that businesses can apply a sustainable business model while making a positive impact on the world around us. However, she does say: “For many people, the smallest price difference is already too great a sacrifice to make a sustainable choice. Therefore, raising awareness is an important part of our work. Understanding the urgency of social problems is an important step toward large-scale change. I am an optimist and believe that companies have the power to break consumer habits.”

From coca plants to cocoa plantation

Another project Fanny is working on, was set up by Equipoise. This organization is concerned with ethically produced Colombian chocolate. “Equipoise works on making the cocoa industry more sustainable, by being involved in diverse projects across the whole supply chain. In this project, they help a small chocolate maker to enter the European market. I help them do that by researching the market potential. The goal is to develop their activity oversees and therefore have a bigger impact on society by increasing the ethically traded and sustainable chocolate offer in Europe, while giving the farmers a decent price for their product.”

“What I like about this project is that it doesn’t stop at producing and selling sustainable chocolate. The local association of cocoa producers in Colombia has a number of great projects, the most notable of which is the transformation of historical coca plantations into cocoa plantations. I contribute to a project for the ‘Women in Cocoa’ network, to help them become financially independent. The mission of this network is to empower women across the whole cocoa and chocolate supply chain to become independent, acquire higher positions and foster women leadership and visibility.

Stewardship as mission statement

Fanny had to look up the definition at the time, but Nyenrode’s core value of stewardship turns out to fit her exactly. “For me personally, stewardship means working hard to make people aware of the positive impact their choices can have on the world around us. And to empower them to make those choices. In this way, I want to put consumers on the road to more responsible and value-driven behavior. Yes, that indeed sounds like a personal mission statement. Feel free to write it down!”


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