Ethical business in Ibiza

August 22nd, 2009 - 4:12 pm Posted in algo mas, ducks united, ibiza | Comments (0)

Ibiza in summer is a study in raw capitalism. Price-gouging by clubs, hotels and taxis is a favourite topic of conversation, with everyone moaning about the annual high-season highway robbery. Plus there is island’s famous hedonism – wooing visitors with promises of sleek hotels, fine dining and the most outrageous nightlife on the planet. As a polished European tourist resort it offers plenty of opportunities for selfish indulgence to people looking for a chance to leave reality behind. It is not a place that attracts a notable contingent of tree-huggers, do-gooders or right-on political activists. Nevertheless, there are businesses that look beyond the bottom line and offer locals and visitors an opportunity to spend their money well. Cila Warncke seeks out another side of the island economy and reports on ethical businesses in Ibiza.

Algo Mas – offering something more

algo masThursday evening in the tiny village of Sant Miquel and the plaza below the Iglesia is full of children, music and the scent of home baking. On the corner, door and sky-blue shutters flung open, sits Algo Mas. This small Fairtrade shop has just celebrated its second anniversary and judging by the stream of locals who stop to say hello, it is firmly cemented in the community. Italian expats Valeria Cova and Aurietta Sala run the shop, along with Blanca Llosent. Aurietta and Valeria are Italian, but have each lived in Ibiza for more than 30 years and have fond memories of the days when visiting friends meant half a day’s walk through the countryside and dinner by candlelight. They are not hippie dilettantes, however, or airy fairy idealists. Algo Mas is the product of hard work, common sense and a firm commitment to the principles of Fairtrade.

algo mas, ibizaEverything in Algo Mas from stunning Columbian stoneware crockery, to hand-woven Sri Lankan doormats, to impossibly luxurious Chilean honey, is sourced and certified according to the strict rules of Fairtrade. These include guaranteeing a fair price to the producers, promoting sustainable production and protecting the rights of women and children. None of this comes cheap or easy in a world run by thuggish multi-nationals and greedy governments. The price guarantee means Fairtrade agents buy products such as tea, coffee, sugar and rice at a premium which they rely on shops like Algo Mas so sell. The margins are paper thin. “It is difficult,” Valeria says, “You have to put in your own money because you can’t buy-now-and-pay-later. The producers have already been paid, so what we are doing is trying to recoup that investment so everyone can survive.”

Aurietta, whose creative skills helped transform Algo Mas from a dilapidated casa into a welcoming Tuscan-rustic-meets-Ibicenco-campo shop, believes passionately that everyone can, and should, do their part. “You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make a difference,” she insists. “If you buy a bar of soap for €1.25, it helps.” The small, spice-scented tienda boasts a surprising variety of products including handwoven African textiles, gorgeous crockery from far-flung countries like Vietnam and Venezuala, books, toys and a tasty selection of dry goods. Algo Mas doesn’t stock a huge variety of comestibles because Valeria is sensitive to the livelihoods of the local shops. “I don’t want to compete with our neighbours,” she says simply, but what they do have is superb quality. Thai rice, Mexican coffee, Bolivian chocolate and Ecuadorian sugar perch temptingly on the shelves.

Tonight, as on most market nights, Algo Mas has a makeshift bar in the back garden serving exquisite mojitos made with organic sugar, Fairtrade Cuban rum and fresh garden mint. The result is a spectacular cocktail – proof hedonism and responsibility can coexist.

Carrer de s’esglesia no 1, Sant Miquel, Telephone: +34 971 33 44 41

Like Ducks to Water

There are as many ways to make a difference in the world as there are people, and ideas. For proof, you only have to turn from Algo Mas to Ducks United. The two businesses bear absolutely no operational, organisational, ideological or historical relationship to each other, yet they both fit neatly under the heading of “ethical business.” Mark Ducks (as he prefers to be known), founder of Ducks United, has clocked barely a year in Ibiza – compared to Algo Mas’ combined decades of Ibicenco experience – but he shares an instinctive appreciation of the possibilities of island life.

DJ Robbie Riveran with a “Duck”

“People here take time for each other,” Mark says, “They are open.” This relaxed attitude attracted Mark after the pressure of owning a recruitment company in Amsterdam and when a friend needed a run-around car for the summer he hatched a plan. A life-long fan of the loveably scruffy 2CV, he bought one and lent it to his friend. He sold up the recruitment business and teamed up with some 2CV enthusiast investors to drive a flock of four Ducks rally-style from Amsterdam to Barcelona, then caught the ferry to Ibiza. Since their suitably watery journey, the Ducks have kept busy on dry land as loan vehicles for members of the Ducks United club.

The mechanics of the club can be a little puzzling at first. It is not, as the flyer on suggests a straight car-hire business. Rather it is a members club where non-owners have the opportunity to borrow Ducks as needed. The €400 lifetime fee entitles members to use of the car for a week, including airport pick-up and a late-night tow service to get the Duck home if its driver has over-indulged, as well as special reserved tables at restaurants like Bambuddha Grove, and various other treats. “I’ve driven 2CVs since I was a student,” Mark says, “I love the feeling of nostalgia, the ultimate vacation feeling. I want to give people that feeling, and give them a fun way to donate to a charity.” To ensure the “ultimate vacation” vibe each loan car comes stocked with sunglasses, sun-cream, an iPod hook-up so you can bring your favourite driving music, and even drinking water.

“Ducks need water,” is Mark’s slogan, which is why he chose to partner with Max – a charity that digs clean water wells in Bangladesh. Founded by an engineering couple who lost their infant son, Max, the organisation works cooperatively in Bangladesh to provide safe drinking water. The local communities pay €100 towards the cost and the rest of the funding to dig the wells comes from donations from partners like Ducks United. Max has dug 500 wells in its five years. “It is amazing to see someone cope with loss in such a positive way,” Mark says, “We want to help them maximise the amount of clean water they can provide.”

In order to do so Ducks United operates on commercial principles, with Mark keen to see the project grow. Right now there are six Ducks; next year he hopes to have 30. “Ideally, we’ll have 24 new owners. If not, I’ll go to a bank and get the money myself,” he says with a grin. “I’m pretty ambitious.” His enthusiasm for the project has already helped rope in celebrity supporters including Real Madrid footballers and DJ Robbie Rivera whose forthcoming video features a Duck. Currently all of the 2CVs are on loan, and with warm local support for the funny-looking little cars these Ducks are off to a flying start. – +34 689 104 062
Ducks on the road in Ibiza:


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