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Rebuilding better in pandemic-hit Greece

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How a woman entrepreneur is building back better in pandemic-hit Greece

  • When COVID-19 hit, Wise Greece partnered with multinational companies to supply free Hope Boxes, containing 6 kilograms of basic supplies to those in need.
  • The business is supporting small food producers during the pandemic, when many informal workers risk losing their livelihoods.
  • The health crisis presents an unprecedented opportunity to develop recovery plans that build a more sustainable future.

When COVID-19 hit, Melina Taprantzi was no stranger to crisis. Already having navigated the 2013 financial crises, her business, Wise Greece, moved swiftly to partner with multinational companies by supplying free Hope Boxes, which provide 6 kilograms of basic supplies to those in need. So far, the company has contributed 6 tons of food supplies to vulnerable communities during the pandemic, and 50 tons since 2013.

At the same time, Wise Greece has included a new delivery service for the elderly and other vulnerable people who cannot leave their homes. Towards achieving SDG 8, Decent work and Economic Growth, the company has also launched an open call to engage more small businesses, supporting local workers who risk losing their livelihoods during the pandemic.

Melina’s company is one of seven winners from among 2,400 applicants to the World Bank Group’s annual SDGs&Her competition. In partnership with UNDP, UN Women, and the Wharton School Zicklin Center, the competition supports women entrepreneurs around the world, so that they can thrive in their businesses while helping achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Since COVID-19 hit, the World Bank Group has taken fast action to help strengthen the global pandemic response. Projects are deploying $160 billion in financing, with support tailored to the health, economic, and social shocks countries are facing.

Building a responsible future

“I feel that I’m a builder: I enjoy building new ideas from scratch and building new opportunities for my country,” said Melina. “Every day I have moments when I want to quit. But then a food producer sends you a thank you note, or you see homeless people receiving the food distributions. Then I remember why I’m doing this work.”

Since Greece’s financial debt crisis in 2013, Melina had witnessed widespread suffering, hunger, and rising poverty. She believes the pandemic offers an opportunity to develop recovery plans that build a more sustainable future, supporting SDG 12, Responsible consumption and production.

“One day, I went into a ‘social’ grocery store, because I wanted to see what was available for those living in crisis,” said Melina. “The situation there was desperate. I decided to put this social need at the heart of my business and build a long-term solution around it. I knew I had a role to play,” she said. With small-scale producers hardest hit by the health crisis, Wise Greece’s efforts actively support SDG 2, to End Hunger.

Fun, delicious, and sustainable change

Today, Melina’s business supports 100 producers, more than half of them women, selling 2,500 products for export to eight countries globally. “I knew there must be a way to do well by doing good,” said Melina, noting that women must be represented fairly in leadership roles to make progress towards SDG 5, to Achieve Gender Equality

She tells of women like Sofia. “Sofia lives on a secluded island. She handmade jams with local ingredients and no artificial preservatives,” said Melina. “She contacted us because she couldn’t grow her business, and she was even thinking about leaving the country. Now we sell her products in New York through Wise Greece. She can support her business, hire more people, and most importantly, she can stay at home.”

From olive tapenade to rich sauces and plum, orange, and pomegranate jams, Melina always had a passion for good food. “Sun, sea, people laughing and hugging and having a heated debate around a table filled with olives, tomatoes, cheeses – simple but good Mediterranean food: this is part of our DNA in Greece,” she says. 

Wise Greece has educated more than 3,000 people about sustainable production and consumption. And through food festivals, street events and food tastings, it continues to bring vibrant flavors and new tastes to customers through healthy recipes for sauces, spreads, or jams. “Our love of food is then a celebration,” she said. “I would like to continue to be a source of inspiration for Greeks, women, and social entrepreneurs.”

 

About SDGs&Her:

In 2015, all 193 United Nations member countries signed on to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to "create the future we want in 2030.” SDGs&Her is an online competition for women entrepreneurs to showcase how they are supporting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through business leadership. 


Building Back Greener in Pandemic-Hit Greece

Do you believe that we are what we eat? SDGs and Her competition winner for Europe and Central Asia, Melina Taprantzi’s Wise Greece thinks a healthy diet and sustainable food system are the key to a more resilient future. From economic crisis to the COVID-19 pandemic, her business has supported small producers to make sure healthy, wholesome foods and ingredients reach people most in need for a more sustainable future.


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