Conservation business challenge in Greece

The conservation business challenge in Greece was a project with a total duration of 1.5 years, which included stakeholder engagement and a 6-month acceleration program for businesses. The project was initiated and funded by the MAVA Foundation and coordinated by WWF Switzerland in collaboration with WWF Greece.


On 6th February 2019, WWF launched the call for proposals to explore new business models that help locals lay the foundations for sustainable development and also generate value and support in nature protection.

Specifically, the approach aimed to create business plans that are viable in regards to financial, environmental and social terms while having a positive impact on two particularly important areas with importance for biodiversity in Greece.


Marine Protected Area of Gyaros

Conservation Challenge

Gyaros, the former exile islet where history meets pristine nature, is the home of the largest breeding population of endangered monk seal Monachus monachus in the Mediterranean Sea. The sea floor around Gyaros is largely covered by Coralligenous reefs and Posidonia beds, providing shelter and breeding grounds for a number of marine organisms, while rare birds of prey are also using the areas as feeding and breeding grounds. The most important future threats to the protection of the region are the uncontrolled human activities and the unsustainable use of marine resources.

Conservation Opportunities

Gyaros presents a unique opportunity to build a successful example of a marine protected area that will operate effectively for the benefit of both humans and the natural environment, proving the coexistence of nature protection and improvement of local livelihoods through sustainable local development.


Dadia - Lefkimi - Soufli Forest National Park

Conservation Challenge

Located in Northern Greece, on one of the two main bird migration routes to Africa, the Dadia Forest is renowned as possibly the single most significant feeding and breeding ground for rare raptors in Europe. It hosts the only colony of the endangered Black Vulture in the Balkan Peninsula, while it constitutes one of the last remaining refugees in Greece for the globally threatened Egyptian Vulture. The illegal "practice" of poisoned baits to manage carnivore populations is the main threat to their survival. Also, due to the decrease in free-grazing livestock and the abandonement of small scale agriculture, the openings in the forest become rarer and smaller, contributing to the decrease in food availability.

Conservation Opportunities

The Dadia Forest provides a unique opportunity, especially to the younger generation, to build skills of sustainable entrepreneurship and provide meaningful jobs in this remote area. Sustainable business models can lay the foundation for the activation of controlled livestock and small scale agriculture within the protected area, that will preserve and extend the necessary landscape in vultures’ habitat.


WWF Impact Ventures Greece


On 19th September 2019 the acceleration program, which focused on impact business expertise, tailor-made workshops and training, as well as access to national networks and potential investors was completed. Celebrating its closing with a regional culmination event in Dadia, the teams presented their innovative business models and the winners of the program were announced:

Awards for the region of Dadia

1. Prize (EUR 5000): Re-silk
Re-silk builds on decades of tradition in silk production and creates innovative zero waste silk fabrics and natural silk dyes, creating new jobs, reducing waste and toxicity, and reviving traditions in Dadia region.

“The impact venture program made me realize that there's much more potential in sustainable products than we imagined, and we can make a difference!”
Marina Timchenko, Re-Silk

2. Prize (EUR 3000): Open Farm
Open Farm sells quality meat of beef grown in the the wider area of the National Park supporting the endangered vultures by preserving openings in the forest that are important for finding food.

“Through this program, I can start seeing my dream business coming true.”
Stavros Stavrakoglou, Open Farm

3. Prize (EUR 2000): Forest on the go
Deka Nuts is a company selling nuts across Europe that is going to offer a new line of nutritious forest fruits (Forest on the Go) that will be grown in the buffer zone of the National Park.

“I learned more about building a business through this process than during my MBA, which I am just finishing.”
Triada Gkiritzioti, Forest on the Go

Awards for the region of Gyaros

1. Prize (EUR 5000): Geopedia
Geopediaoffers educational tours to schools, individuals, families, and groups which enhance the understanding of the natural, historic, cultural and social context of a place, and thus promotes conservation and creates local value.

“I had the idea floating around in my head. With this program I managed to sort everything into the right boxes. With this increased understanding I managed to put everything into practice much easier.”
Giorgos Papanikolaou, Geopedia

2. Prize (EUR 3000): Cyclades Allios/Serious
Cyclades Allios/Serious is an online and print magazine, a one stop shop for nature and culture in the Cyclades that aims to be an outlet for low impact tourism providers and local producers to promote their offers.

"I have got to know many tools, which are very helpful for our way forward.”
Spilios Petzas, Cyclades Allios/Serious

Public Award (EUR 2000): Bee Lab
Bee Lab offers high-quality bee products and herbs from sustainable, local production in the buffer zone of the Dadia - Lefkimi – Soufli Forest National Park, preserving openings in the forest that are important for the endangered birds of prey.


Selection criteria

IMPACT – On the conservation challenges in our priority ecoregions and the potential to contribute to the local economy and sustainable business in the region

FEASIBILITY – Capacity to deliver impact, concept/technology maturity, client/user traction

FINANCIAL SUSTAINABILITY – A clear business case, based on earned income (selling products/services) that does not rely on outside funding from donations and grants

TEAM – Strength, experience, and commitment


Inititiator and Funding Partner

Mava Foundation

Collaboration Partner
WWF Greece

WWF Switzerland