Tēnaka: A Sciences Po start-up wins the Columbia Alliance Social Enterprise Challenge

Tēnaka, a social business founded by Anne-Sophie Roux, recent graduate of the Sciences Po School of Research and supported by the Centre for Entrepreneurship, is the winner of the 2021 Alliance Social Enterprise Challenge! This social entrepreneurship competition organized by the Columbia Alliance awards a prize of U$25,000 to support the development of a social venture project.

Thanks to this prize, Tēnaka will scale its solutions to regenerate the ocean and develop its partnerships within the French ultramarine territories of the Indian Ocean and Caribbean Sea. The social business, launched on the benches of Sciences Po in 2018, is now being accelerated by the Sustainable Ocean Alliance, a US-based organization supporting promising startups through its intensive Ocean Solutions Accelerator Program.

The ocean: the biggest carbon sink on Earth

When we think of a “carbon sink”, we often think about the Amazon rainforest. Although terrestrial trees are much needed in the mitigation of the climate crisis, the ocean is now recognized as the biggest carbon sink and oxygen producer on Earth. Marine habitats sequester an average of 30% of all annual CO² emissions (NASA, NOAA). They produce more than 50% of the oxygen we breathe (UNEP, NOAA).

According to recent studies, rebuilding marine life is a key solution to mitigate the climate crisis and accelerate the adaptation of coastal communities worldwide (Duarte et al. 2020). By restoring and preserving these Blue Carbon habitats, we can bring the ocean back to life and preserve the benefits they present for local  communities: food security, jobs, livelihoods and valuable protection against storms and erosion. That is Tēnaka’s mission.


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Photo 1. In Asia and the Pacific, Anne-Sophie discovered the crucial importance and the fragility of our oceans’ ecosystems: she decided to find one of the many solutions to save them. Here, she installs a dome nursery with Alvin, marine biologist in charge of field operations in Malaysia, April 2019. ©Tēnaka.

Thanks to a gap year taken within her Master's in Comparative Politics at Sciences Po, Anne-Sophie Roux became involved on the front lines of the climate crisis, alongside the most vulnerable communities, from the Pacific Ocean to the Himalayas. She began to take marine biology courses and discovered that planting coral is as simple as planting a tree. After 15 months spent in the Asia-Pacific region, she witnessed the positive impacts of reef restoration, for both the environment and coastal communities.

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Photo 2. A coral nursery installed for Tēnaka’s first client, the ethical jeweler Courbet, in Malaysia. © Anne-Sophie Roux / Tēnaka

Regenerating the ocean with Tēnaka: How and Why?

In order to regenerate the blue lungs and carbon sinks of our planet, Tēnaka and its marine biologists decided to firstly focus on the restoration of coral reefs, the epicenter of marine biodiversity worldwide. They launched the Coral Reef Restoration Program in 2018: since then, they have restored more than 2.5 hectares of damaged coral reefs in the Coral Triangle area, the most biodiverse part of our ocean.

At the end of 2020, Tēnaka team launched a second scope of work: the Blue Carbon Program, hinging around the restoration of mangroves. These blue forests, located at the frontier between land and ocean in tropical regions, sequester an average of 5 times more CO2 than terrestrial trees per unit area.

Whether it is corals or mangroves, science is at the very heart of any of Tēnaka’s programs. On the field, marine biologists collect quantitative data on a monthly basis to assess the growth of the ecosystem and monitor its impact on neighboring biodiversity and, in the case of mangroves, CO₂ sequestration.

To make this impact data available as an engagement tool for their partners, the Tēnaka team developed a platform called Tēnaka Science®. Thanks to its algorithm, the platform translates raw scientific data into automatized CSR reporting, using data visualization tools. Thanks to a unique access code, Tēnaka’s partners can communicate transparently on their impacts while embarking their clients and staff into their mission to restore the blue lungs of our planet.

Towards regenerative businesses

Tēnaka was born with a conviction: if regenerating the ocean is a key solution to mitigate the climate crisis, businesses could hold the key to scale it.

That is why Tēnaka’s solutions are addressed to businesses and corporations willing to go beyond sustainability and become regenerative businesses, i.e. promote net-positive impacts for our Planet and People. According to a recent study, stated by researcher Navi Radjou, consumers now prefer a “regenerative business” to a “sustainable business”: the word “sustainability” being now increasingly perceived as too weak.

By building tailor-made programs, adapting to each business case and CSR strategies, Tēnaka aims at creating engagement tools for its partners, to engage their customers, staff and stakeholders.

Becoming a regenerative business with Tēnaka is a “win-win-win” situation: for businesses, that have an important financial return on investment, for local communities who rely on marine resources for their livelihoods, and for the environment on which we all ultimately rely: the ocean.

 

From Sciences Po to Social Entrepreneurship in Asia-Pacific

During her Master's degree at the Sciences Po Doctoral School, Anne-Sophie benefited from the multi-disciplinary approach, and the international dimension of the programme. Having just finished her dissertation on the empowerment of the most vulnerable communities to climate change in the Philippines, she hopes to "put into action" the theoretical training she received at Sciences Po. "Although the research field is often perceived as a somewhat closed-off world, it is more and more opening up to concrete fieldwork, with opportunities that are quite conducive to innovation," says Roux. Finally, in the context of the global climate crisis, the importance of acting on both fronts - that of research and that of the invention of alternatives - is, according to her, crucial. Sciences Po thus gave her the opportunity to innovate while receiving an important theoretical background necessary for the construction of her project.

Since the very first days of her entrepreneurial journey, Anne-Sophie has been accompanied by Sciences Po’s Center for Entrepreneurship. The in-house incubator allows her and her team to gain knowledge, funding and mentoring, while being part of a dynamic community of startuppers. “I could not have dreamt of a better way to start my social business,” she says.

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Photo 3. A healthy coral reef has been rebuilt thanks to a crowdfunding campaign in 2018, with recycled glass and cement. Pictured here is the reef one year later, in April 2019. © Anne-Sophie Roux / Tēnaka

Act for the ocean

If you are working in a company that is willing to engage for sustainable transitions, you can contact the team to build a CSR program that meets your company’s needs. Various offers are to be built to engage your collaborators (immersion into your coral reef through virtual reality, intrapreneurship initiatives, etc.) and your consumers (drive-to-store mechanisms, marketing initiatives, etc.).

More information

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