Sustainability Report 2017

Dear Readers, Friends and Partners!

The year 2017 has been a very special one for SEKEM. In spring, the whole SEKEM community and many wonderful friends from all over the world celebrated the 80th birthday of my father and SEKEM’s founder Ibrahim Abouleish. We honored his life-work: the realization of a sustainable community in the Egyptian desert that serves the holistic development of people.

On the 15th of June, my father passed away. His farewell to the earthly life was certainly painful for all of us – but the gratitude for all he has done for and with us prevails our sorrow. We are full of trust and commitment to continue the path of development that he had started. His spirit is still alive in SEKEM and in every one of us. That became apparent in autumn when we celebrated the 40th anniversary of SEKEM Initiative. Again, all our co-workers, partners and friends came together and showed how the SEKEM vision is carried by them into the future.

It was always my father’s goal to address societal challenges holistically. Following his lead, we continued to formulate our vision and mission for 2057 in all four spheres of life. As my father accomplished a miracle in the desert within the past 40 years, we also wish to realize many more miracles inspired by his philosophy.

The intensive year 2017 was filled with determining turning-points in SEKEM. Besides our own transformation journey as an organization and community, the situation in Egypt is still challenging us. However, we are full of confidence looking into the future, as my father showed us how especially out of hard times and burdens, development opportunities arise.

Helmy Abouleish, CEO, SEKEM Holding

Our Vision

Sustainable development towards a future where every human being can unfold his or her individual potential; where mankind is living together in social forms reflecting human dignity; and where all economic activity is conducted in accordance with ecological and ethical principles.


SEKEM is serving the community for 40 years – an enduring journey. It started in 1977 by revitalizing the Egyptian desert and building a sustainable community. With faith in human beings and nature we believe in a sustainable future for all of us and work passionately every day to contribute to this, our common goal.

The SEKEM Group of companies is a part of the SEKEM Initiative founded by Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish. It strives for Sustainable Development in four dimensions: Economy, Societal Life, Cultural Life and Ecology. After pioneering Organic and Biodynamic agriculture in Egypt, the SEKEM Group started to enlarge its activities by processing and producing Biodynamic products, textiles and phyto-pharmaceuticals in Egypt, the Arab World and on international markets. With part of their profits the SEKEM companies co-finance the social and cultural activities of the SEKEM Development Foundation, which runs schools, the vocational training center, a medical center and an institution for children with special needs among others. In 2012, the Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development was opened under SEKEMs patronage and combines a holistic approach to teaching, research and practice. It is the first university in the Middle East declaring sustainable development as its overall goal.

While being worldwide connected, SEKEM considers the needs of the co-workers, community members and the environment at all times. SEKEM herewith gives more than 20,000 people a life and work perspective. SEKEMs “Economy of Love” fosters fair and ethical trading methods and promotes efficient solutions for our global challenges in regards to environment and society. SEKEMs vision stands for individual human development and sustainable community building. With our ecological, societal, cultural, and economic activities we foster a future in which every human being can unfold his or her individual potentials; a future in which mankind is living together in social forms reflecting human dignity; and in which all economic activity is in line with ecological and ethical principles. For actively combating desertification and soil erosion in Egypt for 40 years, the United Nations to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) awarded SEKEM and its community  the “Land for Life Award 2015”. SEKEM has been widely praised as an “Egyptian organic pioneer” and has received the 2003 Right Livelihood Award (“Alternative Nobel Prize”) as a „Business Model for the 21st Century” and an “economy of love”. In 2017, the SEKEM Future Council together with  SEKEM employees amplified this vision of SEKEM for 2057: SEKEM as  an international Center of Excellence for holistic, sustainable, individual, organizational, and societal transformation in Egypt and the world.

Where we are and what we need

Still, Egypt, as many other countries in the world, is facing  numerous  challenges: climate change, food insecurity, water scarcity, desertification, unemployment, poverty, migration, education, health problems and many more. The interests of the private economic sector strongly dominate the political as well as civil sector. This leaves the country  with a lot of  undesirable social, ecological, and also cultural side-effects. What we need today as 40 years ago, is a more co-creative ecosystem model that is characterized by the rise of a fourth sector in which platforms are built and that  holds the space for cross-sector innovation, engaging all kinds of stakeholders.  We  need  social  innovations. We believe that one of the key solutions for Egypt is to build intentional communities in the desert, routed in Africa and the Middle East as well as the West, bridging cultures and reclaiming desert land using biodynamic agricultural methods and that are constantly developing. Communities such as SEKEM became one in the past 40 years. SEKEM itself is an example for a social innovation. It stands as a role model for realizing a great vision that has once been seen as not feasible.

Although SEKEM is partially a profit-making enterprise, the whole Initiative does not aim for financial profit maximization, but is in fact a culture and society oriented organization for economic, ecological, social and first and foremost human value-creation. Exactly this approach and the knowledge that it’s mission will never be accomplished but a continuous development path enabled the realization of it’s vision. The SEKEM Vision that Ibrahim Abouleish created 40 years ago, is based on regaining the desert, greening it sustainably and thereby creating value for the community; as only from the green vivid soils, everything can begin and grow. Not only food is secured, but also jobs are created and hence a flourishing society starts to develop.

SEKEMs Impact In The Past  (Read More)

40 years of SEKEM’s efforts in sustainable community building in the desert led to the following achievements:

Note: The total accumulated investment, total estimated number of planted trees,
and total number of jobs created have been distributed evenly over the total amount of years.

Hence, our mission for the coming 40 years is build on the constant development of our own community while in the same time promoting other sustainable communities in the Egyptian desert. In order to create such a mission and to support social innovation and community building, a look ahead into the coming years, especially the expected challenges is needed. We see ourselves as a driver for the transformation that we need to see in our society in the future. We feel that organizations are at the driving seat for this transformation as they can take ownership of addressing societal problems while also awakening consciousness and developing people to implement the change. No top-down solution from governments, as we have seen in the past, can be the solution. Neither individual people alone can affect the change of deep transformation. Only a living organism, a community of people that are interconnected and working towards a common purpose can affect real change on the ground. We want to continue our journey and know that the most important thing is to continuously develop and be open for change while always staying connected to the core of our DNA: consciousness development.

Consciousness development at the core

We believe that we are at the edge of a new time age. We clearly see, that our societies are in need of a deep transformation of economic as well as political systems. Free-market capitalism has surely put the ecosystem of the earth to its limits and, despite all its wealth creation, does not provide a fulfilling life in dignity for the majority of people.

For SEKEM social innovation and transformation are fundamentally linked to consciousness development: Awareness on the development of individual consciousness levels and soul qualities, in the sense of Albert Einstein words: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it”.

Over the past 40 years, SEKEM has become a living example for what is possible when a community is driven by a strong vision and the integration and consideration of consciousness levels. Keeping this awareness and supporting people in their inner development towards a awareness that is going beyond personal interest to a deeper understanding of themselves, their community and the wider universe, has been always the core of SEKEMs vision and will continue to be for the coming 40 years.

SEKEMs Vision, Mission & Values for the next 40 years

In order to attain its vision SEKEM wants to continuously contribute to the following four pillars:

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Sustainable Development in its four dimensions