Next to Dr. Ibrahim and Helmy Abouleish, the SEKEM Board of Directors has seven other members. Four times a year, the board meets in SEKEM to discuss the situation of business and strategic issues. The board members are nominated by SEKEMs owners and elected for three years. They bring a wide range of experiences and expertise in different fields. SEKEM News will introduce the board members by individual portraits.
When Rembert Biemond speaks, something wonderful happens: The listener becomes calm, even relaxed. At the same time he learns from almost every of his sentences something exciting, profound or is getting inspired to think further. All this, Rembert Biemond expresses with impressive clarity and without being lecturing at all. Certainly, this is one of his characteristics that made him become a successful entrepreneur in regards to sustainable business practise.
Back then, it was not easy for the young Rembert to figure out what he wants to do after school – although the teenager already felt the presence of a certain spirituality, which today plays a significant role in his life and has often helped him to find the right decisions.
A valued teacher once gave Rembert the advice to go through different life scenarios before sleeping and then feeling the mood he is waking up with at the next morning. “I did not find concrete answers, but I had a strong emotion that was telling me to do something difficult, something as challenging as possible”, the Dutchman remembers.
The today 57 year-old found such challenges during the 1970s by studying economy. The reason: “During these years there were already alternative approaches in education or agriculture. But in business, however, everything was still very conservative. I strived to study economics to make a change.” Between 1600 freshmen, Rembert Biemond seemed to be the only one with this idealistic motivation in the beginning.
Then Rembert Biemond met Volkert Engelsman. An essential moment for both of them. The co-founder and CEO of Eosta, one of Europe’s largest distributors of fresh Organic fruits and vegetables, had a similar mind-set and equal requirements to economy. Meanwhile, the former classmates worked regularly and successfully together and are still friends.
Managing the Goetheanum
After graduation, Rembert found the difficult work he was looking for at the energy company Shell. “Sometimes you have to step right into the lion’s den to make a change.” However, the former Waldorfschool student then was invited to Dornach to take over different management responsibilities at the Goetheanum, the center of anthroposophy in Europe. The young business man found a variety of tasks within the Goetheanum, which gave him the possibility to realize his full potential – assisting the CFO, directing the cultural events and finally being the CEO himself. “Supporting art and artists has always been important for me.”
Furthermore, Biemond experienced his first meeting with SEKEM and Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish in Dornach, where he could support the SEKEM founder by translating his speeches at the Goetheanum every once in a while.
“We are all entrepreneurs of ourselves …”
After ten years of intensive work at the international Center of anthroposophy, the time came to move on. “This was not at all a rational decision, rather a feeling, an inner mood. I resigned, without having an idea about what might happen next”, the spiritual economist remembers. In this context he emphasises: “It seems to me that such changes are characteristic nowadays. In former times individual life paths were much more predetermined”, says Biemond. “Today, we always have to be ready for something new to come. Hence, every single person is already like a business – we are entrepreneurs of ourselves! This requires sensitivity and listening to our inner moods vigilantly, which tell us what we really need and want and which track will lead us to the right goal.”
Breakthrough of the Organic Sector
The “enterprise” Rembert Biemond was then heading to Switzerland. As an independent consultant and entrepreneur, he was involved to the foundation of different institutions and got to know alternative finance systems when being in the board of directors of “Freie Gemeinschaftsbank”, the first alternative bank in Switzerland. The social economist’s comprehensive experience and his foresight certainly have been reasons for the owners of the German Organic company “lehmann natur” to ask him to take over the company’s management in 2002. “Back then, the Organic sector just started to expand and Organic food has been sold in conventional supermarkets. These were exciting times and the success of sustainable economy became visible. ”
While working with “lehmann natur” Biemond had his second contact with SEKEM. The company bought fresh fruits and vegetables from SEKEM. Hence, the CEO visited Egypt regularly in order to learn about the origin of the products and to conduct business. “The SEKEM mission is fascinating and unique. It clearly shows how a sustainable business can work: Of course money has to be earned, but in the same time, agriculture and social needs can be considered and we can invest in a holistic development. These options are always given and it distinguishes true entrepreneurs by being able to recognize and implement these aspects, even if it seems difficult”, Rembert Biemond underlines.
“Become an individual taking initiative. Learn from your mistakes. Gather as much experiences as possible!”
Multidimensional communities are a continuous topic within Biemond’s life. When he received an offer from Sweden, six years ago, to work in a local anthroposophic center that is related to SEKEM by its holistic approach, he decided that it’s time again to try something new… Later, indeed, it turned out that Biemond had interpreted his mood right: “Since then I am very engaged to work with foundations again, which is very important to me. I am involved in the YIP (The International Youth Initiative Program), a holistic education project that strengthens young people’s capacity to take initiative in the face of current global challenges.”
It seems that Rembert Biemond reached a point in his life that focuses to the work with young people. Hence, he is also in SEKEM committed to the new generation of entrepreneurs. The father of two sons recently held lectures at the Business Faculty of the Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development.
“Become an individual taking initiative. Learn from your mistakes. Gather as much experiences as possible!” This is what he tries to convey to the students. “Only what you experience by yourself will remain in your memory. Accordingly, the society has to rethink its understanding of intelligence and has to accept that there are different forms of intelligence, and not only the intellectual one.”
Another important aspect that Rembert Biemond tries to impart to the future economists is that the old concept, which only considers growth, is out-dated and not contemporary anymore. “It is no longer about the gross national income, but about the gross national happiness. I am convinced that quality of life can be improved, even if the economy is decreasing.”
One year ago Rembert Biemond was elected to be a member of the SEKEM Board of Directors. “We do not need only one SEKEM in this world, but a million. I hope that SEKEM inspires many people around the world to build similar models.”