Christian Hiss has a background in farming, as his father pioneered organic farming by starting a farm in Eichstetten near Freiburg in the 1950s. Christian did an apprenticeship to become a gardener and later started his own organic market garden. When trying to enlarge the business he was unable to secure bank financing and considered alternative options. In 2006, with the family farm he inherited and his market garden as capital stock, he started Regionalwert as a joint stock company. Christian persuaded an increasing number of people to invest in the company, while lobbying politicians and decision-makers to foster a paradigm change in farming and regional development policies. In 2007 he began a Master's in Social Banking and Social Finance at the University of Plymouth (UK) and graduated in 2011. Christian was chosen as an Asoka Fellow in Germany in 2009.
- For-profit Social Enterprise
- Sustainable Development; Agriculture, Food and Beverage
- Areas of Impact
- Europe, Germany
Regionalwert is a financial holding company for the development of regional ecological agriculture and trading. Profits made with retailing, for example, are used as a form of cross-subsidization to provide a capital basis for farm purchase or establishment at better than market terms. Regionalwert also provides advice for the establishment of operations and know-how on legal issues and business management. To assess the social impact of Regionalwert's and the portfolio companies' activities, an evaluation system of 64 ecological and social criteria was developed and implemented.
Of the 16 investments made so far, 12 are start-ups that otherwise would not have been able to secure alternative sources of financing. Nearly 50 jobs have been created across the Regionalwert portfolio in the Freiburg region. For the first half of 2012, an additional capital increase has been prepared as the company continues its growth.
To enable the implementation of the concept in other regions, a holding was founded. Committed people elsewhere can thus use the Freiburg model to found a Regionalwert using the expertise and brand of the original. It is not a franchise system, since the holding belongs jointly to all Regionalwerts. The Isar/Inn region founded a Regionalwert in 2011, and talks with other regions are under way.