Skip to main content

Hoffmann Institute


Safeguarding biodiversity with business education


Hoffmann Institute

Safeguarding biodiversity with business education

Safeguarding biodiversity with business education

The winning team of the bi-annual Master Strategist Day from the MBA 22J cohort share their experience on developing the strategic vision for a non-profit striving to continue responsible tourism, while protecting biodiversity and the social and economic progress.

Maio is the only island of the Cabo Verdean archipelago that is still relatively unharmed by rampant tourism. Over the coast of its serene beaches swim loggerhead turtles, sharks, manta rays, humpback whales, and dolphins. Local communities live peacefully in harmony with nature and traditional culture.

Over the past decade, the non-profit organization Fundação Maio Biodiversidade (FMB) has worked relentlessly to preserve Maio’s biodiversity by safeguarding natural and managed ecosystems, as well as improving local communities’ livelihoods. Started by INSEAD alumna, Elisa Dierickx, FMB has proven its ability to innovate for the benefit of both wildlife and local communities.

In 2012, it launched Homestay, a program arranging for visiting volunteers to stay with local villagers during the turtle nesting season. Every year, the program helped hosts receive an alternative income as well as training including English classes, first aid, hygiene, food security, money management, and knowledge of protected sites.


In 2016, it also launched Guardians of the Sea, a program encouraging local fishermen to take pride in preventing industrial overfishing practices and monitoring endangered marine populations. Every day when they go out to the sea, fishermen count and report the number of turtles, sharks, and factory ships they see. The program was so successful that it was replicated in surrounding islands.

To support FMB’s mission, in October 2021 we participated, along with over 500 INSEAD MBA students, in the school’s bi-annual Master Strategist Day (MSD). As part of our core strategy class, we experienced a unique full-day event to put our learning into practice by analysing challenges and proposing strategic solutions for a real-life non-profit organisation.

Geared with virtual reality goggles playing clips, we were transported to Cape Verde where we gathered insights into FMB’s everyday operations and learned about a recent step-up in development that threatens the tranquility of the island.

In 2020, the Cabo Verdean government and a private consortium agreed to build a US$590m “Little Africa” resort with 6,000 beds. Touted to create 4,000 jobs, the project includes an entertainment area, exhibition hall, casino, shops, and business center to name a few. While the project was not built yet, it lured as a daunting ghost on the eve of FMB’s 10th anniversary.

We needed to help FMB shape its strategic vision for the next 10 years given the new push for economic development when its internal resources were very limited.

To do so, we identified three strategic options for FMB to consider.

First, FMB could decide to safeguard Maio’s biodiversity at all costs by mustering a more activist style. Organizations such as Greenpeace, and more recently Ad Age, have had international success fighting private hospitality projects with rogue initiatives.

Second, FMB could decide to dissociate from the Little Africa project and focus on current conservation activities. Programs such as Guardians of the Sea and Homestay have been studied by other islands and show promise for their replicability.

Third, FMB could decide to partner with the Little Africa project to drive innovation that could support local development as well as fund biodiversity conservation initiatives. FMD’s proven ability to mobilize different stakeholders toward biodiversity conservation and livelihood improvement is undeniable.

We went on to recommend the latter and imagined a few innovative ideas to support their strategy. As team member, Manuel Gobeille-Leblanc said, “If you reframe the Little Africa project as an exclusive eco-friendly luxury experience you can mitigate most of the negative impacts on biodiversity and local communities.”


Manuel Gobeille-Leblanc, Inês Melo E Castro, Rameez Naeem, Felix Seliger and Lluvia Shen


A purposeful and entertaining experience using NFT auctions to fundraise and educate engaged tourists around Maio’s conservation challenges


A pay-it-forward scheme forcing visiting tourists to book two hotel rooms while only occupying one. The additional room and its revenue go to researchers and other biodiversity advocates.

Lights Out series

A series of evening events entertaining tourists only using natural light such as candlelit concerts or moonlit plays to reduce light pollution that disturbs the turtle’s nesting process.

Reflecting on his experience, team member Rameez Naeem said, “Trust was the most important ingredient to our success. We trusted each other’s instincts and relied on one another throughout this time-pressured exercise.”

Team member Lluvia Shen added, “Each of us played a pre-assigned part in our team. We were able to build on each other’s ideas and put forward a compelling strategy in a very efficient and effective manner.”


Our MSD experience reinforced that businesses have the responsibility and the power to protect and provide our natural world with the chance to show its resilience, not only because it’s healthier for the planet, but livelihoods also depend on it. By applying what we learned, we can contribute to pivot the strategies of non-profit organizations and propel them towards a prosperous and impactful future.



Curious about our other MSD stories? Explore them here:

  1. February 2021 – Supporting Children’s Mobility with MiracleFeet
  2. December 2020 - Maximizing Social Impact Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic
  3. February 2020 - Sustainable Conservation in the Wild
  4. February 2019 - Business Education with a Vision
  5. October 2018 - MBA students travel to South Africa for its first Business and Society practicum

Subscribe to our Hoffmann Institute Quarterly Newsletter

Stay informed on our 60 second quarterly video updates, stories, video recordings of our webinars, and details of upcoming events and much more.