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Björn Söderberg: Supporting Entrepreneurs to Make Eco-Friendly Bricks

Björn Söderberg: Supporting Entrepreneurs to Make Eco-Friendly Bricks

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Hi! It’s me, Spiffy, the interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with the latest scoop on entrepreneurs making a difference for all of us around the world! Today’s rockstar is Björn Söderberg, the co-founder and managing director of Build up Nepal.

Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Björn! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Build up Nepal?

Björn: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Nepal is one of the world’s most disaster prone countries. Yet 2.7 million people are still living in unsafe houses. Most new homes are built using fired bricks, which emit a huge amount of CO2 emissions and air pollution, harming our planet. Build up Nepal is addressing this by supporting local entrepreneurs to make eco-friendly bricks and build safe, affordable houses. Our ‘ECO2Bricks’ are greener, cheaper, and safer than fired bricks.

Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?

Björn: We started Build up Nepal after the devastating 2015 earthquake. Our mission is to help poor families access safe housing, and to replace fired bricks with our ‘ECO2Bricks’. I love my work because it is making a real difference to marginalised communities. Our model supports local entrepreneurs to (re)build sustainably, create jobs, and improve lives. What motivates me is working with others to solve problems and overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges, to create positive impact.

Spiffy: What is the impact of your work?

Björn: Our model helps both people and our planet. So far, we have supported 300 male and female entrepreneurs to build more than 10,000 houses and create 2,200 local jobs. More families are living in safe houses, without causing harm to our climate. Our ‘ECO2Bricks’ are compressed, not fired, and use very little cement, so we have saved over 100,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions and reduced harmful air pollution.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your community?

Björn: In November 2023, an earthquake struck west Nepal. It claimed over 150 lives and destroyed more than 70,000 homes. However, all our buildings near the epicentre were undamaged and kept their inhabitants safe. This provided solid evidence for how effective our technology is. Now we want to scale our technology across Nepal and beyond, so we can get more people into safe houses and reduce CO2 emissions in the process.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Björn: Having developed social businesses in Nepal for the last 20 years, I have learned that making a positive difference isn’t always easy. Money alone is not enough to solve deep-rooted problems. Sometimes an idea that seemed so promising doesn’t quite work. Creating meaningful, lasting change is challenging; it takes time and perseverance. You must be willing to make mistakes, learn from them, and try again. But if you listen to the people you serve, and act on what you learn, you can do it. If you want to make a real difference, never give up.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Björn—it’s been an honor!

Björn Söderberg is an award-winning social entrepreneur, with a 20-year track record of building social businesses to tackle poverty and climate change in Nepal, where he has lived since 2005. Björn has led Build up Nepal through the pandemic and a recession, to improve its model and grow impact. (First published on the Ladderworks website on March 22, 2024.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Shikha Tandon. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.