Bioviva made in France – learning about sustainability through play

Interview with Jean-Thierry Winstel

Jean-Thierry Winstel, how did you come to found a publishing company completely committed to sustainability back in 1996 already?

Portrait Jean-Thierry Winstel

Jean-Thierry Winstel

As a young graduate, I was in the Caribbean and was tasked with setting up a marine reserve under the auspices of a local foundation. Having seen how difficult it was to convince the local stakeholders to respect the established rules, I felt there was an education issue, a problem in understanding the problems...and I thought a game would be a good way to raise awareness of environmental matters!

So I embarked on the adventure of designing an educational game based on a new and sustainable kind of nature, which I called Bioviva. The game is still available – but now in a new version. In France, it has become the go-to choice for family games with a nature theme, combining original questions and answers with funny challenges.

Sustainably produced, “made in France” games: what makes a game sustainable and what are the biggest challenges in producing games in an environmentally responsible manner?

Jean-Thierry Winstel

We firmly believe that respect for our planet has to be part of a global and long-term approach. That is why we have always taken care to ensure that our activities place the least possible burden on the environment.

For example, we choose our raw materials (paper, cardboard, wood, inks, dyes, coatings) and their place of origin carefully in order to minimise transport distances. We use vegetable-based printing inks and FSC-certified paper. We don’t use any plastic. Furthermore, we produce 100 percent of our games using renewable energy (solar power) produced directly by solar cells at our production site.


Bioviva Nature Challenge playcard game

The biggest challenge for us was to defend the project 25 years ago: few people were interested in the – now obvious – problems of sustainable development. And even fewer believed in the idea of developing games around such a theme in a coherent manner that would respect the environment and French manufacturing. Although it is expensive to produce our games in France, it is more sustainable over the long term. 

Nowadays, consumers appreciate the entertaining and educational games as well as the brand’s commitment to French manufacturing, respect for the environment and demonstrated engagement in social causes.

How can a game convey environmental content?

Jean-Thierry Winstel

At Bioviva, we believe that games are the best way to learn and that they enable both the young and old to understand the problems of environmental protection so that they can take action. All of our games have educational value and allow children and adults of all ages to find out a great deal about the world around them and encourage them to adopt a caring attitude to nature.

Tell us a bit about the Nature Challenge Club with almost 40,000 members: what is the idea behind this?

Jean-Thierry Winstel

We started the Nature Challenge Club in 2018 to mark ten years of the Nature Challenge brand and also in reaction to children’s enthusiasm for our Nature Challenge card games, with over 4 million packs sold worldwide. 

The Nature Challenge Club was launched in February 2018 during a big event in France and we had over 10,000 subscriptions within one week! Children who become club members can provide feedback on new games in surveys and receive a free magazine plus exclusive advance information twice a year. 

Have you partnerships with schools? If you do, could you please tell us how those involved benefit from this collaboration?

Jean-Thierry Winstel

We work with a number of schools in our region to test our games prior to launch. This means that we get direct feedback from the children and can adapt our games according to their wants and needs. And the teachers get to offer an entertaining and innovative lesson in which the children learn while having fun. 

We’re also interested in finding out more about the “Fondation Bioviva”. Why did you establish this and what have you achieved to date? 

Jean-Thierry Winstel

The Bioviva Foundation was established in 2017. Its goal is to enable children in socially disadvantaged and marginalised situations to learn and be educated through play – in France and all over the world. 

All of us learn through play in life. It can give or restore hope for children in great difficulty, provide opportunities to connect and partially compensate for a lack of schooling.

Let me give you some figures on our first project. 50,000 games have already been produced thanks to donations from private individuals and businesses. Of those, 12,000 games were sent to Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon in March 2018. Furthermore, 36,000 games have been distributed to 23 non-governmental organisations (NGOs). We currently have 28 partner charities and game distribution representatives.

Those are impressive figures! Thank you, Jean-Thierry Winstel, for that interesting look behind the scenes of Bioviva.

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