Despite placing a larger emphasis on sustainability and becoming Europe’s leader in plastic packaging recycling in recent years, Lithuania remains a below-average performer on the EU Eco-Innovation Scoreboard (ranking 22 out of 28). To help address this, Lithuanian FinTech hub ROCKIT together with Triple Top Line startup accelerator and private equity fund Katalista Ventures will be launching the country’s first accelerator programme focused on growing sustainable startups engaged in creating impactful B2B solutions for local and international enterprises. The accelerator is scheduled to start in March 2021.
Lithuanian consumers go green, businesses take notice
According to the Sustainable Brand Index Lithuania 2020 compiled by Stockholm-based SB Insight, 60% of consumers are in the habit of discussing the topic of sustainability with the people around them, and 71% take sustainability into account when purchasing goods and services.
Even though sustainability is a recent addition to the agenda of many Lithuanian enterprises, some are already leading the pack in their respective categories. Case in point, AUGA Group, one of the largest organic food companies in Europe has been ranked among 10% of best-rated companies in the food and beverage sector globally in terms of sustainability according to the conducted sustainability analysis of the company by ISS Corporate Solutions last year.
“Given that sustainability has now become the new normal, we need to be the game-changers behind the development and adoption of technologies intended to mitigate the environmental impact of our activities. We believe that our new sustainable business model and technologies will allow the AUGA community to live, eat, work, and invest more sustainably,” said Gediminas Judzentas, Marketing Director of AUGA Group.
Innovative solutions address water pollution issues
Back in 2015, Lithuania signed and adopted the 2030 United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. According to the 2020 Lithuanian Sustainability Ecosystem Overview by Katalista Ventures, the most covered SDGs in the Lithuanian ecosystem are Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure and Partnerships to achieve the Goal while least covered SDGs are Clean Water and Sanitation and Life Below Water. In fact, around 40% of lakes and 50% of rivers in Lithuania fail the criteria for good water quality, and the Baltic Sea is considered to be one of the most polluted seas in the world.
Lithuania’s progress towards achieving SDGs related to clean water has thus far been slow, yet there are some ecosystem players trying to steer things in the right direction. For instance, back in 2020, BaltCap – the biggest private equity fund in Lithuania – helped organise the Baltic region’s first international Clean Water Hackathon. The aim of the competition was to develop actionable and financially viable solutions for mitigating issues related to pollution that unite all three Baltic States.
According to Šarūnas Stepukonis, a partner at the BaltCap Infrastructure Fund, clean water is a key factor in most efforts designed to ensure a sustainable future on this planet:
“Innovative solutions developed during the competition will have significant potential for investors, and will likely have a positive effect on global markets.”
The winner of the competition – the Lithuanian startup Ekodrena – provided a solution for mitigating the negative environmental effects of farming, which constitutes the main source of surface water pollution in the Baltic Sea. The solution involves an adjustable underground drainage system that regulates water retention in the soil, thereby preventing fertiliser runoff.
Start-up ecosystem players encourage positive change
Although start-ups might have the popular image of putting business growth above anything else, many of them do, in fact, care about the health of our planet and are busy working on reconciling green technology with the bottom line.
One of such companies, Norway’s CHOOSE, builds digital tools for businesses, their customers, and private individuals, enabling them to compensate for their respective carbon footprint. Another good example is Skeleton Technologies, which is now considered to be Europe’s biggest developer and manufacturer of ultracapacitor cells.
In 2020, reacting to demand from both consumers and private businesses, the Lithuanian start-up hub ROCKIT started shifting its focus from primarily FinTech-related activities to include more events intended for the promotion and advancement of sustainable practices. The ROCKIT Impact Accelerator programme – “people, planet, and profit” being its holy trinity – will focus on developing solutions to support the achievement of UN’s SDGs and enable start-ups to join the sustainability-driven community working on climate action, renewable energy, responsible production and consumption, and other pertinent areas.
Šarūnė Smalakytė, Head of ROCKIT, believes that discussing sustainability in Lithuania is a prerequisite for making it an integral part of the country’s existing businesses:
“The importance of sustainability should apply not only in our daily life but in business as well. We believe that striving for a positive impact could help us educate, inspire, and empower bigger communities to act towards a better, quality-first approach to life. FinTech companies can be sustainable, too. In fact, focusing more on sustainability can help companies attract additional investment and more successfully recover from the consequences of the global pandemic.”
The ROCKIT Impact Accelerator – designed and operated by Katalista Ventures which has 10+ years of investing experience and has worked with start-up accelerators in Spain and the UK – will take place over a period of 4 months, and offer an Alumni Programme. Start-ups will be selected based on their maturity (1-2 years), track record, the relevance of the problems being solved, and vision of sustainability. Partners include Elektrum, Swedbank Lietuva, Linas Agro, TeleSoftas and Telia Lietuva.