Nowadays, sustainability is one of the main ingredients for success. Part of it is resilience that helps measure how a startup, established company, or organization can overcome obstacles towards financial security, positively impacting customers, employees, and the planet.
By 2050, the EU is planning to reduce climate impact and ensure economic sustainability. One of the measures is for banks to implement sustainability risk assessment into their lending strategies, meaning that financial institutions will need to assess clients' sustainability risks before making decisions.
CO2 emission regulation is also on the agenda. The new mechanisms say that unsustainable activities can damage business reputation and might result in sanctions and limit business opportunities to land financing. Some banks, including Swedbank, are already implementing new measures to accelerate sustainable business development goals.
In the joint project of 15min.lt and Swedbank Everyone Can, Jekaterina Bitus, ROCKIT representative and the Head of the Swedbank Startup Partnership program, Greta Monstaviče, co-founder at Katalista Ventures, and Miglė Makuškaitė, co-founder of Planet Positive, discussed how companies could embrace sustainability and be more resilient during the process.
Lithuania - the leader in sustainable innovation
Jekaterina Bitus emphasized that Swedbank integrates sustainable policies in all their processes and services, "We measure our CO2 emission, seeking to reduce it, therefore we put an example for our clients to change along the way."
Only by working hand in hand and collaborating throughout the creation of the ecosystem, we can achieve concrete results and a positive impact on the environment. That was also an inspiration to start ROCKIT, a Fintech and Sustainable Innovation center. "Lithuania is famous for being a top FinTech hub, and now we can also position ourselves as leaders in sustainable innovations. ROCKIT gathers FinTech startups, freelancers, companies, helping them develop and thrive. In the startup world, we are famous for organizing great events," Jekaterina Bitus shared positive ROCKIT achievements.
Innovative optimists with critical thinking
According to Jekaterina Bitus, sustainability can become a key to business success, "Startups have superpowers, one of which is the ability to adapt. Flexibility gives startups an advantage over traditional businesses that face challenges adjusting to the new reality."
Katalista Ventures, together with Swedbank, organize startup accelerators and call themselves innovative optimists with critical thinking. When asked about her hopes for the planet's future, the CEO of Katalista Ventures, Greta Monstaviče, emphasized the importance of the joint effort to seek sustainability and don't mistake it with social responsibility or charity. "Yes, we are optimists, but when we talk about sustainability, a lot of people and companies are afraid to participate because they aren't sure they can be 100% sustainable. But we want to encourage optimism and empower startups and other organizations as well as society to start the conversation about sustainability, create sustainable solutions and projects. If we do this, eventually, everyone will start being more positive about our planet's future. There are always ways to scare and criticize, but it's not the most effective strategy," said Greta Monstaviče.
Katalista Ventures keeps facing the same misconception that sustainability is associated with social responsibility, charity, or temporary projects that aren't beneficial for businesses and organizations.
Sustainable business is more resilient to changes
"It's common to believe that if you create some philanthropic project, it will mean sustainability. However, it's not the case because sustainability is combined with three parts: our planet, society, social and financial aspects. It's important not only to reduce negative environmental impact but also think how we, each personally, can contribute to the better future of the planet, people, our business or organization financial stability," Greta on why sustainability is necessary.
One of the criteria that Katalista Ventures values in startups is whether a team's mindset is based on resilience. Greta Monstaviče explained that resilience is an even newer concept than sustainability, "Resilience is the second level of sustainability, focusing on systematic changes, and systematic ability to withstand challenges, not only to survive but also to become stronger."
The health crisis, forest fires in Australia, and tolerance challenges have shown that sustainable business is more resilient than the one that ignores the importance of sustainability. Greta added that this makes a lot of sense because sustainability is a universal outlook on people, the environment, and the financial aspects. It helps assess and reduce risks, raising the resilience to challenges.
Sustainability to ensure financial stability
Greta Monstaviče believes that divided attention to the environment, people, or financial success isn't enough because we live on the people's planet, and these two should go side by side. "We aim to contribute to the social environment so that our employees and stakeholders would be happy and satisfied. Financial sustainability is also important, but if we keep seeing it like charity or philanthropy, we will face many challenges to motivate businesses to be more sustainable," explained Greta why a business is successful when they integrate the sustainability model.
"The more we embrace sustainability, the closer we get to financial success. It's our, as a startup accelerator, goal, and we help startups achieve it together with ROCKIT," told Greta Monstaviče.
For a long time, financial success was isolated from the sustainability concept, but according to Greta, it's an integral part of it. "Sustainability isn't only altruism, philanthropy, or charity, it's an integral business model. When we grow our positive environmental impact, we also increase our revenue. Some still tend to say that "Oh, you're contributing to the environment and earning money because of that." Like it's contradicting one another. But this mindset hinders solutions to environmental issues. Why people who contribute to solving these issues should get less financing from clients? It wouldn't be logical, that's why we encourage our investors and accelerators to see sustainable business as a business first." Greta Monstaviče shared her views.
The founder of a financially successful startup: sustainability is our core
Many studies have shown that eco-friendly solutions pay off. Miglė Makuškaite's first startup not only created a positive impact but also reached financial success. And it's only one of the examples.
In spring, Miglė Makuškaitė launched a second startup called Planet Positive. She told 15min.lt that sustainability came into her life a few years ago. "When you understand the problem, you can't ignore it. Therefore, I wanted to contribute to our planet not only with my personal choices but also to search for ways to introduce sustainability to a broader scope of people. I believe a sustainable business that can handle both environmental issue solutions and financial goals is a great way to do that," said Miglė.
Planet Positive helps businesses understand where they are on the sustainability journey and gauge their footprint in terms of CO2 emission, water consumption, and plastic waste. The startup also analyzes how companies can limit their footprint and waste and contribute to a positive impact on the environment.
According to Miglė, the second startup was born recently this spring. Now, Planet Positive is already developing its product, working with companies and potential clients. She continued saying that the Planet Positive sustainability manifest is the core of the business and not only a strategy or sustainability-oriented goal. "There are many companies that see sustainability as a competitive advantage, rather than their strategy and product foundation," said Miglė Makuškaitė.
Sounds great, but is it possible to combine revenue and positive environmental impact?
The growing demand for sustainable products
According to Miglė, it's only a question of a business model, "When we are developing a business, we think of how to attract customers, optimize processes, reduce expenses, and so on. These factors are important for startups, but we also contribute to solving global problems. We position sustainability as an integral part of our business, not only an additional strategy.
Can ethical business compete with rapacious companies fairly, and what are the conditions to survive? Miglė agrees that a lot depends on consumers, "In the last year, the demand for sustainable products increased. That inspired us to create our first business called Zero Waste. People used to contact us looking for alternatives on how to be eco-friendly, reduce waste, and embrace a more minimalistic lifestyle. When it comes to competition, I would say it's not always fair because the majority of the population are skeptical about sustainability principles and don't live by them, but more and more people are becoming sustainable—the same with companies. More businesses understand that they can create products in-demand not only based on profit but also on environmental impact. By creating sustainable products, companies can win and attract many new customers because more people pay attention to the way a product or service is made. Whether it's sustainable or the company is only using greenwash to promote itself," said co-founder of the startup.
According to a Morgan Stanley survey, almost 9 out of 10 investors are interested in sustainable innovation. And Harvard Business Review researched showed that 7 out of 10 consumers want to buy from sustainable companies.
Domino effect of learning about sustainable products
"I don't know whether it's a domino or spiral effect, but once someone embraces a positive environmental impact, others follow. Companies that seek sustainability in their activities also tend to choose suppliers and partners that share a similar mindset," emphasized Jekaterina Bitus and continued saying, "For instance, we only choose suppliers for our events that deliver sustainably made food in recyclable packaging, delivered by bike. People see that, share it on social media, and more people become interested in sustainable companies. We, as a community, learn from one another."
Accelerator to grow your business faster
"The accelerator is like a quick college course. Startups come for 4-6 months to gain experience in developing business. They learn how to adapt their solution to the market demand, improve selling strategies, and pitch for potential partners and investors. When we talk about the domino effect in the business sustainability field, it's worth mentioning that partners come to the program together with their teams, so they could also get new ideas, meet accelerator partners, other startups. Let us join forces to encourage business transformation in the Lithuanian market," said Jekaterina Bitus.
Greta added that the first startups will be invited to the Rockit Impact accelerator in March. The program is designed for startups that create sustainable products or seek to transform their business to be more environmentally friendly.
"Rockit Impact accelerator will create a breakthrough opportunity for startups. We will work on defining ideas and building business success based on the mindset that the business is profitable, working, and beneficial. We believe that the accelerator will help sustainable startups broaden their customer and partner base. The best thing is that we will collaborate with various industry leaders in Lithuania to test new ideas. One of the companies is Electrum, renewable energy leaders. We’re waiting for the moment to introduce other participants," explained Greta, adding that it's an excellent opportunity for startups to test their product.
The target audience of the accelerator is developing startups based on sustainable infrastructure and renewable energy sectors.
Original article made by 15min.