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Panel discussion: How superficial is your sustainability strategy?
Yes, sustainability can be a strategy! #Sustainability and #sustainablebusiness are well-known buzzwords that almost all of us hear in the business meetings, see on our social media feed, or chat about it while having a morning coffee. But are we really aware of how to empower sustainability in our daily business activities? The world is changing every day - those companies and countries which adopt and implement a broad range of sustainability practices lead the change and thrive. ROCKIT as a Home of Sustainable Innovation initiates the panel discussion, which aims to share the insights and experiences about sustainability integration to the core of the business strategy, facilitation of the business transformation towards sustainability, and collaboration between different entities that can create a positive impact together with: Gediminas Judzentas, CMO at AUGA group. Rita Sakus, Founding and Board Member at LitBAN. Laimonas Noreika, CEO & Co-founder at ZITICITY. Arnoldas Pranckevičius, Head of European Commission Representation in Lithuania. The panel discussion is moderated by Alex Gibb, partner at Katalista Ventures.
Elektrum Lietuva: Every individual should be able to use solar energy in Lithuania
Sustainability and business resilience are becoming a new standard for measuring how a startup, large company, or an organization is equipped to succeed in a turbulent nowadays economy. “Affordable and clean energy” is one of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations and, therefore, at the top of many minds. We are interviewing the CEO of “Elektrum Lietuva” – Martynas Giga who is also one of the partners in the ROCKIT Impact Accelerator. Elektrum Lietuva are placing the challenge for the startup on the accelerator – “Increasing the usage of solar energy in private households by using solar park infrastructure”. Dear Martynas, could you please elaborate on the current situation with solar panel usage in Lithuania? Where is Lithuania standing among other European countries? - Solar panel usage in Lithuania is increasing at a fast pace every year. This growth is driven by two main factors: safe investment opportunity, as the payback is usually 5-7 years, and a renewable energy source that helps every individual to reduce CO2 footprint. In Lithuania we do not have a tradition like in some other European countries to emphasize the necessity to move towards renewable energy; however, we see that it is growing constantly. Sounds very positive, however, this is a complex ecosystem. Could you share some challenges for Lithuania when it comes to attracting private households to use solar panel parks? - Solar panel park is a rather new “product” in the market. So firstly we still need to educate people that every individual who is living in an apartment can use solar energy. Moreover, we are continuing to work on product propositions for the customer, so solar energy from solar park becomes more and more accessible to everyone. It’s of course not easy to educate the society but for sure you can name many great examples from other markets. What solutions do you see in other countries that are making it easier for private households to use solar energy? In other countries like the USA or Sweden solar sharing platforms are similar to the ones used in Lithuania, but usually, they are not created only for solar. They try to include other types of renewable energy like hydro, wind, or bio. This is why those platforms are versatile. Sharing platforms is a quite new strategy that is available only for a few years now. There is no fluent process that could serve as a benchmark yet, so possibilities are endless. Talking about ROCKIT Impact Accelerator, could you name 3 startup characteristics that would make the team perfect to solve this challenge? - Enthusiastic about renewable energy, consumer-oriented, “impossible nothing” attitude (smiles). At ROCKIT Impact Accelerator we see you as a strong partner. Could you name the strengths you bring to our startups? - “Elektrum” is a long-time energy expert in Baltics. Being among TOP3 “greenest” energy producers in Europe we believe that it is our mission to drive consumers’ energy consumption towards renewable alternatives. We already have solar parks built and plan to continue expanding this business line, so it would not be some theoretical challenge to approach, but rather a very “hands-on” experience. Martynas, thank you so much for this insightful conversation – we’re excited to facilitate the shift towards renewables together!
Investors and New Regulation To Motivate Sustainable Business Development Goals
Investors are getting more interested in businesses seeking to limit negative environmental impact and introduce sustainable innovation to the market. According to experts, soon, the market will face a sustainability transformation, powered by investors’ sentiments, new legal requirements, and banks’ pursuit to direct financing to sustainable business activities. According to Remy Salters, CFO at Swedbank Lithuania, sustainability is becoming a significant part of business development, which will increase the attractiveness of the business to consumers and partners and set lending conditions and create investment opportunities. For a long time, sustainable business used to be associated with social responsibility and environmental initiatives rather than the main business activities. Now, sustainability is an integral part of business throughout the whole supply chain, manufacturing, business development strategies, risk and compliance issues, product and service innovation. Investors understand that the risks of investing in unsustainable initiatives are higher. Businesses that don’t have a clear sustainability strategy and goals will likely face more competition and lower chances of landing financing. In the long run, unsustainable business activities might face compliance and reputability issues, as well as asset depreciation and lack of demand in the market. Capital market interest in green investments is growing; however, another problem limits investors - a lack of sustainable and eco-friendly projects in the market. “Investors often express the need to invest in sustainable and eco-friendly projects, but currently, the market has a higher demand than there’s a supply,” explained Remy Salters. The European Union is also working on advancing sustainable business initiatives and relocating investments to climate-neutral activities that contribute to the European Green Deal development. Regulators and new regulations become an integral part of sustainable business development to ensure that the investments reach such projects. New criteria to evaluate sustainability According to Remy Salters, although the EU is pushing green business investments, the Union still struggles to define sustainable activities. Here comes a so-called greenwashing risk, when companies manipulate the outcome using sustainable messages and indicators to trick investors and regulators into gaining market advantage. “The EU seeks to solve sustainable business activity issues using a taxonomy. The goal of this solution is to define what makes a business activity sustainable. This initiative will help companies understand the requirements for sustainable business development, and for investors and financial institutions to know the criteria for business activity assessment based on its impact on the environment,” commented the Swedbank representative. Currently, the criteria are set for 70 projects that aim to reduce climate effects and 68 activities that help adjust to the climate crisis aftereffects. Further classification systems will expand in the near future. Transparency and risk assessment The EU taxonomy will remain a foundation of sustainable financing. It will help create eco-friendly product labeling, set green bonds and investment standards. It will be followed by new requirements for companies to measure environmental impact and sustainability indications. Conditions will be applied to stock market quoted organizations, banks, insurance companies, and other public interest businesses. New requirements for financial market participants emerge, increasing transparency, and encouraging sustainable business financing. Market participants will be required to be overt about their investments and strategies to meet new requirements, meaning investors will be more likely to work with sustainable businesses. Mr. Salters explained that new bank requirements for assessing lending risks are also being developed next to these regulations. “European Central Bank will pay more attention to risks related to climate change. In the future, banks will be required to assess client risks based on climate and environmental impact more rigorously, as well as monitor them in their portfolio,” told Remy Salters. Sustainable business and project development will determine the company’s reputation and allow better financing opportunities. Banks have been applying sustainability assessment mainly in the case of a large transaction, but soon there will be more of such activities. New requirements will allow gauging individual investment effects on the environment. “For a couple of years now, we’ve been assessing sustainability before granting large transactions. However, we want to go further and understand the impact better, for instance, to count CO2 emission throughout the whole portfolio. Based on the results, we hope to help companies step closer to the sustainable business model,” explained Remy Salters. There are changes in the investment field, as well. Swedbank pension funds already relocated 500 million euro investments to companies that have integrated sustainable development goals. 250 million euro pension funds are directed to the Baltic market. “When we make the investment decision, we talk with the companies to understand how their projects will help reduce the environmental impact and limit the effects of their activity in the long run,” shared Mr. Salters. Requirements to become opportunities New requirements in the EU will become a solid argument, changing market rules, and driving changes. Although business model transformation will require more time and investment from companies, Mr. Salters is sure it will also open the door for opportunities. “To achieve long-term EU goals, sustainable investments are crucial. These objectives are ambitious: reduce greenhouse gas emission by 50-55% by 2030 and reach neutral CO2 emission by 2050. To increase investments in private and public sustainable business, we aim to relocate funds to sustainable activities.” Remy Salters shared future plans. The EU economy aid plan and the budget for 2021-2027 are set to contribute 1.8 trillion euros to help the member states survive the COVID-19 crisis and accelerate sustainable European development. Around 30% of the funds will be relocated to the activities solving climate change problems. CFO at Swedbank Lithuania believes that these plans will open more opportunities for investments in sustainable business. “There are plenty of opportunities, therefore the business should already start the transition to sustainability. And they should begin by evaluating themselves: what impact does my business make and how can we reduce it,” explained Mr. Salters. Original article made by Verslo Žinios.
Can business be sustainable and profitable?
Businesses across the world embrace sustainability and work on meeting the criteria for clean, fair, and regenerative practices. But the fundamental question remains - can a business be sustainable and generate profit? With sustainability becoming not only a nice addition to the main company’s vision but also a requirement for a business to receive financing and attract customers, more organizations try to combine green initiatives with profits. The issue will only become more relevant in the upcoming years, as the European Union Green Deal aims to reduce the EU carbon emission to neutral by 2050. However, to achieve positive results, M Wallace Green, Founding Partner at ActNow Ventures emphasized the need for a collective shift in the mindset of business owners and consumers. “We have a collective mission until 2050 to reach carbon neutrality, which is 30 years away. We have a target to achieve an objective, which is to become climate neutral as an economy. And I see that as a 30-year journey, and now we have a ten-year target for a 55% reduction in carbon.” Mr Green continued saying, “It’s not about just not doing harm, but we have to undo and fix the damages that we've caused because it's not enough to just stop.” Although each individual effort matters, businesses and big manufacturers can make a significant difference faster. Fintech and Sustainable Innovation center Rockit hosted a discussion about sustainable and profitable business and what it takes to achieve both. What it means to be a sustainable business Sustainable business is a multifaceted term composed of the company’s mindset, people, goals, customers, and actions towards the better good of consumers and the planet. M Wallace Green describes the sustainable business as “a company whose business model co-exists within the harmonies of society and nature.” Jovita Tamosaityte, CEO & Founder at Impactful, added that a sustainable initiative starts with three main pillars: people, focus, and action, “How does our product or service contribute to society? Are we solving real problems that people need, or just creating overconsumption?” While some believe that to achieve sustainability you need to start small, Simon JD Schillebeeckx, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Handprint Tech and The Global Mangrove Trust says that even in today’s market there’s no business that’s 100% sustainable. And that should motivate business owners and associates to change the whole market ecosystem to be restorative and more in tune with our environment and nature. “We need to have businesses that are fundamentally restorative. We have done so much damage to our natural ecosystems that even being sustainable, which basically means not doing any harm is not good enough,” explained Simon JD Schillebeeckx. He emphasized that a business that is restorative and in tune with the environment benefits everyone, and thereby it should become a goal to achieve this state instead of just being partly sustainable. “We have to create businesses that have a primary goal to create public goods. Value for everyone and succeeds in appropriating part of that value so that they can be profitable. And for me, that is really what the future of sustainability is. We need something that is much more ambitious than just sustainable.” But goodwill alone can’t achieve fast and sure results. Companies need to embrace a full transition, while governments and regulators support it with incentives and financing. 3 trillion euros to support green initiatives All efforts should be taken into consideration to achieve greater goals and lay the groundwork for fully restorative and sustainable activities. However, a lot of established companies are afraid of sustainability because it means change and transformation, which can be expensive. However, if the organization is still in its early stages, Mr. Wallace Green believes it can benefit from being sustainable because nowadays, financing is more focused on supporting green activities, moving traction towards sustainable businesses. “There is 1 trillion euros in the Green Deal that the European Union is going to unleash on the European economies. The European Union is putting forth nearly 2 trillion euros to promote the economic recovery post-COVID. Now there’s going to be some overlapping across that 3 trillion euros, but that’s three really good reasons to start a business and to take advantage of that wind, catch your sail and do something.” told Mr. Wallace. 3 trillion euros is a significant amount, and many business owners are tempted by governmental incentives. However, to qualify for the financing, it’s not enough just to call your company sustainable, the whole organization needs to change from the core and develop based on a new mindset and goals. Challenging transition to sustainability If the company doesn’t have the basis of sustainability, the transition will be complicated and shift the company’s position in the market. However, according to Henrik Wagenius, Founder & CEO at Eucaps Ltd, businesses that were developed with sustainability in mind or those that integrated it into their strategy will only need to enhance sustainable initiatives and push the organization towards them. “Is there an easy solution for a company to become sustainable if that’s not the basis for the company? No. There’s no easy way. The only easy way is to rethink what you’re doing and to try to focus on what parts of that you can enhance or take out or skewer your business towards.” added Mr. Wagenius. Transition to sustainable practices is more challenging for large enterprises, raising the risk of greenwashing (a term used to describe an activity when a company or person position themselves as green and sustainable while doing a small fraction or nothing to achieve it). According to M Wallace Green, even though there are and will be companies that use sustainability to manipulate market advantage, in the end, genuine and actionable initiatives will gain a bigger market share. One of the most significant accelerators during the transition is employees. “Venture capitalists typically look for the area where you have the cool kids with the smartest ideas,” said Mr. JD Schillebeeckx. More and more talented people move towards sustainable business because it has tons of opportunities for young entrepreneurs to flourish. However, Simon JD Schillebeeckx believes that every business can meet the transformation if they change their mindset. According to him, the first step for a company to embrace sustainability and generate profit is to change the way it sees sustainability, and answer the question: “does sustainability become a limitation or driving factor?” “Sustainability is understood as a constraint that limits the potential. What makes you successful as a company is driven by lots of different things that can drive that success, sustainability being one of them. So if you consider sustainability in your corporate lives, anything in your equation, it can increase the size of your potential profits because there is value now and consumers care about as governments care about this.” explained Mr. Schillebeeckx. Sustainability has been on the radar for decades, and now we are on a threshold to a mass transition to greener and restorative business practices. While there’s plenty of room for improvement, changing consumer needs and new generations are already ahead of the process and might determine the success of it. But to transition to green initiatives, large organizations and developing businesses need to change their mindset and use sustainability as their driving force.
Over 5 million reasons to build a sustainable business
More and more people are demanding from businesses a responsible approach to the environment and the planet. According to the study of Harvard Business Review of 2019, as many as 65% of interviewees wish to buy goods and to associate themselves with brands that seek sustainability in their businesses. In the context of a global pandemic, sustainability is becoming even more important. For a long time, sustainability was associated with paper bags in the store, eco-friendly detergent, or energy-saving light bulbs. Today, however, sustainability is becoming pivotal to businesses for developing their products, development plans or social responsibility policies. As global economies attempt to rebound from the COVID-19 challenge, the "green" recovery becomes a topic of increasing importance. Sustainability will be demanded by customers, employees, and investors Dovilė Grigienė, the Chief Executive Officer at Swedbank Lithuania, states that the importance of sustainability for today's businesses is more obvious than ever. "Sustainable innovations for businesses are currently becoming a major topic. Orientation towards sustainability can help to attract additional investments, as ambitious EU sustainability goals imply that a significant part of investments will be directed solely to sustainable activities. A similar sentiment arises among private investors as well. In addition, there is more and more talk about a sustainable recovery from the global pandemic, thus the importance of sustainability will only increase," says the CEO of Swedbank Lithuania. According to her, for companies looking for additional reasons to create a sustainable business, there are as many as 5 million of them. It is a rough number of young people that took part in the global protest actions of G.Thunberg's Fridays for Future. "These active and conscious young people are the future customers and employees. When choosing services or jobs, they will be looking at the environmental impact of the company for sure", - says D. Grigienė. These sustainability-conscious people are not only consumers but also developers who are gradually coming into business by creating start-ups and setting up companies. For B2B, sustainability is a significant factor to start or to cease cooperation. Companies that seek sustainability in their activities often choose similar partners. First Sustainability Accelerator in Lithuania for business Šarūnė Smalakytė, head of the FinTech and Sustainable Innovation hub ROCKIT, says that given the increasing importance of sustainability for people and businesses, together with Katalista Ventures they launch ROCKIT Impact Accelerator in September. It is an intensive program focused on the growth of sustainable startups. "Startups are unique as they are full of idealism, in addition to their ideas and determination. Enthusiastic teams are determined to run their businesses in a sustainable manner from the very beginning. It is true that when the team is already busy with developing their idea and starting a product as well as attracting investors, sustainable working methods can prove to be another difficult concern. However, inspiration can then be sought through partnerships with successful sustainable market leaders. That's what ROCKIT Impact Accelerator is for," says Š. Smalakytė. During the programme, companies promoting a sustainable approach to business will join their forces and share their experiences to help six new sustainable startups to grow. "We want to encourage startups to take care of sustainability from their outset. That is why we have contributed to the first such business initiative in Lithuania, which will allow us to focus on targeted startup partnerships with market leaders", – says the CEO of Swedbank Lithuania D. Grigienė. According to Martynas Giga, CEO of one of the project partners Elektrum Lietuva, the company has a lot of good practice and is willing to share it with the participants of ROCKIT Impact Accelerator. "In our business, we generate 50 percent of electricity using renewable sources. We believe that clean electricity is one of the essential indicators of every person's quality life. As an energy producer and supplier, we feel a responsibility and do our best that modern technologies and innovations significantly contribute towards sustainable development goals, both global and Lithuanian ones", - says M. Giga. 6 start-ups are sought for the first accelerator The search for 6 experienced startups willing to contribute to the sustainability challenges of the business is now underway. It is they who will participate in an intensive four-month programme. ROCKIT Impact Accelerator will bring such startups closer to business and help them find the most suitable partners. Startups that wish to apply sustainability principles in their activities, as well as need partnership and business cooperation to grow, are welcomed to contact ROCKIT Impact Accelerator team.
Sustainable Finance in the Baltics: The Role of Consumers and Regulators
Sustainable finance and business processes are essential in building a more resilient economy, reducing the environmental impact, and supporting sustainable development goals. However, sustainable finance goals are challenging to achieve without consumer engagement. What it takes to draw consumers and investors into the subject, and how regulators, businesses, governments, financial institutions, and consumers themselves can contribute to sustainable finance? Sustainable finance in the Baltics While in some countries such as Sweden or Finland, green finance is often a priority when financing your business, Baltic consumers aren't as active in choosing green investments and sustainable finance. Remy Salters, head of Finance Division at Swedbank Lietuvoje, believes that Baltic consumers are price-motivated, making it more challenging to implement new green practices. "The Baltic consumer is very price-driven, as a result, one of the tasks of sustainable finance is to create incentives to move to more sustainable consumption and production patterns. One of the ways of doing that is to introduce new products. We've introduced new lending products for solar panel installations, green leasing. We're in the process of bringing over our Nordic colleagues' sustainability-linked loans." said Remy when asked about the consumer motivation in the Baltics. Although incentives motivate some of the market participants, it takes time to educate the consumer to prioritize sustainable solutions over affordable ones. Marius Jurgilas, the board member of the Bank of Lithuania, thinks that consumers would be more involved if they had a chance to understand investments in sustainable finance and the long-term return better. "Only 3% of the population, at least in Lithuania, understand what the sustainable development goals are. So, there's quite a lot of financial education and awareness missing." Marius continued by explaining why regulators also play an important role in the process, "Sometimes, markets don't work for critical reasons that there are no markets. I can't trade to people something that's going to be 200 years from now. So, that's the reason why we need regulation." The regulators' role in sustainable finance development Regulators such as the European Commission play a significant part in establishing sustainable finance practices in Europe and the Baltic region. Not only are regulators needed to monitor business and governmental activities, but they also take the lead in educating and motivating consumers. According to Marius Jurgilas, it all comes to three angles to ensure consumer involvement and regulatory practices, "The first one is to assess how the financial market facilitates the risk-taking activity from the sustainability perspective. The second one is disclosure. There's a driving force of the European Commission and regulations to ensure that everything is measurable. The idea here is that if I can understand the impact of my financial actions, I'll be more responsible when I'm doing those. The third one is making incentives. Those incentives should be very pragmatic like we're pushing the financial market participants to fund small and medium-sized businesses, we've introduced the so-called ESM factor. And maybe it's time to introduce the sustainability factor." Without analyzing real examples of successful sustainable finance projects, it’s challenging to understand the need for it and the impact similar activities make. Sustainable finance in practice There's still room for improvement in the Baltic region, but we don't have to look far to see positive results of consumer involvement in sustainable finance. Tom Duncan shared his experience in running EarthBanc, a green digital banking platform, and sustainable finance progress globally. "The case in India, there's a green bond we issued in 2019, which contributed to growing lots of mango trees, wild honey production. This will help to bring financial yield back to investors in the green bond, but importantly, reforest mangoes which protect those communities' homes from dangerous storm surges." shared Tom. He's also excited that their and similar initiatives are gaining more attention from large corporations and traditional banks, "Multilateral banks are talking with us, we have a contract with a multilateral bank to help them come to grips with this problem. This is also how the carbon offset mechanism works, whether it's going carbon neutral or the EU target, or it's nationally defined contribution of the private markets." With more businesses, governmental organizations, banks, and financial institutions focusing on the environment, we can expect the sustainable finance sector to grow. But for it to work, every one of us needs to take responsibility for building a better world.
Startup Superpowers Can Inspire Even Established Companies
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.
2021 promises more opportunities to green startups in Lithuania
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.
Linas Agro: “We are bringing the holistic point of view in the agriculture ecosystem”
Agriculture plays an important role in our sustainable development. We are very happy to introduce our partner Linas Agro who will join us at Rockit Acceleration Program. We are interviewing Modestas Sutkaitis, Head of IT Department at Linas Agro group who is presenting the company’s challenge: “Innovations in remote crop (or farm) monitoring and farm credit score estimation to work more efficiently and profitably”. Hello Modestas, let’s start with a very broad question. What is the vision of sustainable agriculture in Lithuania? How far have we moved in that direction? The current vision of sustainable agriculture in Lithuania, as in the whole EU, is focused on the reduction of nature pollution and more efficient use of available resources in order to minimize the negative impact of human activities on nature. “Linas Agro” is happy to be a part of that process and to be able to contribute to a cleaner planet. I have to admit that since the very start we have built a business that was oriented to long-term decisions, sustainability, and growth. We always seek soil quality, plant yield, and environmental pollution reduction. We are constantly cooperating with the most experienced breeders to ensure the most adopted plants in our climate zone. What is more, we want to use the Geoface program to monitor and evaluate crops from satellites, thus saving farmers time, resources and making crop management decisions promptly. I believe that these are big steps towards a more sustainable economy and participation at Rockit Impact Accelerator will be another milestone. No doubts that your contribution to Rockit Impact Accelerator will bring new and important changes to the ecosystem. Can you also tell us when and why has Linas Agro started believing that sustainable innovation can be financially beneficial? Linas Agro has always paid increased attention to sustainable innovations that allow more efficient use of available resources and higher returns from the tools used in the agriculture business. This mindset leads Linas Agro to success because we always aimed to help our customers achieve better results while maintaining sustainability. Your mindset is really inspiring! But are there any challenges you are facing today by working in the agriculture industry? The main challenges we face today are to remain leaders in the development and application of innovative technologies in agriculture in Lithuania and the region. We strive to remain competitive in the markets where products grown or produced in Lithuania or the Baltic States are exported. Sustainability policies and ambitions to reduce the use of natural resources, climate change and pollution vary from country to country. The cost of any production in such countries which has low ambitions towards sustainability will be lower and they will have a competitive advantage in export markets. Although technology adoption in agriculture has a long way to go, we believe that this is the right way to be sustainable and competitive at the same time. Working in this area for many years you probably have seen many great case studies of successful businesses in the market. Could you share several examples that are inspiring you as a company? Three decades ago, when Linas Agro started the business, agriculture in Lithuania was very underdeveloped. There was a great lack of knowledge about plant growing and the technical park was very poor. However, the desire to improve and apply the experience of Western Europe in Lithuanian farms helped to take strong first steps. There was constant communication with scientists and at the same time the development and application of cultivation technologies on farms, which helped to achieve better results for farmers working with Linas Agro every year. Could you name 3 startup characteristics that would make the team perfect to solve your challenge? A decent level of a technological solution, the ability to adapt innovation to our project, domain knowledge in farming. What do you think are your company's biggest strengths and values that you will bring and share with startups at the ROCKIT impact accelerator? Our biggest strength is our wide range of activities across the group of companies. Linas Agro multiple businesses, related to agriculture across the Baltic states. So we’re able to adopt various types of startups. We believe that we will bring a holistic point of view of agriculture to the ROCKIT Impact accelerator. Thank you very much for your time and valuable insights! See you at Rockit Impact Accelerator very soon!
The first Rockit Impact sustainability accelerator is geared to begin
Today, the international Rockit Impact sustainability accelerator will be launched in Vilnius. It will offer an intensive four-month programme designed to promote the growth of start-ups and the transformation of the business of companies already established. As stated by the organisers of the accelerator, participating start-ups will enjoy a unique opportunity to develop and test products together with market leaders seeking to develop business sustainably. Five starters from Lithuania, Switzerland and Sweden, specialising in renewable and green energy, smart cities, agriculture, sustainable finance and space technologies, were selected to participate in the Rockit Impact programme. Most of these have already passed through the initial stage of development and have their own customers. Swedbank, Elektrum Lietuva, Linas Agro, TeleSoftas and Telia will share their experience with start-ups and share new sustainable business ideas. Greta Monstavičė, the head of the Katalista Ventures foundation, the accelerator of sustainable start-ups organising Rockit Impact, says that the programme will allow for the exploitation of the potential of innovative start-ups, enhance their capabilities and help find new partners. "Start-ups bring new thinking, technology, ideas and speed. Business representatives have the experience, a stable source of financing and an accumulated customer base. By merging these two strengths, we will have an effective team that will stimulate sustainable products, initiatives and ideas spread several times faster than acting alone", says G. Monstavičė. According to her, one of the main tasks of the programme is to solve complex sustainability challenges together. "It is precisely because of the complexity of sustainability issues that we have sought to attract companies with diverse experience from different ecosystems – energy, finance, information technology, telecommunications and agriculture – to the accelerator programme. International experience shows that this creates effective synergies, therefore, we look forward to very interesting results from the programme", says G. Monstavičė. Šarūnė Smalakytė, the head of the Rockit Center for financial technologies and sustainable innovation, explains that the Rockit Impact accelerator was established to not only help start-ups create sustainable products, but also apply modern methods of work. "Such inter-industrial cooperation is some of the most effective means of sharing experiences and achieving sustainability targets. We believe that the start-ups and companies participating in the first Rockit Impact accelerator programme will yield systemic changes in Lithuanian and global business", says Š. Smalakytė. The Rockit Impact accelerator will last for four months. The start-ups will start with engaging in the transformation of their products to make them meet the challenges set by the partners. At the same time, start-ups will receive assistance for strategic integration sustainability in their business model. Later, companies will be given time to prepare for product testing and finding customers. The final stage of the accelerator is dedicated to testing in real conditions, collecting feedback and improving products. The primary focus during the accelerator will be placed on pilot projects that will demonstrate real benefits of sustainability, and priority to testing the solutions developed will be given to Lithuanian people and companies. Business solutions created or improved during the Rockit Impact accelerator will be presented in July this year.
Citizens and businesses are invited to kick off summer by participating in the Sustainability Week
The FinTech and Sustainable Innovation Centre ROCKIT together with a dozen of other organisations is inviting citizens and businesses to attend a series of activities and events aimed at teaching people how to adopt more sustainable practices. Lithuanian currently ranks 25th out of 31 countries in Europe Sustainable Development Report. We have a lot of space for improvement and we can not only shift our attitude but also improve our country’s economy and our lives in general, event organisers claim. Organised for the first time, the Sustainability Week will start this Monday, 31 May, and will continue up until Friday. The list of attendees who will share their experiences in remote discussions and events include the representatives of Swedbank, Telia Lietuva, GovTech Lab, VšĮ Žaliosios politikos institutas, Vilnius City Municipality, Katalista Ventures, Impact Meetup, Sunrise Valley (Science & Technology park), Cogastro, Ioon Technologies, Plan A, Impacftul, Eastnine, and other organisations. “We hope that the Sustainability Week events will open up a broader perspective on sustainability. Sustainability is still a new topic in Lithuania so businesses who take initiative in this field can become leaders in building a better and more harmonious world. Sustainability is like a continuous journey which should become part of our daily life. That is why our goal is to help people understand how sustainability could create positive impact on our lives, economy, and businesses”, said Šarūnė Smalakytė, Director of the ROCKIT centre responsible for organising the event. According to her, the events which will last all week will be useful to businesses that are still in their growing stages and those that already have a strong foothold in the market and need inspiration or understanding as to how to create a sustainable organisational culture. Experts agree that today it is no longer enough to talk about sustainability or make sustainability declarations. The urgent and real action is needed to achieve change. A review conducted this year by the private equity fund and sustainable start-up accelerator Katalista Ventures showed that Lithuanian businesses and their leaders lack a holistic approach to sustainability. It sheds light on the fact that companies in Lithuania have a rather narrow focus when it comes to sustainability. They often concentrate on one or two aspects, for example, they only speak about environmental protection without contributing to the education of consumers or employees. European Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius who will give a welcoming address during the opening ceremony said that this event will contribute to the ambitious goals set by the European Union. “In striving to meet the European Union’s commitment to becoming a climate-neutral continent, we all, especially business communities, have a crucial part to play. Besides creating attractive jobs, businesses can also address ecological problems by either changing their business models to more sustainable alternatives or by creating innovative solutions which are today so vital for transport, agricultural, environmental, energy, urban, and other sectors. I know perfectly well that Lithuanian businesses have immense potential and I believe that Lithuania can become one of the leaders in achieving this breakthrough”, said Mr. Sinkevičius. According to the event organisers, the FinTech sector and new start-ups are in a particularly good position to create sustainable businesses. “This year can become a breakthrough year marking the transition of businesses towards sustainable practices. The finances from the European Recovery Fund are expected to provide a significant impetus for the implementation of the European Green Deal. Moreover, it becomes increasingly clear, that sustainability does not mean lower profitability. One of the discussions will focus on the fact that new businesses that adhere to sustainability principles have more potential to attract investors and earn customer trust”, said Ms. Smalakytė. The highlights of the Sustainability Week programme will include a bee-keeping programme and an introduction to urban bee-keeping including the tour of the beehives set up on the rooftop of ROCKIT building. All the participants will be invited to join remote functional, yoga and ballet fitness sessions led by professional instructors and to attend walks and a brain battle event. “This week and its comprehensive programme are an excellent example of how a sustainable lifestyle involves not only environment protection and taking care of nature or climate but also healthy living, sports and education,” concluded on a positive note Ms. Smalakytė, director of ROCKIT. The Sustainability Week will take place from 31 May to 4 June. Participation in the events is free for all registered participants. To view the event programme and to register, visit: https://www.rockitvilnius.com/sustainabilityweek/ ### For more information, contact: Kamilė Mazrimė ROCKIT Events and Public Relations +370 652 53218 email@example.com
Lithuania is becoming a very attractive country for foreign startups developing sustainable solution
The results of an international sustainability accelerator Rockit Impact launched in March show that the Lithuanian market is very favourable for the activities of sustainable start-ups. Typically, establishing close partnerships and achieving results can take up to several years for new B2B companies. The participants of Rockit Impact Accelerator were able to do it in less than four months. The accelerator involved five pilot projects of cooperation between start-ups and large businesses: Swedbank, Telia, Linas Agro, Elektrum Lietuva and Telesoftas. The specialisation of start-ups from Switzerland, Sweden, Poland and Lithuania was renewable and green energy, smart cities, ecology, sustainable agriculture and finances. More than 200 startups applied for the accelerator program, most of them from foreign countries. Greta Monstavičė, CEO of Katalista Ventures, the foundation and accelerator of sustainable start-ups and the organiser of Rockit Impact Accelerator, said that startups find very favourable conditions for the development of ideas and products in Lithuania. “Lithuanian companies must be competitive at the European level because our market is very small. Therefore, they are dynamic, innovative and are ready to make decisions quickly. This is exactly what startups developing innovative products and services need. The results achieved within a few months through the accelerator program send a clear message to the global ecosystem of B2B startups,” said Ms. Monstavičė. The distinguishing quality of the accelerator: sustainable solutions During the course of the accelerator, a Swedish start-up Earthbanc and Swedbank were looking for ways to effectively measure the CO2 emissions of several clients of the bank. Such self-assessment of customers will soon become very important. Global financial market trends show a significant turn toward sustainability, such as the rapid growth of foundations investing in sustainable companies. It is likely that soon loans will be issued only to sustainable businesses; therefore, the bank is already looking for ways of providing the clients with the necessary tools. During Rockit Impact, the Swiss startup Elblox and Elektrum Lietuva tested two new products to be offered to customers. One of the products under development is a platform, which would facilitate the ordering of the supply of electricity produced by remote solar power stations. The sensors produced by the Polish startup Digital Crops have been installed and are already operating on the property of Linas Agro Group. These sensors capture a multitude of air and soil data. This provides additional opportunities for optimising the activities that require intensive use of farm machinery, such as the beginning of sowing, fertilising, watering and harvesting. The Lithuanian startup Datahood and Telia looked into specific needs of a dozen of different businesses and, using the contacts and anonymised data of the telecommunications company, Datahood is finalising the first contracts. Datahood analyses and proposes solutions for making different areas of the city more sustainable and convenient for local residents and helps the businesses to discover the potential of such places. This tool helps the businesses to bring services to residential neighbourhoods which are equivalent to the services provided in the city centre, thus reducing the people’s dependence on cars. The company Telesoftas is at the final phase of developing the IT module necessary for the development of the Lithuanian startup Cogastro. The start-up is developing an operating system for bug farms, a unique project in the world. The prospects of Cogastro product are confirmed by the recent win in the Startup Fair Pitch Battle. Šarūnė Smalakytė, Head of Rockit, a fintech and sustainable innovation centre, said that Rockit Impact accelerator provided a fast and convenient way for large companies to try out B2B partnerships with startups. Meanwhile, the start-ups gained experience of cooperation with large partners and obtained proof that ideas are effective and competitive on the global level. “Mutual benefit is obvious. This accelerator revealed the attractiveness of the Lithuanian companies by showing how the synergy between the new and experienced businesses actually works. It is also important that innovative products developed during the accelerator will be offered to Lithuanian residents,” said Ms. Smalakytė. According to Ms. Smalakytė, this Rockit Impact accelerator was particularly successful and will be continued in the future, involving more companies from a wider range of industries and expanding the cooperation program. ### For more information, please contact: Kamilė Mazrimė Rockit events and public relations +370 652 53218 firstname.lastname@example.org