Guest blog: Karin Lintrup, Head of Sustainability
“Either you’re sustainable or you’re not around”
This quote is from a recent workshop at Minc between large corporations, public organizations, and investors, invited to discuss what we can do to support sustainability and startups. This post is about trends in large organizations and sustainability in the context of the startup scene.
“Until we meet the point where: Either you’re sustainable or you are not around, it is our responsibility to remind and help each other to make better choices.”
This was the actual phrasing, made by one of the participants. One person saying this might not be of great importance, but during the discussion, it was clear that all participants agreed upon it. This is a point of view that is getting more and more common among people within any kind of organization.
What does this mean?
Well, to begin with, it means that representatives from corporations, public organizations, and investors have one thing in common: Believing that sustainability inevitably is or will be a part of the business. It is not a matter of if, but a matter of when and how.
What does this imply for startups?
It means business opportunities. Are you a startup solving a real problem, and in that sense creates a better solution for people and the planet, and can be profitable by doing so, you are adding value. Many large established organizations recognize that they are not the ones best skilled at creating new innovative solutions and businesses. They are looking for startups to collaborate with. Research made through this last decade also shows that companies that work sustainably, i.e. implement environmental, social, and economic sustainability in their organizations DNA, are more successful long term. Thus, large organizations are interested in sustainable business solutions.
How can these business opportunities be harvested?
Within almost any existing organisation it is today acknowledged that, no matter how big you are, you won’t manage to become sustainable entirely on your own.
Therefore, to identify needs, partner with and sign customer agreements with startups that are adding value to sustainability is attractive to large corporations. Existing organizations have the muscles to implement these new and more sustainable ways.
That leads the reasoning into the next area of opportunity for startups: By being sustainable, they are more attractive, and the better they understand the existing business needs the more attractive they get. In principle, this is very plausible: When you’re able to give your customer more of what that customer needs, the value of what you are offering increases. Yet, what some people don’t see is that value isn’t necessarily more goods or services. Value is much broader than that, and implies that you as a supplier actually understands the needs of your customer.
How is that possible, you might think. Well, one thing is for sure, if you are to find out you need to start interacting and asking questions to understand better and to ask different people within the organization. Understanding what common values you have is often a good starting point. And more and more often, this common ground has an aspect of sustainability.
Why would any representative within a large organization care about us wanting to understand their needs? Not all of them will be prepared to share their challenges with you. But asking for help is surprisingly disarming. As a matter of fact, most people want to help, and when you realize that you have something in common, then the opportunity to create something is there.
That being said, large organizations, as well as investors, are just as much newbies to circular business models, business building upon sharing solutions, and solutions where sustainability is integrated with digitalization, as startups are. The opportunity to co-create is here and ours, and yours, to grasp.
Sustainable products and services are increasing in demand as well as value. They will continue to do so until “either you are sustainable, or you’re not around”. Therefore, a tip to any startup having doubts of when to start looking upon sustainability: Do it now. Grasp the benefits of being one of those creating value, rather than merely adapting to a near future.
Many thanks to all participants in the workshop mentioned above: Sony, Rosholm Dell, Capgemini, Ikea, SEB, Malmö Stad, and SEA systems.
At Minc, we believe in creating something bigger than yourself. We offer everything an entrepreneur needs to go from concept to market in-house. Our international network of advisors and award-winning programs will help your startup scale faster and smarter. Welcome to the startup house of Malmö.