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Saving the world is a business opportunity

Brew Your Own webinar by Copenhagen Science City and Biopeople

Feeding the hungry, healing the sick and educating the ignorant may seem like work for philanthropists but that is an old-fashioned view. Working to change the world for the better can be very profitable. The Brew Your Own webinar “Sustainability at heart” assembled five speakers to talk about generating sustainable business ideas, realizing them and persuading investors to fund them.

Measure your impact

Solutions to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) represent a market estimated at 12 trillion dollars. Investors are highly interested in companies that might help the world reach these goals. That was a central message from Richard Georg Engström. He is the founder of The One Initiative, which analyses sustainability companies and impact investors, and then matches the two.

According to our market analysis ‘Impact Report Nordic Investors’ ninety-two percent of Nordic investors, both private and institutional, perceive impact investing as a good way to solve shared societal challenges. Not only to improve society. Eighty-three percent also expect a good return from impact investments. This means that due diligence processes are expanding from purely financial to include impact. Your job as start-up is to make your impact measurable”. Richard Georg Engström: Founder, The One Initiative

De-couple growth from resource abuse

Initiatives that are good for people tend to be bad for the planet. This is a major challenge for sustainability companies according to Jesper Kühl. He is Head of Analysis at the think-tank Kraka that recently published a report on how innovation is the key to sustainable growth.

Globally we need to de-couple growth from a drain on resources. Innovation can solve this conflict between growth and sustainability, and Denmark has proven this by reducing CO2 emissions during the latest economic upswing”: Jesper Kühl, Head of Analysis, Kraka.

Assemble a team for your sustainability start-up

Developing sustainability solutions can even be a win-win proposition for hard science researchers. So says Matthew Johnson. He is professor of atmospheric chemistry at University of Copenhagen. As co-founder of the cleantech start-up AirLabs and three other companies based on his research he finds that working with start-ups gives him a steady stream of new research ideas.

The entrepreneurial work even makes it easier to secure funding for my academic research, so; Yes. University science researchers can and should start companies to tackle sustainability issues. And No. You do not need to do it alone. Better to assemble a team with knowledge about sales and marketing”. Matthew Johnson, professor, University of Copenhagen.

A catalogue of market needs and business ideas

One of the hardest aspects of starting a new company is to make sure that your start-up solves an actual problem, where customers are willing to pay for a solution. The next speaker claims, that the UN SDG’s are a catalogue of problems to solve. Toke Hjælmsø Madsen is a project manager at Copenhagen Business Hub and has specialized in using SDG’s as a springboard for business development.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals may sound fluffy, but dive a little deeper. Each goal summarises a number of targets and indicators. Fifty to sixty of these are especially relevant for companies. You could see them as a directory of current market needs for you to solve”. Toke Hjælmsø Madsen, project manager, Copenhagen Business Hub.

Free of charge advice to grow your business

Copenhagen Business Hub is a free of charge service for small and medium sized businesses in the Greater Copenhagen Area. They provide courses, workshops and individual sparring to help founders scale their business. The final speaker Susanne Krogh Petersen is a seasoned business advisor at the hub. She invited impact start-ups to seek help at the hub and reminded everyone of a fundamental truth.

Even in a business with sustainability at heart, product/market fit is the holy grail. You must fine-tune your product until your intended customer will pay what you need to charge. If you cannot make a profit, you cannot improve the world”. Susanne Krogh Petersen, Business advisor, Copenhagen Business Hub.

Inform, inspire, engage

The Brew Your Own webinar “Sustainability at heart” was part of an event series aiming to inform, inspire and provide networking opportunities to founders and entrepreneurially minded researchers and students. The events are co-created by Copenhagen Science City and Biopeople– Denmark’s Life Science Cluster.