North to South

During a five-day-visit to Berlin my colleague and I crossed the city multiple times to meet & greet with different companies like coworking hubs, incubator-and accelerator programs, a Business Angel Association as well as a think tank. They all work with startup ventures and provide services for entrepreneurship. Five out of 11 companies focus on sustainable entrepreneurship* and their scope differs considerably; social entrepreneurship, green technology, smart cities, mobility and everything in between.Climate-KIC Germany Accelerator

During these meetings it became clear that they support and coach entrepreneurs in their own way through the different stages of building a company. I also gained a better insight what particular role social entrepreneurs play as change agents in the public-/private sector.

On the surface, many social enterprises look, feel, and even operate like traditional businesses. But looking more closely, one discovers the defining characteristics of the social enterprise: mission is at the centre of business, with income generation playing an important supporting role. Value for the social entrepreneur lies in the social benefit to a community or transformation of a community that lacks the resources to fulfil its own needs.

To me it is inspiring to understand how companies like Social Impact Lab manage to create a comprehensive ecosystem for social entrepreneurship, where startup founders can rent a physical space for working, participate in networking and exchange, and have access to business advice and start-up support. Also our visit to Europe’s largest public-private innovation partnership – Climate-KIC – with focus on climate change was very inspirational. They help startups with innovative ideas in the field of e.g. Urban Transitions, Sustainable Production Systems and Sustainable Land Use. They aim to turn the climate challenge to a business opportunity and their mission is to enable Europe to lead the global transformation towards sustainability.

Another example is the independent not-for-profit research institution Borderstep that advocates the green economy by researching different topics like e.g. Green IT, Smart energy, environmental technologies and Sustainable Entrepreneurship. They also advocate the use of the Sustainable Business Canvas (German) for the systematic development of sustainability-oriented business models.

To summarize my findings after an inspirational week in Berlin: I experienced that sustainable entrepreneurs enact a holistic approach to a venture startup that embeds environmental, economic and social sustainability dimensions. The result is a social enterprise that applies commercial strategies to maximize social impact and environmental well-being alongside profits for their shareholders. It is nonsense that social businesses are not able to support themselves financially – in fact their business models are as competitive and in many cases more innovative than traditional businesses!

*Sustainable entrepreneurship stands for a business driven concept of sustainability which focuses on increasing both social as well as business value – so called Shared Value.

Learning the basics

On the 9th of March our team of the Sustainable Startup Program will be hosting CSR Hub NRW — a series of workshops about the basic elements of Corporate Social Responsibility at the Factory Campus in Düsseldorf.

The event is especially interesting for startup entrepreneurs (to be) from various industries and people with an interest in sustainable business. What to expect — a practical introduction to topics related to social, ecological and responsible entrepreneurship as well as innovative business models.

kerbholz_madeincologne_wearecity_koeln-17During the workshop Moritz Blees, co-founder of the successful Cologne based startup Kerbholz will share his insights into their Business & Revenue Model (they make wrist watches and sunglasses out of wood) and our team will moderate a topic about the Sustainable Business Model Canvas. We will elaborate on the canvas building blocks social costs and social benefits — an interesting theme for my next post. I’m also very excited that we managed to join forces with the CSR Hub — an initiative of the Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production (CSCP). In 2016 I had the opportunity to work with CSCP during the Sustainica conference.

I believe that the workshop offers a great opportunity to get familiar with the CSR-basics and is free of charge (taught in German). And our team has the opportunity to advocate sustainable business practices among startup entrepreneurs in the region. Feel free to join us on the 9th in Düsseldorf!

A matter of attitude #1

This month’s Blog is an introduction to a series of Blog entries I’d like to write. I look closer at the added value of conscious entrepreneurs and their behaviour towards decision making, why I believe this is so relevant for the community and how you can be part of it.

We go to work to make money and it is just about making money. We then try to balance our lives in the little time we have left after work by doing other things that are purposeful, healthy, socially responsible, and spiritually fulfilling. On the other hand we have a desire to connect with something larger than ourselves and to live from a higher sense of value and purpose. Does this sound familiar? The question we ask ourselves — is making money and consciousness related?

It might sound like that it doesn’t. But the truth is that these elements actually support each other. I believe that a more responsible way of entrepreneurship and doing business is in fact intertwined.

For many of us live is about accumulation as much wealth as possible with all that it entails, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But we can do better. What if you as an entrepreneur have the capacity to evolve and progress to a more balanced relationship between purpose and profit? I think this is the key to do business fundamentally different — and more sustainable.

I’m talking about building a business that is honest, value-and performance driven, and responsible — often known as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) publication “CSR: Meeting changing expectations” has the following definition: “Corporate Social Responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the community and society at large.”

colorado-rocky-mountains-national-park-nature-pathIt sounds idealistic but basically it is about making responsible decisions in which you, others, the society including the environment flourish as an outcome of your company fulfilling its objectives and mission.

In my next article I will write about the principles of CSR and why it is relevant to (startup) businesses. Stay tuned!

A fresh start

Whoosh… time flies when so many things are taking place. Several months have passed since the successful edition of Sustainica & Planet B. The Sustainica project was a personal milestone as it gave me lots of experiences to reflect on as well as new opportunities and ideas.

exhibitor_sustainica_13

For 2017 the focus of the Sustainable Lifestyle Initiative is to contribute to conscious entrepreneurship, sustainable development and environmental matters. I partly do that by publishing stories on this blog and through the temporary assignment I currently work on  – the Sustainable Startup Program. Why these topics in particular? After some years in the private sector I developed a personal and professional interest in these fields and some of these experiences I’d like to share with you.

My next post will be about an exiting trip we made to Bukit Lawang in north Sumatra. Stay tuned!