We investigate the link between successful startups and clear sustainability values.

The area of sustainability and the role business has in reducing the global level of atmospheric carbon has never been more crucial. Any business knows that having a clear environmental policy and taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint is critical if they want to survive, but there aren’t many that will place sustainability front and centre of their brand values.

But there is hope: a recent survey by German Startup Accelerator Program TechFounders and consulting company akzente has found that startups are leading the way when it comes to sustainability, setting out their environmental responsibilities and goals from their very first business plan, and reaping financial rewards because of it.

From obligation to opportunity

Titled ‘Sustainability in Startups’, the research interviewed 282 startups from across Europe at the start of this year. Of those 282 companies, 86% had thought about the role and relevance of sustainability for their business model, with two-thirds already actively taken measures to foster sustainability within their companies.

The research also made it clear that the key driver for sustainability for startups was personal motivation rather than outside pressure – from investors, for example. While 89% of startups who had implemented sustainability measures state they were highly intrinsically motivated when starting their sustainability journey, only 53% did so because of substantial external pressure or incentives.

“Sustainability has finally become a serious business opportunity for companies,” explains Thomas Melde, Managing Director of akzente. “No matter which industry you’re in, you can’t afford to question the future viability of your business model against the background of global ecological and social challenges.”

Positive steps

While the adoption of sustainability initiatives from the very start of a business journey appears to be a choice of responsibility rather than profit, it’s clear that many startups enjoy a number of business benefits because of it. The TechFounders/akzente report found that 83% of startups see tangible positive effects resulting from their sustainability measures. Those effects include an increase in customer acquisition and retention (64%), and competitive advantage (61%).

These findings echo a number of global reports, which conclude that making sustainability one of your major values makes your brand more attractive to customers and encourages them to stick around and spend more. A 2019 survey by Hotwire found that 47% of internet users worldwide have switched to a different product or service because a company violated their personal values, with the top reason being the protection of the environment.

“There is accumulating evidence that consumers are impacted by the perceived sustainability of a brand,” says neuroscientist Dr Matt Johnson, “and that consumers are willing to pay a premium for products from a sustainable brand over a non-sustainable competitor brand.”

Carbon Balanced Paper

While you may think that using recycled paper ticks one more environmental box, many companies are going further by using Carbon Balanced Paper, an initiative that offsets the carbon emissions from your office paper and marketing communications.

Carbon Balanced Paper is supported by a number of paper merchants that can offset any paper order. The carbon impact of the production and distribution of those papers is balanced by World Land Trust, allowing your company to include a unique logo on your print run to demonstrate your commitment to the environment.

So far, over 2,000 brands have used Carbon Balanced Paper to reduce their carbon impact, including Unilever, Scottish Power, Anglian Water and Dulux, helping to protect land and forests that offset over 50,000 tonnes of CO2. So whether your company has been in business for 50 years or 50 days, consider switching to Carbon Balanced Paper and get serious about sustainability.

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