What do the startup scene’s big players think about ESG?

In an era where buzzwords often overshadow substance, understanding the essence of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) is not just a necessity but a pathway to revolutionize your business, writes sTARTUp Day 2024 partner Beamline.

This article was written by Beamline.

As we gear up for the Beamline workshop at sTARTUp Day 2024, let's delve into the perspectives of Estonian startup ecosystem players on ESG and its undeniable impact. So we asked them simply – what do you think about ESG and why is it important to people and companies?

Tarmo Virki (FoundME.io): "ESG is the latest buzzword which most startups should see from the perspective of common sense. No one in their right mind plans to build a new company using 10% of the country's CO2 quota. No one in their right mind plans to hire only middle-aged men to their board. No one in their right mind aims to use child labor." Virki’s words resonate with pragmatic wisdom. ESG isn't about following trends but about integrating common sense into your business model. A startup that neglects its environmental footprint or diversity is already a step behind.

Aleksander Gansen (investor, entrepreneur): "Although ESG principles may offer some advantages in client and user onboarding (especially for products aimed at corporations/governments), in my opinion, it's crucial to acknowledge the challenges they pose to early-stage startups. The additional costs and resources required for ESG compliance can be a significant burden for startups still exploring their market and striving for financial stability. This may divert founders' focus and resources from core activities, which are critical for a startup's survival in its early stages. Since startups primarily deal with proving or disproving hypotheses, I believe all political bias should be left at the door." Although Gansen brings a critical lens, highlighting the challenges ESG principles pose for early-stage startups, there are also opposing views:

Mihkel Tamm (Swedbank): “ESG is a crucial management strategy that not only ensures your company's future competitiveness but also provides transparency on how your activities impact the environment and society. Therefore, monitoring it from the outset is significantly more sensible than implementing it at a later stage.” Tamm emphasizes ESG as a tool for transparency and competitiveness. Startups that incorporate ESG from inception are better positioned for long-term success and societal impact!

Linda Võeras (Karma Ventures): “ESG is the bare minimum any company can do to make sure they contribute to the broader sustainability of the planet. By taking it seriously already in the beginning you set the company on the right track and not only do you benefit with good karma, but also by having a high-performance team and a solid foundation for growth! Citing the classics (in this case a known angel and founder in Estonia) – when the company scales, shit scales.” Her perspective is clear: ESG isn't an optional extra; it's the foundation of a responsible, growth-oriented company. Startups that embed ESG principles early benefit from a strong team and a sustainable scalable business model.

Helery Pops (Practica Capital) predicts a paradigm shift: "While ESG currently sounds like mindless boxes to tick, I believe it's the beginning of a mindset shift. It will be tedious to track at first, for both investors and founders, but 5 years down the line, I believe it will have brought with it a change in mindset where building a startup without thinking of the environmental and social outcomes will be unheard of." Today's tedious ESG compliance is tomorrow's standard operating procedure, ingrained in the DNA of successful startups.

Helena Eenok
(Eesti Metsa Abiks): "We have entered a new paradigm where the primary criterion for sustainability is whether we act in an environmentally friendly manner or not. We are still getting used to the idea that more mandatory regulations are being added, which, for example, require tracking the carbon footprint, and methodologies are being developed for how to do this in different sectors. For instance, local governments still lack the expertise to appropriately assess the environmental friendliness of decisions. ESG is important for society as a whole, not just at the individual level. It is rather a developed methodology to be collectively implemented so that the lives of individuals are also secured in changing conditions." Eenok's insight reminds us that ESG is not about an individual. It's about securing a sustainable future for all, amidst shifting regulatory landscapes.

Peep Siitam (Zero Terrain): "The winners in a zero-sum game with a growing population and increasing consumption, more complex climate impacts and dwindling natural resources are those who can create more value with fewer resources.”' Siitam’s perspective is an eye-opener. In a world of limited resources and escalating demands, ESG is a strategic tool to create value efficiently and sustainably.

Margus Kullerkupp (Sol Navitas): “I haven't been directly focused on this, but it seems that I operate in this key on a daily basis. To create solutions that help people and the environment.” Kullerkupp's approach exemplifies ESG values in business, focusing on solutions beneficial to people and the environment, naturally integrating societal and environmental impact into daily operations.

Beamline’s seminar "WTH is ESG and why should I care?" at sTARTUp Day is not just a discussion, it showcases how ESG can be a competitive advantage. You'll understand how necessary ESG is in the modern business landscape and how it can help in risk management and PR, making your company more attractive to investors – a vital aspect of your startup's future.

In the words of these industry leaders, ESG is not just about compliance; it's about common sense, strategic foresight, and a commitment to sustainability. Beamline’s seminar at sTARTUp Day 2024 brings you practical strategies to implement ESG practices effectively, illustrating how these practices can lead to increased investment opportunities, better customer loyalty and overall long-term success.

Don't miss this opportunity to be part of this transformative journey. Let's make a difference together!

Beamline will host a seminar "WTH is ESG and why should I care?" on January 25 at 11.00 in Seminar Room 6. Check out the full sTARTUp Day 2024 schedule.
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