Integrating sustainable business practices into companies of all sizes is becoming increasingly important, to both positively impact the environment and to foster resilience for the long-term success of a company. After a long break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CEED Slovenia recently held its first in-person community event on the topic of sustainability. Discussing the topic against a backdrop of our shared common future, the event focused on increasing business founders’ awareness of both sustainability itself and practical steps to implement sustainability into their companies.
- Matej Čer, a founder of Avantcar, a pioneer of electric mobility in Slovenia and Croatia;
- Tilen Travnik, a founder and CEO of Juicy Marbles, a venture-capital-backed startup and a YCombinator alumni, that develops and produces plant-based gourmet steaks;
- Matej Feguš, a founder of Donar, a sustainable furniture company and one of the first companies in Slovenia with a sustainable strategy integrated into their business; and
- Martin Hladnik, a founder and CEO of IQWood, a company developing and producing sustainable wooden structures for eco-friendly houses without adhesives, chemicals, or metals.
Matej Čer pointed out that “entrepreneurs need to understand sustainability to an even greater degree, because we are the ones who can transform our society. Sustainability is more than just behavior; it is also our defence—so everything does not collapse overnight. It’s important to integrate sustainability into everything we do: sales, distribution, how we operate, as well as into the business model.”
Tilen Travnik agreed, noting that “sustainability for me has two levels. The first one is an external one—sustainability integrated into our products, principles, and business models. The second one is internal sustainability—how to organize a company in a way that prevents employees from burning out.”
For Matej Feguš “sustainability means developing for the long-term. As a company we are zero-waste, carbon neutral; we are a good example of a circular economy and have a 6-hour workday. There are many guidelines and solutions for how to make your company more sustainable, but it all starts with you.”
During the conversation, Martin Hladnik brought up that “one thing is developing a sustainable product. But the second one is as important: what kind of materials, resources, and processes are integrated into the company. How can I educate my customers; how can I educate my suppliers? All these together bring a sustainable story. Any founder can look into what kind of mistakes he’s making and think about how to correct them in a more sustainable way. This could be your first starting point to a more sustainable path.”
They also gave recommendations on how a business can become more sustainable:
- Small steps every day: it is so much easier to be unsustainable.
- Educate externally and internally: all employees need to believe in the company’s sustainability.
- Employees should be involved: they can come up with suggestions that can bring you closer together as a team.
- Innovation: you can find sustainable opportunities at every step.
- Process overview: find out where you make the most mistakes and start there.
- Monitor regulations: today, sustainability is still more expensive, but regulations will support it and regulate it soon.
- Build defence: sustainability brings you stability against the major changes in your industry.