Social Business and Green Startups. The Value of Sustainability

12 October 2018

Satisfy current needs while ensuring also the future generations the possibility to satisfy theirs. This seems to be the simple but effective guideline of social entrepreneurship, a way of doing business that connects to a precise desire to achieve a higher form of social welfare and the improvement of the quality of life for the largest possible number of people. The evolution and the rise of the social enterprise is giving a significant boost to another great trend with a very high revitalizing potential for the global economy: green startups.



Social entrepreneurship is a reality able to combine free market, social justice, sustainability and the ability to attract investments. A model of clear success that in Europe counts over 3 million companies, capable of generating the 6.5% of total jobs. In Italy there are almost 93,000 social enterprises and, as shown by the data presented for Social Impact Agenda by Paolo Venturi, Director of Aiccon, they are still growing.

Although the attitude of a part of the entrepreneurs to provide goods or services with high social value has always existed, it was with the advent of the economic crisis that the term social business entered the European debates, bringing in 2011 to the Social Business Initiative, the project of the European Commission to support the aspiring social entrepreneurs. The latter have been called to revive the EU economy by exploiting their ability to create new job opportunities through waste reduction, better exploitation of resources, innovation and the participatory use of the Internet. At the basis of social entrepreneurship there is therefore the ability of the entrepreneur to overcome the distinction between public and private interests, putting ahead the well-being of the community.



According to the United Nations Environment Programme, the green economy translates into “an improvement for human beings and social equity, significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.” To date, in fact, they are precisely the green startups to represent the main drivers of change and transformation of the global economy towards a more sustainable economic model. As marketing guru Philip Kotler said in an interview for BBS, “sustainability will soon become a determining factor in business, as consumers want companies to care about them and the planet, not just their profits.” Precisely for this reason, new businesses oriented towards sustainability are blossoming all over the world with the active support of consumers and investors.

Green startups find their natural application in fields such as pollution, clean and renewable energies, and in the fight against food waste, a market inefficiency that leads us to waste about 33-50% of the global production of food each year. Among the most receptive areas for green startups we also find sustainable tourism, cultural and creative industries and urban regeneration based on heritage, important economic sub-sectors capable of generating employment, stimulate local development and promote creativity.

The added value of a green startup compared to a traditional one lies in the attempt to produce services with a high relational content and in the networking with experiences from the third sector, to produce positive externalities for the community. Pagurojeans, an innovative startup based on the precepts of the circular economy and motivated by the fight against pollution caused by the textile industries, will present at BBS its project to regenerate jeans and denim fabrics during the third edition of the StartUp Ecosystem Day. In fact, green entrepreneurs do not focus only on the most immediate problems, but also seek to understand the context to develop new resources and make them available to influence global society. For example, it is not simply a matter of reducing the amount of waste produced, but of focusing on sustainable and responsible product design, optimizing consumption and reducing CO2 emissions.

There are many green startups that transform already existing products and services with sustainable and innovative solutions, but there are also several new businesses involved in bringing the technology and the advantages of digital advancements into sectors already inherently linked to the environment. An example is Beeing, a startup founded by Roberto Pasi and Gabriele Garavini, born from the passion for bees with the mission of developing innovative tools that simplify the activities of those who take care of them. The company has among its patents the B-hive, the first hive developed for urban contexts, presented during the XII Reunion at Villa Guastavillani. “The idea came from my experience as a beekeeper. Knowing the problems of the sector, we started developing some electronic solution to the most frequent ones, for example the thefts, and to simplify the management of the hives. We financed the first productions with our savings and when we saw that the tester customers appreciated the products, we understood that it could become a company,” says Roberto. Training, urban hives and the B-secure sensor, which allows you to monitor the swarm from your smartphone, are only part of the technological innovation applied by the green startup to the beekeeping sector.



If it is true that the difficulties are numerous for all the entrepreneurial ventures in the startup phase, the green startups are facing some unique challenges posed by their triple bottom line, that is the line that measures the economic value of the company and the degree of social and environmental responsibility.

According to the Greening Europe’s Economy study, conducted by the European Network for Sustainable Consulting in 2015, the main reason why green startups fail, is essentially due to their inadequate business models. Often, entrepreneurs are too optimistic about acquiring customers and underestimate the lack of awareness about ecologically sound products and services or there are even prejudices about the reuse of waste and waste materials. In addition, although many potential customers declare themselves to be interested in the values ​​of eco-sustainability, they are not willing to pay more to buy them. In fact, green entrepreneurs often have the burden of educating society about the benefits of their innovations. “As far as urban hives are concerned, what is most important is our ability to communicate how much this product, as well as allowing you to produce your own honey in the city – university studies show that it is even healthier than the one produced in the countryside – is an instrument that helps the world to grow more bees, which is to the advantage of farmers who need them to pollinate the fields and have a good harvest,” explains Roberto Pasi from Beeing.

The same weaknesses of the green and eco-sustainable market can be turned into advantages and opportunities by the creativity and foresight of entrepreneurs. According to Parisi, in fact, economic resources, people and business opportunities can be found, while problems can be solved with ideas and passion. “There are no obstacles, if not ourselves, our hurry to see things done as we would like, our hunger to achieve the goals we set ourselves. In a startup, the team is both the biggest resource and the biggest threat,” he adds.

In many regions, both at a national and European level, awareness about green issues is still very low, but so are also the barriers to enter the market. Innovation, new financing models such as crowdfunding and institutional incentives, can give a valid support in the delicate initial phase of creating one’s own market and educating future clients. From green consulting to eco-sustainable materials, through the creation of groups of buyers and networks of ethical producers, the value created by green startups can take on multiple forms, meanings and degrees of intensity.

Betting on a green future is not just about the collective well-being of future generations, but it means creating well-being and development today.

For those who want to create or manage a business by designing new business models supported by a conscious use of resources, Bologna Business School offers a program for young graduates who want to face today’s challenges as protagonists: The Full-time Master in Business Management with track Green Management and Sustainable Businesses.

Bologna Business School also offers an international program in English. The Global MBA in Green Energy and Sustainable Businesses is aimed at young managers who are interested in the challenges imposed by climate change, and see in them the principle on which to build the future of business.

In addition, dedicated to those who want to start their own entrepreneurial venture, the Executive Master in Entrepreneurship combines the training of a business school with the impact of an accelerator of ideas, developing a personalized study plan focused on the project of the individual entrepreneur.            startup green  startup green



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