Tech creating impact across sectors
13 October 2020
During London Tech Week in September, the Swedish Chamber hosted its annual Tech Forum, this time in a virtual setting. In line with this year’s theme, Tech for Good, 350+ participants joined in on the discussions on how tech can be used as an enabler for good and how businesses, investors and public bodies can work together for a brighter and more sustainable future. To get a better understanding how the business community can create impact, we met with Magda Lukaszewicz, Associate at Balderton Capital and Stefan Granlund, Head of Fintech Partnerships SE at Danske Bank to discuss their view on “tech for good” and how they work towards more sustainable investments for the future.
In 2018, Danske Bank launched +impact, a digital platform supporting start-ups in the Nordic region. Today, +impact holds more than a thousand startups and four hundred investors, all representing a mindset and goal of using business as a force for good. “+impact is a digital platform with a specific focus on helping impact startups to scale their business and improve their positive impact”, Stefan Granlund, Head of Fintech Partnerships SE at Danske Bank, explains. “Tech for good is very much in line with the purpose of +impact. It is spot on and very much aligned with our purpose of helping impact startups grow their business and impact on society,” Stefan Granlund says.
All investments assessed from an ESG perspective
Venture Capital investor Balderton focuses exclusively on investments in European founded tech startups across all sectors. Although investment strategies differ by sectors, Balderton analyses all opportunities through the same lens. Magda Lukaszewicz, Associate at Balderton explains: “We assess every company we invest in from an ESG perspective, we have our own frameworks for that, which is based on the ‘UN Sustainable Development Goals’.” Magda also highlights the questions they discuss internally, such as the complexity of defining ‘Tech for Good’ and how to address it. “If you have a company that creates a lot of jobs, for example, but is at the same time polluting the environment, what do you do then? Is it Tech for Good or not?” With tech being such a fast-paced, developing sector with a crucial role to play in promoting sustainable behaviours, Magda notes that it is always front of mind for Balderton. “Tech and sustainability are very high up on our agenda and we spend a lot of time thinking about this and our role in it, in particular over this past year.”
The UN Sustainable Development Goals
Much like Balderton, +impact also works in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. To make sure that the +impact start-ups and investors are working towards the same goal, all participating parties need to present how they address these issues. “First of all, to be eligible on +impact as a startup, you need to address one or more of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Likewise, the investors can state which goals are of special interest for them.” Stefan says. In addition, +impact can be used as a platform for both seeking investment opportunities and funding with partners that have similar values. “Investors can use +impact to scout for startups based on the Sustainable Development Goals and vice versa – startups can get an understanding of who of the investors are interested in the goal they address.”
What potential does tech have to do good?
With the technology sector developing at a rapid speed, one can only imagine what the future will entail. The promise of new technology only increases as it becomes even more pervasive across markets, however, whether this potential will be used for social and ecological good remains uncertain. Magda thinks about this from a wider perspective: “Tech has a lot of potential to do good and I think many of the biggest questions we are asking ourselves related to the environment, sustainability and governance can be helped by new technologies.” Magda continues by discussing the future of more eco-conscious investing: “We are not there today, but I think that companies that do not have good answers to ESG questions will struggle to get customers and funding in the future.” Stefan also emphasises tech’s great opportunity to do good, and continues by highlighting how startups in combination with technology can play an important role for solving greater problems in the future “Tech has the potential to scale exponentially and the startup mindset with its agility and focus on execution, has the ability to find the right solutions that fit the problem.”
To reach the goals that are set for the future, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, big stakeholders such as banks, investors and the business community need to come together. Stefan says that the business community has an important role in enabling change: “The business community is essential to overcome the sustainability challenges. They are the ones that can develop and scale the viable solutions we need.” In addition to the business community, today we can see how startups with a strong vision can cooperate with large cities around the globe in order to work towards a more sustainable world. “I think it’s important that different stakeholders in society work together and align where they hold similar values. Here, I would like to highlight an example from our portfolio - VOI (e-scooter sharing start-up), they are working very closely together with cities to establish partnerships and drive policies aligned on health, safety and sustainability”, Magda also points out that overall, consumers today are more educated and willing to make sustainable choices, but that the challenge is how you make sustainable choices easily accessible to the mass market. To change consumer behaviour, these choices must be as affordable and as easily accessible as other alternatives. “It has to be easier to make sustainable choices. I think that companies, but also governments and cities, have to think harder on how they can influence consumers to shift to more sustainable consumption patterns and behaviours - allowing for some level of natural laziness,” she adds.
To address the challenges that the future holds, it is important to work together. By acknowledging what needs to be done and taking advantage of the fast-developing tech sector, fast-growing start-ups and investing in more sustainable choices, tech can be an enabler for good. “The Sustainable Development Goals are set for 2030 and that is a fairly short time frame. So, we urgently need solutions that can be scaled quickly – and this is where tech and startups come into play,” Stefan says.