In its 8th Sustainable Talks event to date, the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce brought together startuppers, young as well as established entrepreneurs, and investors to discuss sustainability and the future of business. Organized by AmChamGR’s Corporate Responsibility Committee in cooperation with the Education, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Committee, and titled “dreamcatcher.eco: The Future of Business Lies in Business that Cares for the Future,” the online event took place on April 26, 2021. Speakers shared their stories on how sustainability inspired innovation and created growth opportunities for them, while it also highlighted the investor perspective and the dominant trend for impact investing as a business case for addressing global, environmental and societal changes.
AmChamGR President, Nikolaos Bakatselos, and Executive Director, Elias Spirtounias, delivered the opening remarks. The event’s speakers were Aristos Doxiadis, partner of Big Pi Ventures; Fotis Fotiadis, founder and CEO of Better Origin; Kostas Karachalios, co-founder and CEO of Perceptual Robotics; Alvertos Revach, Investments Director at Humble Holdings; and George Varvarelis, founder and CEO of Augmenta. The event closed with a discussion on how purpose and impact are the key ingredients for meaning in business and in life, that took place between Lefteris Lazarou, chef and owner at Varoulko; Litsa Panayotopoulos, CEO at EVIA IP and Chair of AmChamGR’s EIE Committee; and Pakis Papademetriou, Corporate Quality Manager at Athens International Airport and Chair of AmChamGR’s CR Committee.
“Today’s behavior is a clear sign of tomorrow’s performance.” This is almost becoming a universal credo for investors and bankers alike, driving the development of new business with a dimension for societal impact.
The idea behind dreamcatcher.eco was to present the great potential of startups that are founded on the principles of sustainability. We brought together a group of visionary entrepreneurs to tell their stories of how people and planet gave inspiration and drove profit and business success. These entrepreneurs were joined by visionary investors who are able to acknowledge real business value beyond short-term earnings.
This event linked the continuous efforts of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce for promoting purpose-driven business to the global trend for impact investing. This is definitely becoming the next level of business growth, in line with the pressuring global challenges, as reflected on the environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria for loan and investment risk assessment. ESG is used by capital markets to evaluate corporate behavior and to determine the future financial performance of companies. This way, sustainable finance and impact investing are becoming the engines that support sustainable growth and help entrepreneurs to become change agents.
Change is the critical term. There is a transformational logic in every aspect of business these days, even more so in the post-pandemic recovery phase. Sustainability is rapidly becoming a catalyst for business transformation, defining strategy and organizational changes. Changes in the way a company operates, produces its products and services and creates lasting impact for the natural and social environment is the new business reality, currently supported and eventually mandated by the financial ecosystem.
The promise for transformation is the new business purpose. AmChamGR’s committees work hand-in-hand to help businesses materialize purpose into a transformative vision for prosperity.
— Pakis Papademetriou, Chair, AmChamGR Corporate Responsibility Committee
The role of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce in connection, advocacy and growth is materialized through the cooperation of committees, in this case for highlighting a recipe for success for new businesses in direct connection with the society that hosts them.
We focus on the acknowledgment of advanced knowledge principles used all around the world to develop a better dynamic culture that can create great potential for people and organizations. This was clearly showcased in our discussion at the dreamcatcher.eco event. Investors and entrepreneurs coming together to contribute the knowledge that leads to such great potential for our beloved country, Greece.
Within this framework, the discussion with Michelin star-studded chef Lefteris Lazarou gave us a straightforward example of a world-class operation leading to a world-class precise performance: How a local Greek organization, staffed with local people, can utilize all the advanced lean principles (as seen in very advanced manufacturing schemes), i.e. fast visible operation and feedback with controlled coordination and rhythm, can develop a reinforced highly resilient mechanism, that can be restructured to respond to any dynamic environmental demand to produce precise performance. And that is what must be transmitted to any business to achieve world-class competitiveness and performance.
— Litsa Panayotopoulos, Chair, AmChamGR Education, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Committee
The focus of the dreamcatcher.eco discussion is to understand what drives the new entrepreneurship and investing trend towards balancing profit with impact. Originating from an investment fund that focuses on deep technology companies, involving research, patents and a knowhow that is proprietary and protected, we did not originally target products and services that necessarily affect human life. Along the way, we realized that it is the essential human needs that drive the most promising innovation and entrepreneurship. The outcome for us is a strong tendency for technology investments (more than 50% of our portfolio) in support of basic human needs such as health, environment, and nutrition.
The discussion focuses on the journey of the young entrepreneur seeking to create value that transcends short-term profit and the journey of a new generation of investors that have a clear objective for generating impact. This new trend is a global gamechanger for new business with a positive impact on society and the natural environment.
One of the interesting concepts discussed, for entrepreneurs and investors alike, was the performance effect of sustainability as a business objective. There is an undisputed connection of sustainability objectives with the establishment of common values among team members of a startup company, strengthening corporate culture and the vision for creation, while making the team particularly attractive for investors with an eco-perspective.
— Aristos Doxiadis, Partner, Big Pi Ventures
There is a global shift toward a more sustainable economy and sustainability-driven entrepreneurship. This is not just a trend; it is an essential need for business to align itself with the global sustainability challenges, such as the goals of the Paris Accord, for securing the future of humanity and the planet. There is declared financial support of this shift from the most influential governments of the world (EU, USA, China) as well as a very strongly developing drive for private investments in this direction.
Impact investing will be the new megatrend in the coming years and has already begun to grow rapidly worldwide. The idea of designing sustainable business for the benefit of mankind and the planet has reached the tipping point, driven by the millennials and Generation Z who are passionate about supporting products and services that comply with their ethics. The planet will be saved by investors, who will invest in companies that will make products and services that benefit society and the environment. These products and services will be eventually embraced by consumers, driving more businesses to be sustainable and thus generating more impact-driven business activities.
In this new world of impact investing, profit will be inextricably linked to the good for people and the planet.
— Alvertos Revach, Investments Director, Humble Holdings
Until recently, sustainability was desirable and was treated as a nice-to-have asset. There is no doubt that today it is deemed as a necessity and an indispensable part of business. It is now commonly accepted that if we are seriously considering the survival of the planet, investment in sustainable action and sustainable business must increase significantly.
One of the critical risk parameters in this challenging environment is food security. Sustainable solutions must be engaged in order to increase food production to meet the exponential increase of demand. At the same time, we must reduce food waste, as a third of all food produced globally goes to waste.
As the global village emerges from the unexpected and catalytic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, we appreciate the fact that many long-established business habits have changed dramatically, and investment in sustainable solutions to a range of pre-crisis global issues has increased exponentially. People are accepting and trying to deal with the existential threat posed by the climate crisis, which is already dramatically and even violently changing our way of life. In the coming years, there will be a continuous flow of innovative ideas and practices, ultimately aiming at a coexistence where technology serves mankind and nature as our cradle. This will create a space where technology and nature will coexist harmoniously and not competitively.
— Fotis Fotiadis, CEO and Founder, Better Origin
The business journey starts with real life problems and is driven by creative people looking for solutions. A sustainable economy addresses some of the biggest challenges we face today, such as energy and food production, but it also drives a new way of understanding the production process. This involves a holistic perspective to the process (from raw materials, design, production, distribution, operation, and maintenance to waste management) and an understanding of how these business processes affect all stakeholders (consumers, employees, shareholders, and investors, as well as local communities and the rich biodiversity of the environment).
This new perspective is an inexhaustible source of inspiration and creation. It unites groups of people and harmonizes the creative pursuit of profit with a vision for a more sustainable world. Investors, and impact investors in particular, are crucial to the success of these responsible entrepreneurship efforts, being an integral part of the entire chain that needs to be aligned to make a startup successful—a chain that includes a foundation of academic research, open-source communities, business support and mentoring systems, government sponsorships in support of the first steps of materializing ideas, and investors to turn a prototype into a real-world, impact-generating application.
Sustainability-driven automation is the way forward. It makes complex processes simple, predictable, and efficient, opening the way for new impactful products and supporting the transformation process for critical business sectors such as energy production. In the age that combines the challenges of the climate crisis and the advancements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, technology is the critical element for sustainability.
— Kostas Karachalios, CEO and Co-Founder, Perceptual Robotics
Agriculture is shaped by a myriad of factors. Consumer preference, supply chain logistics and cost of equipment are all part of a dynamic and complex mix. The exponential population growth, the indiscriminate exploitation of resources and the extreme weather patterns attributed to global warming have complicated matters to unprecedented levels. In the face of such adversity, the efforts made to feed the world leave much to be desired. Limitations on food accessibility in developing regions and poor dietary habits in wealthy countries have created an incongruous situation of global food imbalance.
Sustainable agriculture cannot simply rely on environmental protection legislation. Motivation for sustainability needs to be self-perpetuating to ensure permanent change. Agrotechnology can play a crucial role in the transformation process. The transformation process is far from simple, as in order for sustainability to become a tool in the hands of farmers, the case must be proven. To convince farmers to change their ways, it is important for the young agrotech entrepreneur to speak their language and to be able to show tangible results of the innovation with respect to efficiency as well as sustainability.
Agriculture and technology have always been inextricably interwoven. Today’s improved decision-making in the field, information dissemination and consolidation along supply chains, even tractor fleet management, all now fall under the electronic realm. If sustainability is to be achieved in agricultural practices the world over, it will be through the application of advanced precision technology. Based on AI and machine learning techniques, advanced precision technology offers the unparalleled levels of sophistication required to manage the countless variables involved in agriculture and food production. This is how precision agriculture becomes a tool for global sustainability.
— George Varvarelis, Founder and CEO, Augmenta