In this exclusive interview, Alexandra talks about sustainability trends she is noticing as a board member of SmartUp Accelerator and Science Park Borås. She also gives valuable advice to sustainability SMEs and startups. This is part two of a two-part interview with Alexandra. Read part one here:
Besides your work with the Swedish Association for Responsible Consumption, I know you are also heavily involved with sustainable innovation. Can you tell us more about your work at SmartUp Accelerator and Science Park Borås?
I am one of six board members of this advisory board. SmartUp Accelerator is a cooperation between seven Baltic countries and aims to pick up and speed up innovation in the area of consumer cleantech. The aim of such consumer cleantech companies is to decrease the negative impact on the environment from our overconsumption and overuse of earth resources. Instead the idea is to use resources in amore efficient way, often circular, in order to have a less negative impact on the climate and environment. Examples of such companies are Uber, Tesla and AirBnB. Borås Science Park in Sweden is doing a lot of research etc for sustainable lifestyles, and I am part of that advisory board giving the perspective of the consumer or circulents as we’d like to call them.
What are some of the trends you are noticing in the sustainability space?
Well, the main one we can see is very clearly circular consumption.
Circular economy is a system without growing waste sites, but it still contributes to economic growth. In practice it means that the consumer can rent products when needed, buy recycled goods or repair what is broken. To increase the life span of products and minimize waste. Waste becomes a resource, unlike wear and tear, which is the standard in todays linear economy.
The circular economy is estimated to free up to € 1,800 billion on the European market. To put this in perspective – the total budget of the EU for 2019 was 165 billion euros. In Sweden alone, goods and materials worth more than SEK 40 billion that could be recycled are thrown away every year.
It is clear that sustainability has become a growing trend. But consumers demand more. They want companies to take not one step forward but ten.
A global study found that 81% of respondents believed that companies should contribute to improving the environment. We must make sustainable consumption the easy choice for consumers. Many of the leading circular companies are getting started in the Nordic countries, as well as huge multinational companies like IKEA and H&M who are also aiming to go circular, and we are really proud to be a part of driving this development.
If we are to listen to the younger generation, this is the way to go. Surveys show that the young age group “millennials” will demand more circular services that are easy to find digitally in the future.
This is also why we have decided to focus more on circular consumption lately. For example
What recommendations would you give to a cleantech startup, and more generally, to sustainability SMEs?
Focus on the user. Make prototypes, focus groups and have test pilots. Investigate before launching, this is key. How will your product or service make the consumers life easier? Why should they choose your company specifically? Work hard on your USP and make sure it is rooted in an actual need which is based on the experience of sustainably driven consumers, rather than just creating something that already exists or that the consumer actually does not need. Make your product or service genuine. The consumers of the future, particularly the younger generation, will demand more transparency and they will see through attempts at greenwashing or exaggerating the sustainability of a product or service. The best strategy you can adopt, both for your own startup and for the potential customer, is to make sure you are transparent all through the supply chain. Honesty is the key word of future cleantech startups and sustainable business. This is our best recommendation from the trends we have seen from the consumers.
Let’s do a round of quick questions – what is one thing you are grateful for right now?
Due to the ongoing pandemic, the organization I’m working for became a working place that’s completely digital. And that opened the doors for me to move closer to my family, to Gothenburg. To be able to still have my dreamjob and running the organization is a dream come true.
Are you reading any books at the moment?
I am actually not reading any book at the moment, but just finished / habits of highly effective people by Stephen R. Covey.
Do you have any favourite events?
Hmm, I think an awesome dinner with friends at a restaurant, with a lot of quality time.
What is a trend you want to see disappear forever?
Black Friday and the overconsumption of newly produced stuff. We should all join Circular Monday instead.
One of Sweden’s most exciting sustainability talents, Alexandra has been selected as 33 under 33 by the “Aktuell Hållbarhet” magazine, is ranked #24 of 100 Greenest Board Members by Fairforce, and is ranked as one of the Female Leaders of the Future 2020 by Sweden’s professional organization for executives.
In Alexandra’s current role as a member of the Board of Directors and the Secretary General at the non-profit Swedish Association for Responsible Consumption, she is working towards raising awareness on how consumers can make more sustainable and circular choices. Some of the Association’s most notable events have reached over 74 million people and 23 countries in 2019. She is also an active member of the Board of Advisors at Smart Up Accelerator as well as Borås Science Park, a Mentor at Unreasonable Group, and a part of the global impact network Top Tier Impact.
With 15 years of experience in the non-profit sector, Alexandra has held over 500 lectures on topics such as Circular Economy, Sustainable Consumption, Gender, and Human Rights. Her expertise in part comes from her previous work with the United Nations in New York, the UN World Food Program in Rome, and a EU-funded project called ”Young Ambassadors for Human Rights”. Her experiences are complemented by her Master’s degree in Global Studies and Bachelor’s degree in Political Science.
Recognized as a thought leader, Alexandra is an advocate for value-based leadership, and is a diplomatic, inspiring PR-persona. She has extensive experience with national media (TV, radio, newspapers etc) and is a well-versed representative.