World Environment Day – startups are committed to green innovation too

Continuing on the path of innovation through the greenway of sustainability is essential after the coronavirus crisis. We review some of the sustainable initiatives driven by BBVA, as well as those promoted by some of the startups focused on protecting the environment with which it has collaborated.

Around one million plant and animal species, of the estimated eight million that live on Earth, are at risk of extinction. Biodiversity is the focus of World Environment Day, which is celebrated every year on 5th June, and which this year is affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

This crisis has brought to light the importance of the links between human health and the natural world, as well as “the need for sustainable supply chains and consumption habits that do not exceed the planet’s limits”, as stated in the biodiversity strategy for 2030 that the European Union has just published. The document also warns that “the risk that infectious diseases will appear and spread increases as nature is destroyed”. The new normality should be sustainable and innovative.

Sowing a sustainable recovery

Economic stagnation has led to changes in the patterns of global energy demand. At the beginning of April, daily global CO2 emissions had dropped by 17% in comparison with average levels from last year, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change. For its part, the International Energy Agency is forecasting that those emissions will fall by 8% this year, to levels on a par with a decade ago.

However, the organisation is warning of a possible rebound, greater than this reduction, if investment is not directed at creating a “cleaner and more resilient” energy infrastructure following the crisis. The United Nations is also of the belief that the reduction could be only a short-term effect if countries do not fulfil their commitments to sustainable development.

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BBVA has already taken important steps to promote a sustainable future. Between 2018 and 2019, the bank mobilised some €30 billion in sustainable financing, and the organisation has committed to reaching €100 billion by 2025. In addition, BBVA is a pioneer in issuing social and green bonds, and last month was the first private financial institution in Europe to launch a social bond linked to COVID-19.

BBVA has also become the first bank in the world to use data analysis to allow companies to measure the carbon footprint of their daily activities thanks to the new functionality that is part of the One View financial aggregator.

Ideas that leave a mark

BBVA has startups in its ecosystem that promote environmental protection. For instance, attendees of the latest Open Summit were able to measure the emissions that they generated on their journey to the event thanks to a collaboration with GreemKo, which has developed a solution to raise awareness about the impact of travel.

What’s more, this startup offers companies a comprehensive platform that automatically calculates their environmental impact. To do so, its software captures information from documents like invoices and spreadsheets, and analyses CO2 emissions, energy and water consumption, or waste generated. “The first step to improving is measuring, and we’ve automated the process so that companies have a good starting point”, explains Mar Robles, co-founder and Head of Sustainability at GreemKo.

We want companies to go from reporting environmental information to looking for ways of reducing their impact

If companies can easily find out their environmental performance, they can focus on taking measures. “We want companies to go from reporting environmental information to active management, so that environment departments can concentrate on looking for ways of reducing their impact, instead of using up all their resources calculating it”, maintains Robles.

Finalist at the 2019 Open Talent Spain competition, this startup has gone through the BBVA Open Innovation acceleration programme. According to Robles, the best thing about this experience was the opportunity for publicity and “everything we learned about the startups ecosystem at the fintech level”. They also took part in the Innova Home Festival, explaining the importance of sustainability as a business driver.

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Natural capital, another factor in the sustainability equation

Analysing the debt that organisations acquire with the ecosystem and offsetting it is another way of protecting the environment. The startup Creando Redes helps companies to take natural capital into account in their decision making, which means a territory’s stocks of natural resources.

“We want to put a stop to the degradation of ecosystems, ensuring that socio-economic sectors can return to nature what we all need in order to develop”, summarises the co-founder and CMO of Creando Redes, Ana Méndez. To do this, “we had to succeed in making companies able to measure their impact on ecosystems, to then propose to them that they take responsibility for the ecological restoration of these ecosystem services”.

For this purpose, Creando Redes has designed Countmitment, a framework for designing and testing tools aimed at assessing and restoring natural capital. This project was recently presented at EIC Corporate Days, a European Commission event in conjunction with BBVA and Ferrovial.

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“We’ve developed indicators that allow us to translate the information that companies give us into impact values. When we have that impact in environmental terms, we translate it into financial units”, explains Sandra Magro, co-founder and COO of Creando Redes. Talking that common language with companies helps them take action.

We have to get companies to measure their impact on ecosystems to propose their ecological restoration

Creando Redes is now looking to develop a technological solution that streamlines calculation times thanks to algorithms and transfers scientific knowledge, highlight these biologists and entrepreneurs. “We don’t want to create a static tool, rather something that includes all the improvements that science puts forward”, outlines Méndez.

Both of them also believe that the pandemic won’t mean that companies forget about sustainability: “When you realise that our health and our economy depend on the health of ecosystems, it’s hard to distance yourself”, states Magro.

Working to protect the planet

As well as collaborating with these and other startups, such as Agunity, which offers financial services to small farmers and in 2019 won the Open Talent Sustainability Award, BBVA spearheads many other initiatives to promote development in harmony with the environment. For example, sustainability plays a highly relevant role in BBVA Momentum, the bank’s social entrepreneurship support programme. At the same time, it carries out sustainable investments via BBVA Futuro Sostenible and BBVA Bolsa de Desarrollo Sostenible.

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