Business and Marketing strategy support for SINCERE’s Innovation Actions

An innovative and sustainable business modelling tool featured in a series of online clinics supporting SINCERE’s Innovation Action case study partners to review and refine their business model.

The Sustainable Start CANVAS Methodology tool offers a holistic approach to business and marketing strategies, integrating social, human and ecological components, with a strategic vision, to create and deliver a triple value proposition within a product or service.

The Sustainable Start tool was offered by the Sustainable Start organisation in partnership with the Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD Portugal) and supported four of SINCERE’s Innovation Actions (IAs) to revisit and rethink their business and marketing strategy for their case study.

For Sustainable Start’s Thomas van der Molen, co-developer of the methodology, this tool is very significant because it represents a transformation from business as usual to a totally different paradigm. He wants to “Create – a world in which business is a force for good inherently; Share – perspectives and tools in order to make that happen; and Change – the mindset from which we act and collaborate in order to realize it”.

Through a series of online modules to Map, Check and Innovate business models, supported by specific oriented exercises and templates, this methodology helps to integrate the triple value proposition as the core of the product or service, under the 4 integrated systems thinking perspective (Humans needs, Society, Ecological and Strategic) in order to connect sustainability with the business success.

For Thomas, working with the SINCERE´s Ias was a meaningful experience, as the case studies already have the ecological value proposition at their core, so the mindset is already very much aligned with one of the methodology’s key components. Additionally, the Sustainable Start CANVAS Methodology helps to bring together and highlight the social, human and strategic components, which normally are peripheral to the core value of the product or service and include them in the value proposition.  This helps create a product or service with a value proposition with clear interconnectivities, which is stronger and more attractive to partners and stakeholders.

The Sustainable Start CANVAS online course was tailored specifically to SINCERE partners’ needs and was comprised of 5 modules of four virtual meetings (Kick-off on 1 October 2020;  Midway session on 11 November; Closing session on 9 December 2020; and a presentation session on 12 January 2021. The course aimed to provide tools to identify the business language and rationale required to deliver a profitable and sustainable business model. Additionally, there was the opportunity to revisit, rethink and get inspiration to create a more sustainable business model (including vision and actions).

Figure 1. Presentation session: 12 January 2021

The four IAs joining the course were: Spiritual forests and forest kindergartens –Switzerland; Reverse auctions pilot for biodiversity protection – Denmark; ECOPAY Connect – Forest-habitat biodiversity payment scheme – Italy; Reverse auction pilots for forest ecosystem services in rural and peri-urban areas – Belgium.

At the end of the course, all participants agreed that it had helped them to have a more systemic perspective and to be able to see the interconnectivities of the different type of impacts they are creating, either positive or negative, in the different ecological and social systems they are acting upon. Moreover, it helped them to explore and discover new and relevant questions and to acknowledge and involve new actors that had not been considered previously.

Figure 2. Excerpt of Pan Bern final presentation

Figure 3. Excerpt of ETIFOR final presentation

Figure 4. Excerpt of Naturinvest (OC-ANB) final presentation

Regarding the common challenges observed, the access to relevant information about business modelling and difficulties to engage in meaningful dialogues with the different stakeholders and partners of the IAs was understood as a common issue within most of the IAs who participated in the course.

Additionally, for some of the IAs, the diverse approaches to measure ecological and social impact including models, targets and indicators for sustainability, are difficult to communicate to the general public. This communication issue was discussed as one of the major hinderances of the progress of the initiatives.

However, the participants agreed that using the Sustainable Canvas Methodology has enabled them to create a better understanding of the expectations of key stakeholders, such as forest owners and the governmental institutions, and to translate complex information related to the project to a more inclusive language, in order to be understandable by donors and governmental agencies, allowing the development of more effective communication material.

Additionally, considering that some of the IAs are already in the operational phase, it has also served as a self-assessment tool to identify in the first instance if the projects are sustainable in the long run, and/or if there are relevant weaknesses and opportunities for improvement regarding the social and environmental impacts, and/or further recommendations for establishing different future business initiatives.

Finally, the opportunity to engage in this course as a cohort increased the participants knowledge about other forest innovation mechanisms (FEM) in more depth. That expanded their understanding of alternative FEM and aspects of those that could be replicated in their own projects. The opportunities offered by forest ecosystem services were clearly demonstrated, making the case for a more attractive concept for different spheres of the business sector, and generating the potential to draw interest from the sector.

About Sustainable Start CANVAS Methodology tool

The tool is based on the Framework to Strategic Sustainable Development (FSSD), Future Fit Business Benchmark, Manfred Max-Neef human needs model, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Business Model Canvas (BMC) developed by Alexander Osterwalder, covering the sustainability, human needs and business approach. Aiming to discover how to move to sustainability continuing covering the current needs of the customer, creating, and delivering value and not only collecting financial resources, based on the integration of different types of capitals like; natural, cultural, intellectual, etc.

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