Impact Insights - Maria Svantemark from SustainLab
Updated: Feb 13
Sustainable businesses and corporate sustainability require a company to be driven by environmental and social sustainability data in order to hit ambitious ESG goals and hit the triple bottom line (people planet profit) in sustainability. We sat down with Maria Svantemark, a former sustainability manager turned entrepreneur. She aims to maximize impact for accelerated change through SustainLab, it's like getting personalised sustainability report that guides you into knowing exactly what to do! Think of it as your personal GRI sustainability reporting standards.
SustainLab is a SaaS Sustainability Management platform created to help companies spend less time on data-handling and more on accelerating change.
It is an automated and easy-to-use sustainability management platform helping you to manage your sustainability processes and transforming data into simple and clear graphs and reports.
Maria Svantemark likes to view herself as a change maker for sustainability and equality through being the CEO and co-founder of SustainLab, which is a company she founded two years ago together with her co-founder, Kamal Hakimzadeh, and their aim is that they want to accelerate change for better business and better planet.
Since SustainLab is a SaaS company, they aim to automate companies that work with collecting, processing and visualization of sustainability data, and they want to help companies spend less time on data handling, and more on actually creating change, by automating data handling to such a high degree, that you can have insight into your sustainability data as often as you would with any other business critical data like your sales data.
If we look carefully into sales data everyday, why not do so for sustainability metrics?
And on top of this data automation, which results in continuous insights into your impact as a company, they also empower companies with recommendations in terms of sustainability best practice that is based on machine learning modules in the backend.
A common worry of customers is that they don't really know what to do since they just started. Fear not!
Sustainlab aims to help companies identify which KPIs really matters to them, what to track, and that will be different from business to business.
For Maria, she noticed that companies collected the data in Excel sheet, and like her, they experienced the struggles that the process takes so much time, they see the data so seldom, and ultimately the outcome isn't really great despite all the manual work that has been poured into it. Phew.
Furthermore, when you do it once yearly, you kind of lose the track of how you do it. By the time it is the next year and it's time for sustainability reporting again, you realized that, oh, John left the department and no one could find his old files. Where did we get the numbers from last year? How did we do this?
And then the data isn't comparable anymore.
What do companies do with these giant Excel sheets that are getting out of hand?
Sustainlab offers them with the platform that lets companies set up their KPIs, and then allow them to enter data in the format that suits their goals. The traceability streamlines the results into something that can be visualized results easily.
And from there, the platform automates the work by cleaning, analyzing, and visualizing it. Furthermore, Sustainlab is building this recommendation system, a way to help companies automatically to understand what matters for them.
One thing that's very important is to track both environmental data, but also social data to really understand where the impact is.
Maria recounts an observation whereby there was this PR statement about a coffee company and a gas station company that had a collaboration where coffee company would sell coffee that would have been wasted.
While Maria is glad for the coffee company being able to deal with waste, the gas stations' main business is still to sell fossils fuels whether or not they sell coffee that should have gone to waste.
She mentions how we shouldn't focus on the greenwashing. The company's focus should be about not selling harmful fossil fuels anymore.
Another observation she made is the mental difference between products vs services. She thinks that it's intuitive when we talk about products and less so for services sold.
For example, if you're a marketing agency, for example, what's your advertised emissions? It is the emission, that's a direct consequence from marketing. That's usually not measured at all!
Some companies are starting to be testing this and of course it matters a lot if you are a marketing company and you create marketing for a gas station or, better yet, for renewable energy.
Your impact is going to change, and that is less mature. Maria is starting to see companies that are acting on this.
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01:09 Maria Svantemark's introduction
02:33 Why the need for sustainability reporting?
05:51 What pushed her into sustainability?
07:15 Her education background in social courses tied to environment moving to economics as she felt that it wasn't enough to change the system
09:00 Her winding work journey that led to founding her own company
10:11 Her experience with the Antler's early stage VC programme
11:10 About her co-founder's, Kamal, background and skills
13:00 Onboarding companies and helping them track the data better
15:18 Differences in data's diversities and their complexities
17:32 Educating customers on the importance of tracking environmental and social data
21:20 SustainLab.co's general approach to getting companies to identify leading key indicators, and helping track them
22:38 SustainLab.co's role and position as an ecosystem player
25:08 Founding a company right before COVID-19 and working remotely with a team she isnt 100% familiar with, and embracing remote work
28:15 Work culture of her early-stage startup
29:46 "Provocative marketing" daring to take a progressive stance based on data, trust, and their relationship with nature.
33:40 Counting her blessings based on the culture she was brought up in, and her duty to pay it forward
35:57 Product managing as a means to an end to create the impact with the technology tool
36:60 What SustainLab.co is excited about for the new year
38:33 Changemakers she would love to collaborate with
40:15 Co-creation as a new collaboration, and adapting messaging to audiences
43:11 How does she recharge since running a startup is a marathon
45:04 Resources recommended by Maria (We Can Fix It)
49:30 Advice to those starting out