SUST4IN completes 10 years: lessons learned and its future in an unsustainable world.

SUST4IN completes 10 years: lessons learned and its future in an unsustainable world.

  • From the original idea, to mistakes, and achievements.
  • SUST4IN has served more than one hundred organizations and thousands of people.
  • What can we learn, and how we keep learning?
  • How to find motivation in an unsustainable world?

Madrid, 21st March 2024. SUST4IN, the “micro-multinational” of sustainability experts, completes 10 years serving more than one hundred organizations and touching thousands of people. A note of gratitude and a reflection on its history, achievements, mistakes, and its future in an unsustainable world.

THE IDEA

In 2014, the idea of creating an independent company to respond to the sustainability demands of the private, public, and NGO sectors was not exactly new.

However, SUST4IN may have been one of the first companies to go beyond “green”, “eco” or “climate”, to stop talking about CSR and to mix 1) environmental responsibility, 2) social justice, 3) good governance and 4) economic development. Naturally our logo could not be green either!

From those four pillars and our four main services: information, training, consulting, and assurance, comes the “provocative” number 4 in the name of SUST4IN, which is pronounced sustain, /səˈsteɪn/.

The other “innovation” was the understanding, from the beginning, that regulation, the financial sector, and especially investors were – and are – changing the game. The so-called Non-Financial Reporting Directive, the Green Bond Principles, the Sustainable Development Goals, the Water Footprint standards, and the Paris Agreement were still being drafted or piloted.

Our mission, or purpose, remains to kindly push and strongly support our clients on their sustainability journeys.

THE BEGINNINGS

The beginning was difficult as for most startups, but we were lucky to have local support in the nascent Madrid startup ecosystem. We were joined by mentors and colleagues who contributed ideas and constructive criticism, always with a lot of motivation to be developing, not only products, but a new company.

More importantly, despite our passion for sustainability, it was vital to “get out of the building” and find clients. It took us six months to issue the first invoice and almost another three to collect it!

THE MISTAKES

The biggest mistake was our inability to develop “GAIA”: a software to help companies collect and manage sustainability information just like they do with financial information. Something other startups and some big companies did quite well later on but remains a challenge for us.

In any case, we learned a lot and, paradoxically, that “mistake” made the startup spirit forever roam at SUST4IN – namely, the appetite to try new ideas, products, channels and even business models.

THE ACHIEVEMENTS

It would be great if we could mention the sustainability performance improvements our clients achieved over the years, and there were many, but that is hard to measure and even harder to attribute them to our efforts.

Of what we can certainly be proud and thankful, is the network of experts and partners we have been building worldwide: people we can trust whilst retaining their freedom.

We also had great fun organizing events: from an SDGs party on a docked boat in NYC to celebrate the adoption of the SDGs (on that very Friday, 25th September 2015), to various events at Climate COPs, to events with the likes of Paul Polman, then CEO of the almighty Unilever, or Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, from Columbia University, to an online event with more than 500 people to discuss circular economy.

Surviving the 3-years valley, followed by the COVID pandemic, only made us stronger and maybe less ambitious…

However, probably the most important achievement is the fact that we have touched thousands of people and served more than one hundred organizations, from governments, supervisors, investors, banks, NGOs, academia and, of course, dozens of companies, from sectors like oil & gas to fast food, renewable energy, or a second-hand clothes retailer! All this in Spain of course, but also in Argentina, Brazil, France, Morocco, Italy, the Netherlands, South Africa, Turkey, the UK and others.

THANK YOU!

As we celebrate our first decade (of two or three maximum, we promise!), we extend our gratitude to all our clients, partners, and friends who have been integral to our journey.

Your support, questioning, trust, and belief in our mission have kept us on track, somehow paid our bills, and definitely motivated our continuous improvement.

THE FUTURE

The future for real sustainability performance is more challenging than ever. The world is a better place to live now than a century ago, but not necessarily a better place now than 10 years ago, as temperatures, hunger, greenwashing, science denial, and geopolitical tensions have sadly gone up.

However, that frustration translates into more motivation – most mornings – to keep up the good work, amend our collective mistakes, multiply the latest knowledge, sustainably grow, and eventually “upgrade your sustainability performance.” 

#SUST4IN10

We are a network of experts in sustainability.

SUST4IN supports:

Inclusive Capitalism with the Vatican
Grupo Español de Crecimiento Verde
New Plastics Global Commitment
GREEN BOND PRINCIPLES
SOCIAL BOND PRINCIPLES
Sustainable Development Goals