Around this time two years ago I began to experience symptoms of a medical condition. Much, much later when I (man style) finally dragged myself to the hospital was diagnosed as a pretty serious and life-threatening illness. Three operations later and a lot of positive life-changing events and here I am today with a small team of warriors who are trying to help change the world.
It’s sometimes funny what it takes to change us, humans. Edit: funny might not be the appropriate word, it’s interesting. And we think we have identified that the recipe for change is not rocket science either.
Sometimes it’s a life-changing experience but for the most part, it’s having access to convenience and options. I don’t wish the first on anybody but the last two I dearly wish for all. This is why our little team of sustainability lovers aka warriors are making small waves to change the world. And maybe even your world, by bringing you convenient sustainable living options.
“Ok, so you operate an eco organic marketplace, what’s so world-changing about that?” I hear you ask.
Well nothing really, at least nothing for most people. We are smaller, slower and have less to offer than most eco, organic stores. But Susteo was always only supposed to be our launch pad and part one of our overall sustainable vision. We have been bursting to tell people about our whole cycle of sustainable solutions. Susteo is by its very name short for Sustainable. The concept was for us to focus everything we do on the three pillars, economic, environmental, and social. So we did!
Actually, we found ourselves discussing this between ourselves this week during a team meeting. In our beautiful but cold conference room. We are at the point in our business where we can begin to close our circle of sustainability. And (hopefully) begin to help make a difference for people across Poland.
Who are we, we are three young (I swear) souls and a very inspired investment company (who shall not be named). You may know us as Paulski, Paulina, Aga. The most difficult part for us has always been to help everybody else understand our crazy and ambitious plans. Paulina and I are both terrible at this, Aga has a skill for talking… and also talking in plain and simple terms. But please don’t chop this blog post!
So for what it’s worth, and to whoever has decided to read this! Let me try to explain what we mean by our full circle of sustainability.
A Multi-Vendor Sustainable Marketplace – Much like Allegro but not as sexy!
Susteo is our marketplace – our primary objective was to allow businesses to sell products. Products that we feel fall into our understanding of sustainably made, or sustainably sourced.
We hope to allow consumers to buy from our store with some confidence. Confidence that all of our sellers and products are in some way shape or form sustainable. Is it perfect – not at all. Will we ever be better than Allegro (no, not ever). But we didn’t ever intend to be.
It’s worth pointing out that our understanding of what makes a product or organisation sustainable varies. It can be sometimes quite contentious – even between us. We know we won’t always get it right but the goal is to try to get it right most of the time… and to react quickly when we get it wrong.
So let’s call the Susteo marketplace part 3 of our sustainable cycle. I have never been good with maths.
We allow organizations to sell their “sustainable” products across Poland (according to our ever-evolving definition of a sustainable product)
We built it to show producers that there is a growing segment looking for sustainable and ethically made products. To give consumers a place where they can feel their purchases are having “less” of an impact on the destruction of our planet.
There have been very few times in my life when I have been concerned about money and bills. And although I am very much aware that for the most part of my life I have been reasonably successful and lucky in life. …At least financially. I can only imagine how it must feel to lose a job and worry about where your children’s next meal is coming from. This is what prompted us to build Społeczność.
We imagined that most people have a skill or a talent and we wanted to create a venue. Which would enable communities to source, make and sell products to their neighbors for extra income. I have always been passionate about kick-starting small businesses and helping entrepreneurs to find a foothold.
So we looked at why many small homegrown businesses fail. We find that they don’t have the budget to market their products adequately on national platforms. Also, they can’t compete for price due to the absurdly high marketplace commissions. And finally, nobody has correctly found a technology that can empower them to grow their business the old-fashioned way, locally.
Local, handmade, homemade = sustainability
We looked at the options that were available to somebody who makes products in their home. So we found that the majority of them are pitching local producers against major importers who can afford to price out the small players.
We have to give some credit to Etsy though – it was a great idea and helped a lot of smaller businesses… But they are charging far too much commission and let’s face it importers are infiltrating the platform with cheaper mass-produced products out of Asia.
I give no credit to Allegro for their “Local” concept. I don’t need the legal bills so I will allow you guys to do your own research.
Społeczność is a venue to sell homemade products to people in your area approx 10km and less. We also don’t allow cash transactions to pass through the site. So it’s not going to be very profitable for larger organizations to trade on.
We hope that small homegrown businesses will use local sales to build their reputation and perfect their products. When they are ready we will happily welcome them to Susteo and a national audience.
Did I mention that it is free to create a store and sell on Społeczność? Yes, it’s free.
Earlier I wrote “We imagined that most people have a skill or a talent…” but not everybody and that was bothering us for a long time. The Susteo team are constantly learning new things. Trust me I knew nothing about sustainable businesses a couple of years ago.
So we wanted to create a venue where local people would share skills and tacit knowledge with others. I guess credit goes to Udemy for the general concept. But we are less focused on our sharers earning huge money and more focused on the feeling of satisfaction. The satisfaction that comes with sharing your knowledge and skills with those who can really benefit from them.
I think the most basic vision we have of Razem is a soap maker giving a master class to people in his or her local area. This way allowing them the opportunity of starting a business off the back of that knowledge.
What’s in it for the sharer, I hear you ask? Trust me, the satisfaction that you have made a difference in someone’s life is a beautiful feeling. But additionally, it is possible to earn some income from the training. Or perhaps embellish your resume with real student feedback on a skill or topic.
We promote skills!
Did I mention that it will be free to use Razem? Yup! And so the cycle continues. We hope people learn a skill, sell it locally, then move and grow their business skills up to a national audience in Susteo.
Yes, we know! There is a lot more to building sustainable economies. For example, arguably all sustainable, eco, organic and ethical stores still sell some form of unsustainable products. That’s because it’s hard these days to identify products that are truly ethical, versus the products which have had millions spent on them to make them look more ethical.
How are you solving this issue I hear you ask? (Apparently, I hear a lot of voices in my head). Well, thank you for asking and leading me on to the fourth member of our Sustainable family.
Green watch will be an AI-powered platform that will help “the World”. To better understand how ethically products are produced, sourced, distributed and sold.
Ok, if that sounds very complicated, it is. Actually, it’s even more complicated than it sounds. But we are confident it works, and it has the ability to drive change into how consumer goods are produced and moved around our country and planet.
Green-Watch is a technology platform designed to become the arch-enemy of Greenwashing. It will show consumers across the world which brands and producers are trying and lying. Full disclosure we are a long way off launching GreenWatch, in fact, we don’t have the skills to fully build or launch it ourselves. This is why we are in discussions with Polish entities who will help create a European consortium to oversee development and rollout.
Technology to help with sustainability
It is our ambition that Green-Watch becomes an open-source tool to fight the ever-growing Green-Washing trend. A trend that has infiltrated and fooled the growing army of consumers who are turning to more ethical and sustainable product choices.
It’s worth mentioning that apart from Green-Watch being an entity to shame producers into action. Our algorithms and AI models (both predictive and prescriptive algorithms) are also designed to help producers. Help them to learn from their mistakes and reclaim their shame. Because corporations are humans too – at least somewhere deep inside!
The last link in our cycle is our secret sauce and sadly not one I can elaborate very much on. I have consulted the lawyers. (Seriously, as an Irish man that’s probably the first time in my life I have stopped to ask directions before I spoke).
5. Top Secret Name
In a nutshell, we are already working on an ambitious business. To remove single-use plastics from your home and shopping basket.
We found a way to remove plastics and at the same time kickstart thousands of new small businesses across Poland. And who knows maybe even the world someday.
Myself, Paulina and Aga are jumping at the bit to shout about this business model. But due to investment and legal issues, we simply can’t elaborate any further just yet. What we can say is that we don’t intend to stop. I doubt there are many of you reading this today, but those of you who probably care as much as we do. Maybe you are even a little bit scared as I am about what we have done to the world.
We just can’t stop!
If we make it all work and you come back here in a few years to read how it started, let it be known that a few passionate people can make a difference. Once we learn to use technology to make the change more convenient and available, perhaps we humans can extinguish a significant amount of the fires we have set.