SproutWorld CEO & Founder Michael Stausholm looks ahead to the future
August 2023 marks 10 years since I founded SproutWorld. In no way could I have imagined either the journey of the past 10 years or what we have achieved so far. And it’s all THANKS TO YOU – and to the absolutely amazing team at SproutWorld. What started out as a hobby project for me quickly turned into a full-time business as word spread around the world about our patented plantable pencil. Today, I am very proud of what we have achieved. Looking ahead, there are many more objectives I hope to complete – so here’s to the next 10 years.
We've come a long way
When we started out 10 years ago, many people saw our plantable pencil as a novelty item that got people talking. It’s great now to see companies setting net-zero targets and being much more serious about reducing their carbon emissions. When we started, it was often the CSR Manager pushing sustainability; now it’s the Board and management driving it from the top down. We’ve come a long way in ten years, but the reality remains – we’re still a long way from net-zero. Many businesses, large and small, are still grappling with fundamental issues about how to do it, because sustainability is complex.
Pushing ourselves further
As a startup and young business with a small product portfolio that has environmental sustainability as its focal point, we are more agile than most companies out there. But it’s not always been straightforward navigating the best and right course for sustainability in our business. Even when you want to do the right thing, it’s not necessarily clear what that is or how to get there. There’s been a lot of trial and error. I’m sure many companies can relate to that.
So, for larger organizations with far more complexity than ours, translating sustainability into action brings more challenges. We want to show others that it is possible and to share our journey because if a company like us can’t do it, then no-one can.
"There’s been a lot of trial and error. I’m sure many companies can relate to that."
Being a lighthouse
At SproutWorld, we often talk about wanting to be a lighthouse for sustainability, inspiring others to live and work more sustainably. I would say that we’re far ahead of other SMEs when it comes to sustainability. We see our role as leading by example and honestly sharing our learnings to make it easier for others to follow. After all, surely it’s better to be honest about being 20% of the way than claiming bigger numbers that are unrealistic and unachievable. So lately we’ve been asking ourselves how we can be more concrete when we say we want to be a lighthouse. Where can we best shine a light?
Tangible and transparent actions
As an organization, while there are 100 things we’d like to do, we have finite resources, so we have to prioritize. Where can we make the biggest impact? In this next period of growth at SproutWorld, we’ve chosen to focus our energies on taking tangible actions and being as transparent as possible. For us, that is to accelerate our path to net-zero and to use blockchain to facilitate greater transparency throughout our value chain. Another example would be our afforestation project in Poland where our primary production site is located. This is tangible and measurable – we are giving back directly to areas where we operate.
"We have finite resources so we have to prioritize. Where can we make the biggest impact?"
Accelerating our path to net-zero
Our verified SBTi net-zero target is 10 years ahead of 2050, but even this might not be fast enough if we are to live up to the Paris Agreement. That’s why we’ve readjusted our ambition to become net-zero even earlier – from 2040 to 2029 – and we’re now aiming to reduce our CO2eq emissions by 50% by 2025. This is one area where we believe we can shine a light and lead the way.
Data and blockchain
In the next 10 years, one thing I can tell you is that data is key. For one thing, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Gathering and sharing data is also very time-consuming. We’ve invested in blockchain technology as we want to provide all stakeholders with total transparency to our products and our supply chain. Blockchain has the potential to become the universal language for sustainability, with globally uniform standards and requirements. The possibility of eliminating companies' and countries' self-invented labels also lies here.
Need for standardization
The technology is developing at pace. Give it 5-10 years, and blockchain will be commonly used across industries. The EU has proposed the introduction of digital product passports. Having a standardized system will be a game changer – where product-related data is all there for anyone to see. It will help companies more easily manage their compliance, sustainability, and circularity goals.
A more mature organization
SproutWorld is like my second child. Together, we’ve been on a journey continuously developing from day one. From being a fledgling with undefined potential and unclear direction besides being good and brave, to navigating the youth years with speed and agility, gaining experience through trial and error to today – being an adult version with a more determined attitude towards values and goals. The future looks bright and promising. SproutWorld has become an even better version of itself than I had dared to hope for but have always believed in. A lot of talented people have helped SproutWorld reach this point. Without them, SproutWorld would not have attained the success that the brand has today.