Circular start-ups

National initiative, Estonia

SDG 8: Decent work and economic growthSDG 9: Industry innovation and infrastructureSDG 12: Responsible consumption and production
Named the most advanced digital society in the world, Estonia has developed a comprehensive digital ecosystem comprising many aspects of everyday life. Taxation, voting, health, residency are some of the social services managed through e-solutions in e-Estonia, a movement by the government of Estonia to facilitate citizen interactions with the state through the use of electronic solutions.
Having been a global leader in the digital transformation for the last two decades, Estonia is today experiencing a boom in the start-up scene of innovative companies making use and developing on the foundation of the already fully digitalised Estonian society. Ranking third in Europe regarding the highest number of start-ups per capita, Estonia is also ranked 24 on the Global Innovation Index.

With only 11 years left to implement the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, it is crucial that the private sector continues to develop services and products if we are to fulfil our global goals. It is evident that states and public service providers are not able to meet the challenges of sustainable development alone. However, for innovative companies and start-ups to commit to a circular business model with resource efficiency and sustainable growth as core values, they need the government to support technology development and small businesses as well as investors who cherish sustainability and realize the long-term profitability of such values.

Good practices and solutions

Favourable conditions for setting up start-ups in Estonia has created a scene of Greentech start-ups working with circular business models, trying to find market opportunities for innovative products, services and solutions for greater resource efficiency and sustainability. Inspirational start-ups to highlight as an example of best practices include:

• 3cular: Eco-innovative 3D printing that gives wood waste a new value. 3cular is reinventing 3D printing in a sustainable way, enabling manufacturers to produce any kind of wooden objects out of leftover wood material, increasing resource productivity and reducing the use of plastics as the most popular 3D printing material.

• Pillirookõrs: Reusable, biodegradable drinking straw made exclusively from reed that grows naturally on the shores of Saaremaa, in the Baltic Sea. Reed is processed into the straws without the use of any additives. Each one is handmade and can be reused and washed in the dishwasher. After the Pillirookõrs has served its purpose, it will decay completely; completing the circle.

• Rohepakend: Alternative to disposable plastic utensils and food containers made from recycled cloth. Individuals and companies donate fabric and Rohepakend gives it a new life as a sustainable and biodegradable food container.

Outcomes & Opportunities

According to e-Estonia the following reasons explain why Estonia is able to foster a culture fuelling the innovative start-ups scene:

• e-Services and the ease of doing business. Being able to conduct most tasks of setting up a business online through the e-Estonia platform and through other digitised service providers. Also, business-friendly taxation with a corporate tax rate at 21 percent with no double taxation on dividend income.

• People and community. The Estonian start-up community has good relations with the government and their voices are actively being heard as the government does its best to be responsive to entrepreneurs and start-ups.

• Developed and affordable living environment. The quality of life in Estonia is high but at the same time it’s very affordable: Tallinn is one of the more affordable capitals of the EU while also among the most connected cities in the world, offering almost universal free public WiFi and free public transportation for residents.

• Ease of hiring talent. Estonia has also made it easy for local start-ups to acquire foreign talent, as in January 2017, the country launched its Start-up Visa.

Related SDG targets

Photo: © Jaanus Jagomag/Unsplash

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Project: Circular Baltic 2030