Miden Wants A Greener Cyprus And Has Lessons For Companies

by Marios Roussos
Miden wants a greener Cyprus

How a startup can show the way to a better environment

“Take a deep breath, it is still free” is a well-known phrase as well as the global climate crisis. Companies have policies under the ESGs but it seems that something is not working even though we have covered some roads. Is it the turn of startups to show the way to a better environment?

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Miden, a pioneering force in the realm of environmental conservation coming from Cyprus. Their vision, as the co-founder Alexandros Vacanas told The Future, is clear: to empower both businesses and individuals to play an active role in supporting tree-planting initiatives across Cyprus, thereby fostering environmental preservation and combatting climate change.

“We achieve this through certification of tree plantations, measurement of CO2 absorption and oversight of CO2 offset, all aimed at ensuring a tangible positive impact on the environment. Our vision is to reconnect humanity with nature by embracing technology that paves the road towards greener societies”.

Alexandros Vacanas

Miden is a startup created by Mr. Vacanas and Mr. Nikolas Stratis in Nicosia and they both call everyone on a journey of reconnecting humanity with nature by embracing technology and opening the road towards greener societies.

The idea of environmental sustainability is not something new, as the effects of climate change have been present for a few decades now, and as Mr Vacanas notes, it is only now becoming increasingly relevant on both a public and a private level. “In recent years, numerous companies have undertaken sustainability initiatives, such as tree planting and improving energy efficiency, as components of their CSR/ESG strategies. However, with the ascent of new EU regulations mandating reporting on non-financial obligations, we anticipate a rise in sustainability efforts among corporations, both in Cyprus and abroad” he says

Mr. Vacanas explains that this regulatory push is expected to be a catalyst in achieving increased activity in sustainability in the coming years.We need to change what has been happening so far and ensure that appropriate measures are taken on the corporate level to ensure that correct reporting is done with transparent, audited and verifiable data, to ensure avoidance of green-washing, green-wishing and green-hushing by companies” he comments.

Is zero net possible?

The following question, as we all see the negatives of climate change and the broad environmental disaster, is plain and simple- Is net zero possible? Mr. Vacanas argues that reaching a net-zero society is not just a lofty aspiration; it’s increasingly imperative for our planet’s and species’ survival.

“While we have made some efforts in reducing our environmental impact over the years, achieving net zero requires heightened effort and awareness to both understand and offset our carbon footprint. This transition won’t happen overnight; it’s a long-term endeavour that demands shifts in mentality, culture, education, and behaviour” he added.

We also need to remind ourselves that, the EU has set 2050 as the year in which we target to become net-zero, also adopting the ‘Fit for 55’ policy which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030.

Miden in its core is using blockchain technology and aims to strengthen the biodiverse ecosystem by issuing unique NFT certificates for trees planted. Criticism about this kind of technology and its effects on the environment, especially from people against cryptocurrencies, is more than big. So, how does blockchain help towards a better environment?

“Technology is our greatest friend and ally in this effort, offering tools and innovations to facilitate progress. A ‘recipe’ of different technologies will play a pivotal role in doing so such as the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI) among many others. At Miden, we’ve chosen blockchain as the foundation of our solution due to its ability to address key challenges in the sustainability market, offering transparency, auditability, and real-time data tracking. This serves as our initial step, and we’re committed to integrating additional technologies to amplify our impact and realise our vision” Mr Vacanas highlights.

Lessons for companies from startups

Most companies who have decades of presence in the market are hardcore and – if I may say it – stubborn when it comes to change. A phenomenon that we can easily observe in Cyprus.

The co-founder makes a distinction between companies and startups by saying, that established companies are usually rigid and hard to change when it comes to introducing new operational pillars in their day-to-day operations. Startups are often more agile and adaptable than larger corporations, allowing them to quickly experiment with and implement innovative sustainability practices.

The current ESG practices of companies that used to be good in the past are now obsolete and not working as they are meant to. Mr Vacanas objected that “the subject of sustainability is most definitely not at the frontline of operational or business priorities that most companies have. While performing one-off activities such as a tree plantation once per year, has been sufficient in the past, things are now changing and companies need to take a more holistic approach to addressing sustainability and circularity”.

According to Miden’s views, organisations will need to orchestrate their Green Strategies, assess their current organisational footprint, identify areas of improvement and facilitate an appropriate plan of action towards that.

“This is where the key role of startups comes into place. Numerous startups possess this exact expertise and can provide invaluable assistance to established companies that wish to start making a change towards more sustainable practices” Mr Vacanas remarked.

As for startups, if they should have sustainability on their agenda, Mr Vacanas enthusiastically exclaimed “Yes, yes and again yes!”.

And added that regardless of any regulatory requirements, sustainability is a subject that should always be on the agendas of all companies of all sizes or maturity.

“Startups are the ones that need to be the main drivers of change, especially in how we perceive this as part of our operations and in changing and spreading the right mentality and culture across our network and influence circle” he emphasized.  

Alexandros Vacanas

As mentioned earlier, most established companies are more reluctant to change, and disrupting their current operational model to incorporate elements of sustainability can be sometimes complex, difficult and costly. On the contrary, startups can have the flexibility to do this easily and establish the appropriate strategies and action plans right from the start.

“Even though this is something that will take time to fully flesh out and materialise, it is of the utmost importance to start thinking about this from day one” he explained.

We shouldn’t forget the role of investors, who are indeed looking for sustainability-focused startups, as this is one of the hot topics in the global investor ecosystem right now.

Mr Vacanas outlines that “investors are increasingly concerned about climate change, making environmentally conscious startups more attractive. The rise of sustainable startups is attributed to market demand for sustainable solutions, regulatory landscape, long-term viability, innovation and efficiency, and the growing emphasis on ESG considerations in investment strategies. Indicatively, less than a month ago, Greenly managed to raise $52m to fund smaller companies to track CO2 emissions”.

Greenly, a startup from New York, specializes in making carbon accounting and management precise and intuitive for companies, facilitating a fast-track transition towards a net-zero-carbon economy. The platform empowers businesses to measure, monitor, reduce, and offset their carbon footprint according to international standards such as the GHG Protocol.

Mr. Vacanas adds a warning though. “Despite sustainability-orientated startups are promising when it comes to financial rewards and profitability, it is crucial to recognise that their ultimate goal goes beyond financial results. They should operate in a way that does not only guarantee economic success but also strive for positive environmental and social outcomes, a concept also known as the ‘double bottom line’”.


Startup World Cup Cyprus

Don’t be afraid

From their experience, setting up a company in Cyprus is relatively easy. For Mr. Vacanas, Cyprus fosters one of the most hospitable environments for corporations with a brilliant professional services support system. Expertise is abundant in the areas of finance, legal and other relevant fields which makes incorporation and starting up in Cyprus quite easy and smooth.

But he also notes that the real question to be concerned about is not whether it’s easy to set up a startup in Cyprus but rather whether Cyprus is an ideal location to start operating in, as this is the biggest challenge, especially for innovative new ventures.

“When it comes to technology, while Cyprus offers an ideal environment for companies to set up or relocate to, it does not provide exemplary market conditions for innovation or technology to flourish. This is also evident by the fact that Cyprus ranks 21st in the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), having a below-average score in all assessment pillars” he countered and added that “funding opportunities in Cyprus are also very restricted in comparison with other jurisdictions”.

Ambitiously, for Mr Vacanas, this shouldn’t be a challenge or a threat for startups as they can turn this situation “into an opportunity and bring digital transformation through new solutions in the frontline, improving the current market conditions and turning Cyprus into a technology hub for startups and innovation”.

Mr. Vacanas shares a piece of advice to young entrepreneurs telling them not to be afraid to cause chaos but rather embrace it.

“Uncertainty and unpredictability are vital elements of the creative process – even small changes or ideas can have extensive effects and influence in terms of innovation. Lastly, the most important element in life and business, just like with natural selection, is adaptability – listen, learn and adjust to new environments or any other changes that may occur” and closes with a quote often attributed to Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”.

For Miden, the next steps are to further expand their services both in Cyprus and abroad by adding more trees on the platform. “We also expect to launch our mobile application for everyone to download on their devices, becoming accessible to everyone who wishes to make a positive impact starting with as little as one tree. On a broader scale, we are continually exploring opportunities to expand our operations and integrate our solution into various verticals and other offsetting activities. Each day, we strive to move closer to our ultimate goal of achieving a net-zero society” he concludes.

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