Accelerate Estonia’s new mission: Green Turn

8. Jan 2021

Accelerate Estonia’s mission is to turn complex and urgent problems into Estonia’s new competitive advantages. Where today there is confusion, fragmented management, and a problem for the public, there can be something much better, such as a functioning market or more synergy. But only if we can get to the heart of the problem and create the change that would design a systemic opportunity for new business and collaboration models. 

When choosing the missions for our new period of operation, we consulted with both private and public sector experts, with whom we have developed focus topics. We have already introduced one of them – the field of mental health. Now is the time to introduce how we can turn Estonia much greener faster than before.

The need for a green turn has been talked about for a long time. The turning point was in 2015 when representatives from 195 countries gathered to jointly approve the Paris Climate Agreement. Although the manifesto has been signed, national efforts to lead the green turn have been rather modest. We believe that now is a good opportunity to give more impetus and see what the green turn will look like behind the curve.

Managing the green turn requires smart choices by the public sector

Imagine that Estonia is the first country in the world to switch to 100% renewable energy sources? Or what if the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of food waste we generate in households and industry help 300,000 people out of poverty? Or what if all of our administrative procedures were 100% paperless?

All this can be predicted as the first victories of the green turn if the public sector would lead Estonia to some quick victories in accelerating the green turn. The Accelerate Estonia model combines inter-ministerial cooperation with the involvement of the private sector, which makes it possible to come up with efficient and unique solutions swiftly. What if we had a number of new business models, smart jobs, and lessons from the green turn by the end of 2021?

What could aE! solve?

In the middle of November we invited green turn experts from the public and third sector together with the academics and entrepreneurs who work in the area, to discuss what kind of environmental problems could Accelerate Estonia most likely find solutions to. What are the complex issues that we could solve first with the help of the private sector? After a few hours of discussions in focus groups, these were the ideas that got the most traction:

  1. The maximum valorisation of Estonian grown food

Several ministries have taken issue with the mission of wasting less food, with a deeper purpose of both reducing food waste as well as directing surplus quality food to the most deprived. This is not only a strategic goal of Estonia, but food waste recycling is also a key topic at the European Union. When directing changes in the sector, it is important to overview the efficiency of food processing and develop local cooperation, in order to bring quality food to those in actual need. In solving this challenge, tens of new business models could be created, bringing with them expansive investments.

  1. Development leaps in bioeconomics

Valuing biological resources is very topical at the moment in the sphere of forestry related heated arguments, but it goes further than that. The “Estonia 2035” strategy concludes that a national goal for Estonia will be to shape Estonia to be a recognized development center of bioeconomics in Europe. What could be the first steps in making that a reality?

In terms of management, improving R&D cooperation with the private sector will be a big priority. Many great solutions that have been developed have not been taken into use, simply because they don’t reach private companies. In addition to that, biologically based products should be defined and labeled in order to give the private sector a push to move away from fossil based raw materials. By publicising information we give the consumer more factors to consider when making purchasing decisions which in turn can create more demand. Behind the curb of the green turn we can see many new possibilities in environmental protection and the creation of clever businesses in Estonia.

  1. 100% renewable energy based Estonia

Transitioning to renewable energy would help our nation to accelerate developments in energetics and provide much more energy from renewable sources. The subject is already hugely popular but decisive leaps in capacity expects bolder experiments. How to provoke them? What could the idea of transitioning all of the public sector over to renewable energy look like? What is clear is that the state can be a positive example and through it encourage investments into the private sector.

  1. Recycling materials

It is positive to know that there is a readiness among entrepreneurs to send the surplus of materials from their production into recycling, but the connections between excess material offerers and seekers are scarce. In addition to that, sending excess materials into circulation is costly, taking additional time, people and investments from the producers. How to change this? The state can accelerate the recycling of excess materials through offering discounts or creating obligations through legislation but could there be alternative variants to this? Simplifying circular economy solutions for material-intensive industries would enable the forthcoming of new circular economy based business models and increase cross-sectoral cooperation between producers and processors.

  1. What kind of green turn can data provide us with?

Estonia is in a strong position when it comes to gathering, systemizing and analyzing data at a rapidly rising tempo. At such a fast pace, the spread of open data is also evolving. But still there are numerous problems which could be solved by looking even further into data. Did you know that by looking at food production related data you can help the state counter terrorism? What would you do to increase the demand for remote sensing data in both the public and private sector? How then could we differently protect our environment from what we are doing now? Is our e-government’s climate footprint already worth praising or could that also offer the private sector new business opportunities?

The necessity for a green turn has been long talked about and to more and more organisations it’s inevitability has reached a boiling point. At the viewpoint of the state, there are very few ministries which are not largely influenced by the green turn, strategically, environmental waste is in more and more development plans than ever before. A green future won’t reach every place at the same time neither will it do so evenly. But what could be Estonia’s unexpectedly brave efforts for the green turn? Are you ready to take risks and experiment? If so, consider this as a teaser to offer your solution in January 2021. Until then, we wish you a calm holiday period. 

Update: You can submit your idea here.