Good Business: Greta Rossi, Akasha Innovation

Nicola Slawson finds out how sustainability expert Greta Rossi is helping people to learn from nature and neuroscience in order to do better business

Each month, the Good Business column catches up with people who are leading social change. It’s hosted by Impact Hub Islington, an incubation space in London for socially minded entrepreneurs.

Nicola: Greta, can you sum up your business in a nutshell?

Greta: Our mission is simple: we offer individuals and organisations a knowledge ecosystem that empowers them to ‘see the world anew’ and which supports their creation of social and environmental value. We have a number of academics and professionals that help our clients understand their full impact on people and planet and then support their transformation in becoming truly sustainable. We call this process sustainability+.

What approaches do you use?

Biomimicry is part of the approach we use. Biomimicry explores how nature works and how we can take advantage of nature’s lessons to solve our problems. For example, we adopted the lesson from nature that an ecosystem thrives when we’re diverse and collaborative when building our own knowledge ecosystem. We’re also using concepts from neuroscience. We look at how complex new pathways can be connected and traced.

These are the two main approaches that we are using for our model. It’s quite fascinating to see them work. You’d be surprised by how easy some of the principles are and how often it’s just common sense. But if it works in nature, why can’t it work in business?

What kind of clients do you work with?

Each organisation can create its own path toward sustainability+ and we will support them throughout the journey. Our approach is quite loose and we maintain flexibility, so it allows us to personalise our services for both profit and non-profit organisations. We’re open to working with anyone.

What other projects are you currently working on?

We have quite a few at the moment, which is exciting. The biggest one we are building at present is the Chrysalis Changemakers Program, which is actually part of our core business. It’s a 12-week training course based on experiential learning. It will prepare students and graduates to become active changemakers and work with us to support our progress towards sustainability+.

What inspired you to start the business?

We live in a post-cautionary world. We can’t talk about preventing climate change. It’s already happened. We’ve already passed certain social and environmental tipping points, so we can’t just look for small solutions. We really need a radical transformation of how our society works. This was one of the leading things that inspired us. We decided to offer a new model based on an academic approach, which is what makes Akasha special.

Where do you see the business in five years’ time?

The beauty of setting up your own company is that you can dream of multiple futures and you can try to realise all of them. Therefore, I can see Akasha Innovation being the leading social enterprise on sustainability in the UK as much as I can see us opening a second or third branch somewhere else around the world. Or it could be a pioneer in teaching sustainability.

Do you have any advice for aspiring social entrepreneurs?

Yes, the first one is do your research. There are way too many organisations that neglect the research needed to turn good intentions into positive impact.

The second one is build an A-team. Do not fear excellence: surround yourself with people who can add value to your company, not people who will comply with everything you say. Diversity is key to create a successful ecosystem.

The last one, which is something I always have to work on, is try to fail better. Failure is almost inevitable in the journey of a social entrepreneur. As Samuel Beckett said: “The key is not to avoid it, but to fail, to try again and next time, to fail better.”