Introducing Motatos: A Commercial Solution to a Planetary Problem
Motatos is a Swedish impact e-commerce scale-up founded on the insight that huge amounts of food are wasted along the value chain, from producer to consumer. Motatos has an innovative approach to tackling this problem; at the same time supporting the environment and helping people to save money. Recently, the company launched its operations in Germany; the scale-up’s fourth European market.
The Motatos model provides multinationals and small producers in the food and FMCG sectors with an opportunity to minimize waste in the supply chain, while at the same time strengthening their sustainability profiles. Among others, Motatos is backed by LeadX Capital Partners, Northzone and the Norrsken Foundation.
Now, what are you really; a for-profit company or an organisation working for the greater good?
This question tends to be one of the first we run into when presenting ourselves as an impact e-commerce scale-up, in the market to drive positive change.
Our company was founded on three fundamental insights; firstly, that challenges of surplus goods are huge in the food industry; secondly, that online grocery is on the rise and; thirdly, that the wallet is the only sustainable compass to consumer buying behavior.
As it happens, these insights lay the foundation of a scalable business model which presents a near perfect match with a global environmental problem.
5 billion tons of food are produced globally every year and one third of this production gets lost or wasted along the value chain. In other words, 1.6 billion tons of food, with an estimated value of 1,200 billion USD, goes down the drain — every year. Regardless of how you break these figures down, you will end up with huge amounts of food and money being wasted.
The food waste issue is not only a problem from an efficiency perspective; global food production is responsible for one quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions — and with one third of all food never ending up being eaten, we face a situation where food waste alone is behind between 8–10 per cent of global emissions. These emissions are larger than the emissions coming from the global fashion industry and around four or five times bigger than the emissions produced by the global airline industry. Not a small thing.
The fact that food waste is a real challenge is recognized by the global community and addressed by one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Goal number 12.3 stipulates that by the year 2030, global food waste should be halved. 800 billion tons less waste. Per year.
Motatos applies a commercial model to an environmental problem but what about the end goal — is it profit or impact?
We cant help but think that something must have gone wrong when the assumption was made that a model that allows for growth, leading to scale and results, cannot be used to benefit a larger crowd, or even a planet. The idea that corporations exist exclusively for the narrow interest of enriching a few owners feels obsolete.
As much as you would think that this would be pushing at open doors, our experience says otherwise; although the international community has recognised the importance of business contributions to sustainable progress and development, the perceived contradiction between being commercial and having a world-improving purpose seems to be deeply rooted in the hearts and minds of people.
The misconception of conflicting interests can sometimes take the form of a suspicion as to what will happen when the company grows. As if purpose would inevitably be lost as the scale-up matures. Like a young rebel turning conservative with age. The thing is though, with impact built into the business model, intent and results are mutually exclusive. As we scale our business, and continue to recirculate products into the market that are at risk of going to waste, we will inevitably help solve the global problem of food waste, regardless of the size of our profit margin.