Innovation That Matters

The Springwise top 5: takeaways from Bupa Eco-Disruptive Live 2023


Last week, we attended the Bupa eco-Disruptive Live event – take a look at our most important takeaways from the day

Bupa eco-Disruptive is a global innovation programme, initially launched by the healthcare company back in 2021. With the scheme, Bupa aims to support positive-impact startups from Australia, Spain, UK, Hong Kong SAR, and New Zealand. Following an intensive scouting and selection process, all shortlisted startup finalists are given £25,000 (around €29,100), with the winner receiving £200,000 (around €233,000, or local currency equivalent).

Last year’s initiative saw Cassava Bags Australia declared as the winner, and earlier this month Cassava Bags and Bupa announced the expansion of their partnership to replace single-use plastic with cassava-based alternatives across Bupa stores, medical practices, and corporate offices.

Last week marked the first Bupa eco-Disruptive Live event, where startups from the 2022 challenge cohort came together, alongside speakers including entrepreneur and Dragons’ Den investor Deborah Meaden, Youtuber and co-founder of Earthrise Studio Jack Harries, and author and sustainability expert Solitaire Townsend.

We were lucky enough to attend the London event in person – take a look at five crucial things we took away from the day.

Top 5 Takeaways

1. Human health is inherently linked to climate health

It is now impossible to ignore that we’re in the midst of a climate and biodiversity crisis, but how often do you connect that with a crisis of human health? In his opening speech, Bupa Group CEO Iñaki Ereño highlighted that the company’s purpose had, for years, been to help people live longer, happier, and healthier lives. But, this felt incomplete without a goal to also “make a better world”. Healthcare is responsible for over four per cent of global CO2 emissions, so the industry’s environmental footprint is clear. And the recurring message of the day: we can’t have healthy people without a healthy planet.

2. We need a values shift

For far too long, big business has placed profit ahead of everything else, often compromising working conditions, ethics, and – as the event stressed – the long-term well-being of our planet. As Pierre Paslier, co-founder of Notpla, emphasised in one panel: we are “not looking at overall cost beyond the extraction”. The so-called “green premium” often sees sustainable products priced higher than mass-produced, less green alternatives. We need to place more value on things that matter beyond financial gain, including the long-term environmental impact, in order to get back to the “real” cost of products.

3. Storytelling is an undervalued tool

Co-founder and CEO of Earthrise Studio, filmmaker Alice Aedy stressed in one panel that, as a society, we’ve moved from “climate denial to climate doom”. But this does not serve our planet – we need action, and action requires belief in the possibility of change. “We change stories, we change values. We change values, we change the system,” asserted Alice. We must continue to tell positive stories of innovation and climate justice, in order for us to continue on the right path and for the necessary systemic changes to be made. Climate doom doesn’t help anyone.

4. Startups play an essential role

If the innovative solutions developed by the 18 showcased startups wasn’t enough to demonstrate the importance of startups in our transition to net zero, then Deborah Meaden confirmed the notion in her initial morning address. As the leading entrepreneur put it, startups “don’t know the power that they have”, but they are the ones “who are going to change the world”. And, according to National Geographic Explorer and filmmaker Malaika Vaz, when we combine the creativity and optimism of startups with the power and resources of big business, this becomes the “secret weapon for tackling the climate crisis.”

5. There’s still hope

The final panel of the day saw some hard home truths, with Dr. Hugh Montgomery emphasising that we are heading towards “catastrophe” if we do not act radically and we do not act now. However, the undeniable sentiment from all the speakers and every innovator was this: there is still hope. Solitaire Townsend highlighted in her speech that one in five under-30s are fatalists when it comes to climate change, but startups and solutionists – the experts in their fields – are “overwhelmingly optimistic”, because they know what’s possible and have “seen the solutions”. The public, by contrast, have only seen the problems, but not the answers. As Dr Sally Uren aptly summarised: “the future isn’t written…changing our mindsets could change everything.”

Written By: Matilda Cox