The Code Gaia founding team (from left to right): Niklas Schönstein, Markus Adler and Till Kundrun.
© Photo: Code Gaia

Code Gaia: Sustainability Management Solution

A new European directive will make sustainability reporting mandatory for many companies – including many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). With its Software-as-a-Service solution, Code Gaia wants to help these companies with their sustainability management. Markus Adler, one of the founders, explains exactly how in our interview.

Munich Startup: What does your startup do? What problem are you solving? 

Markus Adler, Code Gaia: The requirement to report on sustainability will go into effect for many companies starting in 2024. By 2030 at the latest, it will pertain to almost all companies and to those who are self-employed. At Code Gaia, we use software to simplify sustainability management for companies – Sustainability-as-a-Service, so to speak. Our customers can upload all of the relevant data to the Code Gaia portal in just four hours and generate an initial sustainability report. Our automation processes avoid spreadsheet chaos because different data sources, such as incoming invoices and smart questionnaires, are integrated directly by the software. That saves a lot of time. Of course, we support our clients in taking these first steps with our one-on-one sustainability experts – from creating a personalized sustainability dashboard to defining the desired sustainability goals to the scope of reporting or analysis and the reporting period. 

The companies then receive their sustainability status quo in a clearly arranged dashboard and in key figures according to recognized standards so they also fit the requirements of their stakeholders. It’s also possible to download the sustainability reports with one click directly from the dashboard – for example as fact sheets or ESG reports. Moreover, we also offer an optimization solution that is data-based and integrated directly into the tool – without expensive daily rates. 

Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box! 

Markus Adler: True, other providers also have solutions to center data for sustainability reporting and create ESG reports from it. Code Gaia’s software, however, also works with artificial intelligence, which simplifies processes, starts data collection earlier than other solutions and takes care of a lot of detail work for the people involved. 

Founding prompted by personal experience with sustainability reports 

Munich Startup: What’s your founding story? 

Markus Adler: The idea for Code Gaia emerged during my time in the banking industry and with my first startup. At the time, I had to write sustainability reports and experienced first-hand how complicated, time-consuming and extensive the full collection of data can be. It was my co-founder Niklas Schönstein who was convinced that we could automate these processes very well. With Till Kudrun as our third co-founder, we launched Code Gaia in 2020 – at that time still under the name Spenoki. At that point in time it wasn’t clear yet how extensive the reporting requirements would become and how high the resulting demand for our solution might be. 

Munich Startup: What have been your biggest challenges so far? 

Markus Adler: A key element for us was linking the companies’ need for corporate sustainability reports with our vision, because experts only saw the anticipated demand, but not the vision behind Code Gaia. We believe it’s our responsibility to preserve nature for future generations and that we have leverage that we can actively use to do just that. 

I would like to really encourage other founders to clearly link the product with a vision and to take criticism of it seriously. At the same time, they should never lose faith in the team and the business model. We managed to link our product and vision. In the pre-seed round, we were able to win over business angels and had financial security from the additional sales through pilot customers. 

First point of contact for SMEs 

Munich Startup: Where would you like to be in one year, and in five years? 

Markus Adler: In the year ahead, many companies will have to report their ESG efforts for the first time. This is where we want to be the first point of contact for SMEs. In five years, we’ll be the leading ESG management and reporting solution for SMEs in Europe. By then, we want to have helped 2500 SMEs make their sustainability management processes more economical so the saved costs can be invested in the implementation of measures for a decent future. This vision motivates me each and every day. 

Munich Startup: How have you experienced Munich as a startup location so far? 

Markus Adler: Just recently, Munich was named Germany’s new startup capital – and rightly so. We feel the startup spirit (almost) everywhere in Munich. This is due in no small part to the strong universities and the programs and platforms that promote the development of startups. A great network of founders, supporters and investors has emerged that enables a valuable exchange of information between founding teams. And you also have the key development centers of international tech companies like Google. Mutual support is a top priority for Munich founders and can be experienced every single day at our headquarters in the Werk1 incubator near the Ostbahnhof. 

Munich Startup: Hidden champion or shooting star? 

Markus Adler: Both. With Code Gaia, we developed the right product at the right time – no question about it. In the years ahead, our software will really take the burden off many companies when it comes to sustainability. At the same time, we’re also a hidden champion, because many companies haven’t realized yet how much sustainability reports and ESG reporting will influence them in the future. And that’s what we’re here for – to support companies. 

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Regina Bruckschlögl

Nach eigenen Startup-Erfahrungen blickt sie als Redakteurin von Munich Startup nun aus einer anderen Perspektive auf die Münchner Startup-Szene – und entdeckt dabei jeden Tag, wie vielfältig das Münchner Ökosystem ist. Startup Stories, die erzählt werden wollen!

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