Think back to last summer, July 2018: Bayer acquires Monsanto to create the global leader in seeds and pesticides. Behind the scenes of this $66 billion deal, lobbyists cash in on 1% of the total transaction value. Long-standing pressure on the German competition authority pays off, awarding them a circa $660 Million jackpot. Their lobbyist career is set. Meanwhile, Monsanto’s glyphosatecontinues decimating biodiversity and contributing to our planet’s sixth mass extinction.
So let's shed light on a deeply-troubling reality:
Talented lobbyists could do wonders in politics by passing much-needed reforms to accelerate the fight against climate change. Instead, they opt for quick cash.
No CleanTech investment fund, Green Enterprise, or Green Party could assemble this amount of money to drive positive change. The dark side is much better funded.
This is a snapshot of the world we live in, where powerful groups and lobbies continue winning big at this game, while the rest of us wonder why nothing changes. But it’s not inevitable. Unbounded capitalism's inertia is fading, and public outcry is rising.
At Next Big Thing AG, we hosted an event, “The World in 2030: Future Services in CleanTech” which offered a breath of fresh air through engaging conversations, palpable passion, and tangible solutions offered to stimulate a paradigm shift.
We covered four agents of change who have a chance to boost the green transition:
As panel moderator for this event, I asked our four guests: How can individuals work together to drive progress which benefits the planet while promoting innovative solutions?
1. Communities: tap into a rich and rising value system
According to Lubomila Jordanova, Founder & CEO at Plan A Earth, the answer may lie in Europe’s value system. Europe has developed a deeper environmental consciousness than other influential centers like the US and Asia. That’s fertile ground for a tectonic shift that can spread globally.
Europe is kick starting a movement that will trickle down to every aspect of society. It’s visible with the proliferation of greener consumer products, a surge in waste reduction, and the rise of circular business models. Proving the possibility is step one; scaling comes next.
But Europe can only set an example to inspire other communities to develop their own local solutions. It can’t substitute itself as a response to local challenges. The world needs local solutions to a global problem.
2. Investors: more private funding and more public funding
In order to hasten the development of technology that reduces the environmental impact of major corporations, institutional investors should increase financial commitments in clean and renewable technologies.Brittany Salas, Director of Sustainability Europe at Plug and Play Ventures (PNP) works on behalf of corporate venture capital funds and believes everyone can integrate sustainability into their work, if not, daily habits. By connecting corporations with startups, PNP’s Sustainability program supports the implementation of clean tech at scale. This is done by facilitating the launch of pilot projects or co-investment in order to increase efficiency and decrease emissions across industrial value chains.
From my perspective, given the state of emergency and the scale of the problem, the green transition should also be considered a matter of public infrastructure. Just as modernizing economies invested billions in the last century in roads, electrical grids and sewage systems, the green transition requires states and countries to step up and massively support buildings’ insulation, new recycling plants, and electric cars.
Reshaping the global order with the price of carbon to factor in environmental costs, also seems inevitable.
Uwe Lebelt, Co-founder & COO at Auxolar, is committed to integrating solar into buildings with IoT and convincing (often conservative) investors of financial returns on CleanTech, especially on the energy side.
Ideally, governments should set the framework for ventures to prosper and lead the charge for positive transformation, but the reality is different. Startups often have to navigate paralyzing regulations and develop complex workarounds to go to market before demonstrating the benefits of their new models.
Startups can instigate the winds of change by driving offers which stimulate consumer demand and add pressure on regulators to adjust ill-fitting legacy regulations.
4. Lobbyists: introducing a balance of power with green lobbies
Our evening’s wildcard was consultant and lobbyist, Sarmad Hussain. After self-categorizing himself as ‘evil’, he admitted how complex and heavy-handed relationships are between money and political interests.
In many cases, lobbyists themselves write the laws, rather than politicians. These laws tend to favor major conglomerates and utilities, earning backlash from environmental groups and other affected communities.
Could assembling a green lobby bring a balance of forces to the highest spheres of power? The idea doesn’t seem as far-fetched as it sounds. Sarmad is considering exploring it.
In engaging the audience, it became clear during our event that politics seems to be the bottleneck in this story. We identified a few ways to counter that force:
Communities can form and increase public pressure on the political system
Startups can find workarounds and trail-blaze the path to a regulatory landscape adaptation
Investors can reroute capital towards greener investments
Green lobbies can counterbalance the all-mightiness of well-funded oil and gas lobbies, who tend to be more interested in the status quo than in progress
Despite acknowledging that with capitalism, change mostly happens where the money flows, we felt a strong pulse that communities, entrepreneurs, investors and political influencers will each play a major role in moving the needle, unlocking the current political deadlock and finally getting humanity moving towards a greener future.
If you have innovative ideas to pursue in support of sustainability, reach out to me.
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