May 4, 2020

Wasn’t 2020 The Year of Sustainability?

Covid-19 threatens to derail the sustainability movement. A new alliance of greentech companies hopes to keep it on track.

Unsplash: Hanny Naibaho

A few days ago, the news broke that the Covid-19 virus was detected on air pollution particles — another unfortunate sign that the virus knows no boundaries, and still another avenue for scientific exploration. 

I detected this same infamous virus elsewhere: in the greentech community. 

I spent my last few weeks after work speaking to over 100 founders building products that fight climate change, along with concerned corporate executives. The dynamic of the discussion was the same — everyone is challenged by having to put economic recovery and sustainability on the same agenda.

Greentech startups faced the same challenges as other startups in the last months — pulled term sheets, postponed decision making by investors, disturbed supply chains — but also heard from investors that "sustainability will become secondary" and that their carbon reduction products are not a must-have anymore or might be in two-to-three years’ time. Wasn't 2020 The Year of Sustainability? 


Corporates, on the other hand, are pushing the sustainability agenda even more firmly. I’ve spoken to executives who are using the headspace this pandemic offers as a bargaining chip internally, so green initiatives see daylight within months rather than years. Budgets may not be as big as pre-Covid-19, but scrapping sustainability altogether is off the cards — it could position the companies unfavourably. 

Storms ahead for sustainability

On the political front, the news is like the spring weather we see across Europe now — a mix of sun and rain with the occasional hail. Some days ago, 17 countries called for green post-coronavirus recovery, but a month ago the COP26 climate change conference was postponed and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, considered the most important event of the decade on biodiversity conservation, was also called off for this year. 

This mixed sentiment in the news is not really in any way positive. For the sustainability agenda to work, investors, startups, corporates and other stakeholders need to have a unified understanding of the increasing importance of sustainability and the resulting financial, economic and environmental gains. All of these 100 conversations made it evident we are not there yet, but they offered some guidance on what steps we can take to tackle these inconsistencies.

I analysed these conversations along with the founders of Silfir, Green City Solutions, Wundertree and ecoligo and we decided to turn these ideas into an alliance.  

Launching the Greentech Alliance

Today, we are launching the Greentech Alliance, an alliance of greentech companies, advisors and partner organisations:

  • Green companies from all over the world, which strictly follow the science behind climate change, create products and services addressing the environmental challenges we face and are against greenwashing practices.
  • Advisors including VCs, journalists, pitch coaches, marketing and sales experts. 
  • Community catalysts, such as the most reputable academic and international institutions, including Yale OpenLab, Climate-KIC, and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

The aim of the Alliance is to push collaboration across the greentech community, respond to its immediate needs related to funding, sales, marketing, visibility, and to accelerate the transition towards a greener economy across the world. 

The Plan A team under lockdown.

I have been building Plan A, a Berlin-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform for businesses to monitor, reduce and offset their emissions, and feel honoured to be able to work towards improving the health of our planet on a daily basis. While building Plan A, I learned that the biggest value in this particular tech field is collaboration. The complexity of addressing climate change requires a deep understanding of the science, but also willingness to see where your value proposition adds to the existing ones, in order to advance the bigger agenda rather than increasing your own market share or value.

For the launch of the Greentech Alliance, we have connected a selection of companies who are truly dedicated to the challenge ahead, have the right tech in hand and are willing to work with one another to see the net-zero agenda become reality. 

The Covid-19 setup has increased our community's determination to fight climate change and the Greentech Alliance aims to strengthen this movement.

No Plan B for our planet.