European Clean Energy Innovators to Get €100 Million

From left: Maroš Šefčovič, vice-president of the Commission for the Energy Union; billionaire co-founder of Microsoft and chair of Breakthrough Energy Ventures Bill Gates; European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, October 17, 2018 Brussels, Belgium (Photo courtesy European Commission) Posted for media use.

From left: Maroš Šefčovič, vice-president of the Commission for the Energy Union; billionaire co-founder of Microsoft and chair of Breakthrough Energy Ventures Bill Gates; European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, October 17, 2018 Brussels, Belgium (Photo courtesy European Commission) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, October 18, 2018 ( News) – Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates knows that €100 million can fund a lot of climate-friendly, clean energy research by European innovators, so as founding chairman of a new investment fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Gates is collaborating with the European Commission to provide that support.

Under Gates’ leadership, Breakthrough Energy and the European Commission Wednesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish Breakthrough Energy Europe (BEE), a joint investment fund to help innovative European companies develop and bring “radically new clean energy technologies” to market.

Breakthrough Energy Europe links public funding with long-term risk capital so that clean energy research and innovation can be brought to market more quickly and efficiently.

With a capitalization of €100 million (US$115.2 million), the fund will focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting energy efficiency in the areas of electricity, transport, agriculture, manufacturing, and buildings.

Gates said in Brussels, where he met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, “We need new technologies to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Europe has demonstrated valuable leadership by making impressive investments in R&D.”

“The scientists and entrepreneurs who are developing innovations to address climate change need capital to build companies that can deliver those innovations to the global market,” said Gates. “Breakthrough Energy Europe is designed to provide that capital.”

Breakthrough Energy Europe is expected to be operational in 2019. Half the equity will come from Breakthrough Energy and the other half from InnovFin, risk-sharing financial instruments funded through Horizon 2020, the EU’s current research and innovation program.

InnovFin, EU Finance for Innovators, is a joint financing initiative launched by the European Investment Bank Group with the European Commission under Horizon 2020.

The agreement signed Wednesday supports the Commission’s desire to lead the fight against climate change and to deliver on the Paris Agreement, giving a strong signal to capital markets and investors that the global transition to a modern, clean economy is here to stay.

President Juncker said, “Europe must continue to take the lead in tackling climate change head on, at home and across the world. We must push for the modernization of Europe’s economy and industry in order to meet the ambitious targets put in place to protect our planet.”

“Pooling public and private investment in new, innovative clean energy technology is key to enabling long-term solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Juncker. “If Europe is to have a future that can guarantee the well-being of all its citizens, it will need to be climate-friendly and sustainable.”

The EU views itself as playing a decisive role in building the coalition of ambition making the adoption of the Paris Agreement possible in December 2015. is a global leader on climate action.

The Commission has already brought forward all legislative proposals to deliver on the EU’s commitment to reduce emissions in the European Union by at least 40 percent by 2030.

Maroš Šefčovič, vice-president of the Commission for the Energy Union, said, “The scale and speed of what is needed to reach our climate goals require innovative thinking and bold action. Not only is this new public-private investment vehicle being set up in record time, it will also serve as an example of us joining forces to accelerate breakthrough innovation in Europe.”

Beyond updating and strengthening its energy and climate legislation, the EU is developing enabling measures that will stimulate investment, create jobs, empower and modernize industries.

The Commission is currently working on a long-term strategy for the reduction of greenhouse gases. The proposal will be published in November, ahead of the UN’s annual climate summit in Katowice, Poland.

Carlos Moedas, commissioner for research, science and innovation, observed, “We are delivering on our commitment to stimulate public-private cooperation in financing clean energy innovation. The €100 million fund will target EU innovators and companies with the potential to achieve significant and lasting reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

On the margins of the COP21 climate conference in Paris in 2015, Mission Innovation was launched as an international partnership to accelerate clean energy innovation and provide a long-term global response to climate challenge.

By joining Mission Innovation, 23 countries and the European Commission, on behalf of the EU, pledged to double their clean energy research and innovation funding to about $30 billion a year by 2021.

Also at the Paris summit, from which the Paris Agreement on climate emerged, a group of investors from 10 countries announced their intention to drive innovation from laboratories to the market by investing long-term capital at unprecedented levels in early-stage technology development in Mission Innovation participating countries. It was the genesis of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition.

Featured Image: Renault’s electric car, the Zoe, in Sicily. Renault is supplying 200 Renault ZOEs for the rental fleet of Sicily by Car, a leading Italian car-hire firm. 2017 (Photo courtesy Renault) Posted for media 

Innovative Cars for a Better World

An artist's rendition of how the Ford connected car of the future will use Qualcomm technology to connected with everything. (Image courtesy Ford Motor Company Inc. (Posted for media use)

An artist’s rendition of how the Ford connected car of the future will use Qualcomm technology to connected with everything. (Image courtesy Ford Motor Company Inc. (Posted for media use)

By Sunny Lewis

LAS VEGAS, Nevada, January 11, 2018 ( News) – With cars that can read a driver’s mind, and cars equipped with Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) technology, automakers from around the world are not waiting for this year’s auto shows to roll out their latest high-tech advances. They’re showcasing the technology behind their connected, electric vehicles at the first big show of 2018, the Consumer Electronics Show, now known as CES.

Nissan, Ford and Kia are among the automakers recognized for breakthrough technologies at CES in Las Vegas, the four-day exhibition, January 9-12, which has attracted more than 184,000 industry professionals, including more than 58,000 from outside the United States.

CES aspires to jump-start the future of innovation. The show features technologies from more than 3,900 companies, including some 900 startups, that organizers say will change the lives of people around the world.

The 2018 electric Nissan LEAF was named one of 30 “Best of Innovation” winners at this year’s CES, presented by the Consumer Technology Association.

The 2018 LEAF won the CES Best of Innovation award for Vehicle Intelligence and Self-Driving Technology and is also a CES honoree for Tech for a Better World.

Judged by a panel of independent industrial designers, engineers and members of the trade media, the CES Innovation Award entries are selected for outstanding design and engineering in consumer electronics products across 28 categories. They are evaluated on their engineering, aesthetic and design qualities, intended use and user value, unique or novel features and how the design and innovation of the product compares to other products in the marketplace.

“This award recognizes products and technologies that benefit people and the planet, so it is fitting that the new LEAF has been honored,” said Daniele Schillaci, Nissan’s executive vice president for global marketing and sales, zero-emission vehicles and battery business.

“It is more than just a car. It is the icon of Nissan Intelligent Mobility, our vision to move people to a better world,” he said.

With technology that reads a driver’s brain waves, Nissan is giving visitors to CES 2018 a glimpse of its vision for the future of mobility – more autonomy, more electrification and more connectivity.

Nissan’s pioneering Brain-to-Vehicle (B2V) technology interprets signals from the driver’s brain to assist with driving and to help the vehicle’s autonomous and manual systems learn from the driver. Nissan says the technology offers shorter reaction times and systems that adapt to maximize driving pleasure.

Nissan's award-winning 2018 electric LEAF in Las Vegas, Nevada (Photo courtesy Nissan) Posted for media use

Nissan’s award-winning 2018 electric LEAF in Las Vegas, Nevada (Photo courtesy Nissan) Posted for media use

The 2018 LEAF combines the excitement of 100 percent electric driving with advanced technologies such as ProPILOT Assist, e-Pedal and enhanced connectivity.

ProPILOT Assist is the foundation for the autonomous vehicles of the future, helping drivers maintain lane control, navigate stop-and-go traffic, maintain a set vehicle speed and maintain a set distance to the vehicle ahead – all with simple two-button operation.

“Nissan continues to democratize technology, bringing our most advanced systems to our highest volume models, rather than reserving them for our most expensive vehicles,” said Michael Bunce, vice president, Product Planning, Nissan North America, Inc.

Ford President and CEO Jim Hackett took the CES stage for the opening keynote to share his ideas for creating “the living street” and promoted a human-centered path for smartening our cities.

“It’s not about cities getting smarter, it’s about humans having a better day,” he said.

Ford introduced its new Transformation Mobility Cloud, an open platform designed to simplify the flow of data in support of transportation systems from vehicles and bicycles to mass transit.

As the automotive industry prepares for advancements towards 5G, Ford and Qualcomm Technologies plan to explore a next-generation telematics platform featuring Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) technology.

Using direct communication mode, C-V2X is designed to allow vehicles to directly communicate with other vehicles, pedestrian devices, and roadside infrastructure, such as traffic signs and construction zones, without the involvement of a cellular network, or cellular network subscription, facilitating the development and delivery of smart, connected transportation throughout the world.

“This relationship with Ford is part of a leading effort in the automotive industry in accelerating the adoption of Cellular-V2X into production vehicles and provide for enhanced safety, driver assistance and support for autonomous driving,” said Nakul Duggal, vice president of product management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “Connectivity is the cornerstone for innovation in vehicles.”

For Mercedes-Benz, Las Vegas was the final stop of the “Intelligent World Drive,” with which the German automaker tested automated drive functions on all five continents.

On the last stages in California and Nevada, the Mercedes-Benz test vehicle collected U.S.-specific information for the further development of its driver assistance systems. The automated test drives in the greater Los Angeles area, and then to CES, focused on the assessment of driving behavior in dense city traffic and on highways.

The Mercedes-Benz stand at CES offers the world premiere of the intuitive and intelligent multimedia system MBUX – Mercedes-Benz User Experience. This system can learn, can be individualized and adapts to suit the user.

“With the new MBUX generation, we are transporting our user interface design into the digital world,” says Gorden Wagener, chief design officer at Mercedes-Benz parent company, Daimler AG. “We are thus transferring intelligent technology into an emotional overall experience.”

The Korean automaker Kia is showcasing interactive exhibits that allow visitors to experience Kia’s developing autonomous drive technologies through a Virtual Reality simulator, while experiencing a Vehicle to Everything (V2X) diorama demonstrating how cars could connect with other vehicles and the urban environment.

At CES, Kia is debuting the Niro EV Concept, powered by a next-generation electric vehicle powertrain with a real-time connection established between Las Vegas and Seoul, Korea. The 5G connection enables users to stream contents reliably into the car, linked to the exhibit’s infotainment system.

Dr. Woong-chul Yang, vice chairman and head of Kia’s R&D Center, said, “Boundless for all is Kia’s future vision – where everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the infinite value that future mobility will bring. This is Kia’s manifesto for its role as a mass mobility provider in the future.”

Kia plans to commercialize Level 4 autonomous driving technology, with ‘Smart City’ autonomous vehicle testing due to begin in 2021.

By 2025, Dr. Yang says Kia will adopt connected car technologies across every vehicle segment, and aims to make every single model a connected car by 2030.

Kia will introduce 16 new advanced powertrain vehicles by 2025, including a range of new hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, as well as a new fuel-cell electric vehicle in 2020.

An automotive-related award-winning innovation is the world’s first touchscreen with a 3D surface, by the German automotive manufacturing company Continental AG.

The company won the CES 2018 Best of Innovation Award in the “In-Vehicle Audio/Video” for its state of the art design and breakthrough technology.

The innovative 3D touch surface display can be operated intuitively, increasing safety. The 3D elements allow  finger guidance that users can actually feel.

“Our latest display solution combines three elements: design, safety and user experience. The 3D surface not only allows for exciting design, but it also ensures that drivers can operate the various functions without having to take their eyes off the road,” said Dr. Frank Rabe, head of the Instrumentation & Driver HMI business unit at Continental.

“The CES Innovation Awards honor technologies for the very highest standards of design and engineering prowess, so we are absolutely delighted to have received this award,” said Rabe.

But other breakthrough technologies also are being recognized as CES Innovation Award winners , such as: Siren Diabetic Socks made with miniature temperature sensors embedded into the fabric to help people with diabetes know when their feet are injured; the Samsung’s consumer micro LED TV; Aipoly’s Autonomous Store Platform, an automated convenience store; BUDDY, the first companion robot for the whole family; a 3D camera; Dell’s Ocean-Bound Plastics Packaging Program; NUVIZ, the first integrated head-up display for motorcyclists; and the EZVIZ Lookout Smart Door Viewer, that provides secure viewing of who is knocking at your door from anywhere through an app rather than having to physically walk up to the door to see who’s there.


Cryptocurrencies and the Clean Energy Revolution


Worker installs solar panels on a roof in Oregon. (Photo courtesy Oregon Dept. of Transportation) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

CYBERSPACE, July 27, 2017 ( News) – Innovative financial technologies, from cryptocurrencies to crowdfunding, are offering new ways for citizens to become involved in clean energy projects, and to reap the benefits of the clean power they produce.

Today, cryptocurrencies, virtual means of payment, are in use as alternatives to existing currencies – the dollar, the euro, the rupee, the peso.

Among them is SolarCoin (§), a solar electricity reward program. SolarCoins are digital assets created to reward solar energy producers and to give an incentive to anyone considering installing solar panels.

Anyone who produces solar energy, on a rooftop or in a solar park, can submit meter readings of their energy production and receive these digital coins as a reward – to the tune of one SolarCoin per megawatt-hour (1§ per MWh).

§1 SolarCoin represents 1 megawatt hour (MWh) of solar electricity generation.

As a verified solar electricity producer you can get SolarCoins for free. The supply of SolarCoin is designed to last 40 years, delivering incentives for generating 97,500 TWh of solar electricity.

SolarCoin can be traded on online exchanges and monetized in everyday currencies. As the network increases and the currency is adopted by merchants and participants, SolarCoin will increase in value, developers hope.

Like all cryptocurrencies, this digital coin is based on blockchain technology.

Traditionally, individual account details and financial transactions have been centralized in private databases, such as those maintained by banks.

By contrast, the blockchain is an open database spread across a vast network of computers that publicly records an ever-growing list of transactions, each called a block.

François Sonnet, co-founder of ElectriCChain, the blockchain underpinning SolarCoin, says, “We use SolarCoin to incentivise people to produce solar power, but we need market awareness and education about blockchain. Getting recognition from governments and large institutions like the UN would help establish trust.”

Sonnet says ElectriCChain helps government institutions, the solar industry and “Prosumers” to deliver cheap and clean solar energy for future generations.

One organization that has embraced the solar cryptocurrency is the French crowdfunding platform Lumo. To date, Lumo has raised around €3 million for around 30 projects, including an €800,000 investment in a French solar park.

“Most investors are local citizens who want to see their money work,” says Lumo co-founder Alex Raguet. “Every year you receive three to seven percent interest,” he explains, “and you get the capital back at the end.”

In 2016, Lumo adopted the virtual coins to reward investors in solar projects and to demonstrate the green credentials of the investment.

“Our crowdfunders get the SolarCoins that their money is helping to produce,” says Raguet. “The coins, which can be traded freely, are currently worth around €0.20 but the value could increase if carbon taxes are introduced.”

But not all cryptocurrencies are green. Bitcoin, the first and best known cryptocurrency, is notoriously energy greedy.

Bitcoin uses massive amounts of computer power to solve the puzzles, or algorithms, to “mine” coins, and was estimated to have the same energy consumption as the Republic of Ireland in 2014.

Still, Bitcoin is open-source; its design is public, nobody owns or controls Bitcoin and everyone can take part.

SolarCoin only uses three to five percent of the energy of Bitcoin, says Sonnet. “You don’t need to buy servers to mine the cryptocurrency.”

SolarCoin could be even fairer, according to Michele Andrea Kipiel, a self-taught blockchain expert and blogger in Rome.

“The 1 MWh production target is fixed and too high to attain for a normal family house with solar panels on the roof,” he says.

This favors mass producers. The digital coin could be made more accessible by replacing the fixed production target of 1 MWh with dynamic production targets personalized to each producer, explains Kipiel.

For fintech tools like cryptocurrencies and crowdfunding platforms to move from the niche to the mainstream, regulation needs to catch up with innovation.

“We had to do a lot of lobbying to create a framework for Lumo to operate in,” says Raguet, saying that they became operationally functional only in 2014, when regulations had been put in place.

Now, Lumo and the Regional Center for Renewable Energies, based in La Crèche near Niort, are joining forces to develop participatory financing for solar photovoltaic projects on buildings belonging to local communities.

France wasn’t the only country in Europe with a lack of framework for such projects.

“For the energy transition to be successful it has to be at the European level,” says Raguet.

In this context, the CrowdFundRes project, in which the French platform is involved, aims to improve the regulatory framework and public understanding of crowdfunding for renewable energy projects.

Featured Image: SolarCoin reward symbols. No physical solar coins exist. (Photo courtesy Posted for media use.


Events: Women in Technology

Web Summit Women

Web Summit 2016, will be held in Lisbon this year and has become Europe’s Largest Technology Marketplace with over 50,000 attendees, 20,000 plus companies from over 150 countries.

The Summit has grown exponentially since it’s creation 6 years ago, which is perhaps a reflection of the general growth rate within the technology sector.

Though the number of companies and advancements in technology and clean technologies are increasing rapidly, the same can not be said for the number of women in technology fields.

Women have been in advanced technology since Hedy Lamarr played a key role in the invention of spread-spectrum technology (radio guidance technology) yet their numbers have never been more than an underrepresented small percent.

In January this year Elena Kvochko wrote for Forbes “Why There Are Still Few Women Leaders in Tech” the following is a section of the article that suggests that there is actually a decline in women in technology and computing sectors.

The role of women in technology has significantly stalled and, in some cases, even declined. In 2008, women on average held 25% of IT-related jobs in the US, a drop from the 36% occupied in 1991. Also, women between 25 and 34 are reporting increasing dissatisfaction with their tech careers. 56% leave their jobs at the highlight of their career, which is twice the quit rate for men. According to a Reuters study, 30% of 450 technology executives stated that their groups had no women in leadership positions. Women are becoming increasingly invisible in the thriving technology and computing sector, one of the top U.S industries and one of the fastest-growing professional occupations among U.S workers with an estimated 1.8 million jobs in computing by 2018, according to the U.S Department of Labor.

The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) released “Women in IT: By the Numbers“a single page overview of compelling statistics on women’s participation in IT.

Women in IT_By the Numbers

It states that 25% of professional computing occupations in the U.S, and only 17% of Fortune 500 Chief (CIO) positions were held by women in 2015.

When you look at technology industry events you find around 25% of speakers at tech events are women.

Women speakers made up around 2% of Web Summit’s past keynote speakers, though there are hopes that the percentage will increase this year.

In fact Web Summit is offering a €45 discount to female attendees to encourage more women within tech to take part in their upcoming technology conference.

If interested use the code: WSREM51815u to get tickets before Friday, July 15

There is hope for 2016 as AWS Public Sector Summit 2016  featured keynote speakers consisted mainly of women.  Panelist Beth Bergsmark, deputy CIO of Georgetown University was quote saying “If you are a woman in tech … be out there and let them see you,”  by Samantha Ehlinger in her recent article “Women in technology say it’s time to speak up, engage others

For more up coming events in various sectors including technology see the Maximpact Blog Events Page

WEF16: Promises and Perils of the Hi-Tech Revolution

Welcoming Remarks and Special Address: Handshake: Joseph R. Biden JR and Klaus SchwabBy Sunny Lewis

DAVOS-KLOSTERS, Switzerland, January 25, 2016 ( News) – At the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, 2,500 business, government and civil society leaders from over 100 countries visualized a future rich with technological advances as they addressed the forum’s theme, “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

On January 20, at the opening of the four-day meeting, Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, hammered home the critical importance of that theme.

“We must develop a comprehensive and globally shared view of how technology is affecting our lives and reshaping our economic, social, cultural, and human environments,” said Schwab. “There has never been a time of greater promise, or greater peril.”

The peril is real, as Pierre Nanterme, CEO of the Dublin-based international management consulting services company Accenture explained in Davos, warning, “Digital is the main reason just over half of the companies on the Fortune 500 have disappeared since the year 2000.”

On a Accenture-sponsored panel on People, Machines and the Digital Era, Andrew McAfee co-director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Initiative on the Digital Economy, said that while that not everyone is benefiting equally from automation and digital technologies, consumers and workers alike are becoming more comfortable with them.

On the side of promise, new research from Accenture shows that 60 percent of the employees polled see technology as improving their own jobs, and half said they believe digital technologies will create new job opportunities.

To avoid the perils of rapid technological change, the time to prepare for the next industrial revolution is now, urged Yale University Economics Professor Robert Shiller, who won the 2013 Nobel Prize in economics.

“You cannot wait until a house burns down to buy fire insurance on it,” Shiller said. “We cannot wait until there are massive dislocations in our society to prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

The promise is also real, as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recognized on the Forum’s opening day. “We don’t want technology simply because it’s dazzling,” he said. “We want it, create it and support it because it improves people’s lives.”

In his keynote address, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden defined the forum’s theme as “change fueled by a digital revolution, technologies emerging and intersecting at exponential speed and scale, dramatically increasing and improving productivity and economic growth and creating, God willing, new jobs and entirely new industries.”

“Will this revolution actually transform the global economy? And if it does will it be for the better or for the worse for humanity as a whole?” asked Biden, voicing questions on the minds of all participants.

“Some say the new technologies advances we see are impressive but inconsequential to the overall economy. Some argue that for developed countries sluggish economic growth is the new normal, so get used to it,” Biden said. “But I think we are already seeing that digital advances are consequential.”

Asked by President Barack Obama earlier this month to lead a “moonshot” to eliminate cancer, Biden said, “We are on the cusp of many new and anticipated breakthroughs in cancer treatment.” He mentioned vaccines to prevent cancer and personalized life-saving treatments.

Biden said, “I believe on balance these changes are for the good for people around the world. But they come with real peril, and they require us to be proactive.”

It wasn’t just technology that was on the participants’ minds in Davos. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry focused on what it will take to ensure “a future of decency and peace.”

“As usual, as we gather here in Davos in 2016, it’s obvious from my comments and your own discussions and everything we know about the world today, we face gigantic challenges. But please, we should remember that compared to any earlier generation, we have tremendous advantages,” said Kerry.

The U.S. chief diplomat struck a positive note despite acknowledging “savage terrorist crimes, populations racked by sectarian violence, social media marred by eruptions of hate, and millions of refugees risking everything to cross dangerous waters to reach freedom, to reach for a better life.”

And that better life is already happening, Kerry said, citing World Bank data that shows the world’s extreme poverty rate has fallen below 10 percent for the first time in history.

“Compared to 1987, when the World Economic Forum first met, the number of democracies has doubled and the number of nuclear weapons has fallen by two-thirds,” Kerry told WEF participants.

“A child today is more likely than ever before in history to be born healthy, more likely to be adequately fed, more likely to get the necessary vaccinations, more likely to attend school, and more likely to actually live a long life,” Kerry said. “Individuals and companies around the world thrive on new technologies that have made possible incredible breakthroughs in communications, education, health care, and economic growth.”

“All of this isn’t because any one country did something or because of what governments alone have done. It’s what happens when people, writ broadly, in faith-based groups, NGOs, governments, private sector, business all come together valuing skills and valuing dignity, respect the rights of each other, and when they believe in the possibilities of progress no matter how many setbacks are confronted along the way,” said Kerry.

A World Economic Forum initiative, the Global Shapers, is working to engage young people in creating the kind of progress Kerry was talking about.

The Global Shapers Community is a network of 454 Hubs developed and led by 5,548 young people in countries throughout the world.

The “Adopt a Goal” event held in Port Louis, the capital city of Mauritius, on January 19, the eve of the Forum, shows the power of these young Global Shapers’ belief in progress.

With the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals having officially come into force this month, the Port Louis Hub was keen to “bring it to the masses” and launch a wide-scale adoption of the 17 goals at individual levels.

Adopt a Goal aims to ensure that youth buy into the SDGs agenda and understand their critical role in making the agenda a reality by 2030. Over the next two months young people in Port Louis aim to collect 100 pledges of action from individuals, students, business leaders, NGOs and government officials.

The Port Louis Hub has more events and participants that any of the others. It was one of four Hubs connecting to Davos on the topic of Sustainability on January 21 with live-streaming video. This Hub proposed its own pledge: going plastic free, taking short showers and buying no clothes in 2016.

These goals may advance sustainability, but they may not advance world trade, at least in the packaging and garment sectors.

Still, in Davos, World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevêdo welcomed the positive mood about the WTO’s work. “People are optimistic about the WTO, and excited to work more closely with the organization. This was clear throughout my exchanges with governments and businesses in Davos.”

At an informal ministerial gathering on WTO issues hosted by the Swiss government on January 23, Azevêdo said, “We will need to see openness and flexibility on both substance and process if we are to make further progress.”

“This conversation must be inclusive,” he urged. “The private sector is very keen to get engaged. This is very welcome but again it should be inclusive. We should seek to hear from businesses of all sizes from both developed and developing countries, as well as from other areas of civil society.”

In the view of General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra, who also served as WEF 2016 co-chair, driving yourself to work in a petrol-powered car will soon be history.

“Technological change rarely advances smoothly. It advances in pulses. In revolutions,” Barra wrote in an article for the WEF 2016 audience.

“This pattern holds true in virtually every field, and each pulse opens the door to new innovations that revolutionize industries and, sometimes, society itself,” she wrote.

“Today, we are at the start of just such a revolution in the auto industry. It is part of the larger ‘fourth industrial revolution’ that is the theme and focus of this year’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum,” Barra wrote.

“In the auto industry, the revolution is being driven by the convergence of connectivity, electrification and changing customer needs. It is allowing automakers like GM to develop dramatically cleaner, safer, smarter and more energy-efficient vehicles for customers in every market around the world,” she explained.

“We are moving from an industry that, for 100 years, has relied on vehicles that are stand-alone, mechanically controlled and petroleum-fueled to ones that will soon be interconnected, electronically controlled and fueled by a range of energy sources.”

“I believe the auto industry will change more in the next five to 10 years than it has in the last 50,” wrote Barra, “and this gives us the opportunity to make cars more capable, more sustainable and more exciting than ever before.”

All these challenges are interlinked, said Professor Schwab, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution will require a holistic style of leadership, which views today’s global challenges as inherently connected.”

If a serious business meeting could be said to have a mascot at all, the Dancing Robot is the mascot for World Economic forum 2016.

If a serious business meeting could be said to have a mascot at all, the Dancing Robot is the mascot for World Economic forum 2016.

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Main image: DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 20JAN16 -Joseph R. Biden Jr (L), Vice-President of the United States of America shakes hands with Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum at the special addresse at the Annual Meeting 2016 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 20, 2016. (Creative commons license via Flickr – World Economic Forum)
Image 01: (Photo by Generation Grundeinkommen) creative commons license via Flickr

World Economic Forum Seeks to Shape Industrial Evolution


By Sunny Lewis

DAVOS-KLOSTERS, Switzerland, January 19, 2016 (ENS) – Forty heads of state and government, as well as 2,500 leaders from business and society will gather at the 46th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, from January 20 to 23 in Davos-Klosters, under the theme, Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Challenges such as security, climate change and “new normal” global growth and commodity prices, are among the issues on the agenda.

The co-chairs of the Annual Meeting 2016 are: Mary Barra, chairman and chief executive officer, General Motors; Sharan Burrow, general-secretary, International Trade Union Confederation; Satya Nadella, chief executive officer, Microsoft; Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman and chief executive officer, Hitachi; Tidjane Thiam, chief executive officer, Credit Suisse; and Amira Yahyaoui, founder, Al Bawsala and Global Shaper.

Fifty people under the age of 30 from throughout the world known as Global Shapers are participating in the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2016 to bring millennial perspectives to this year’s high-tech agenda.

The theme of this year’s forum taking place from January 20-26 is the idea that technological change is shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“We must have a comprehensive and globally shared understanding of how technology is changing our lives and that of future generations, transforming the economic, social, ecological and cultural contexts in which we live,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

“This is critical, in order to shape our collective future to reflect our common objectives and values,” Schwab said.

Driven by advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing and nanotechnology, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is transforming our society and economy.

The innovation at the intersections of these disciplines promises to change life in new and unforeseen ways and will affect every industry and society. Learning how humankind can benefit from this revolution, while addressing its challenges, is the central aim of this year’s Meeting.

The speed, breadth and systems innovations of new technologies will be explored in over 250 sessions; over 100 sessions will be webcast live.

The Global Shapers Community is a network of 454 city-based hubs led by young people working for positive change. The Global Shapers are leaders between the ages of 20 and 30 who self-organize to make an impact in their local communities.

Shaping Davos is a series of conversations that explore local solutions to global issues by engaging local stakeholders first and then connecting them to Davos in live two-way video conversations.

Global Shapers bring together mayors, business leaders, social activists and academics to discuss new technologies from a local perspective.

South African President Jacob Zuma, left with Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum Professor Klaus Schwab.

South African President Jacob Zuma, left with Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum Professor Klaus Schwab.


Then, they will share their insights with a global audience during live conversations webcast live at between Wednesday, January 20 and Saturday, January 23.

The topics and the participating cities in the Shaping Davos series are:

  • Creating 75 Million Entrepreneurs: Is this Possible? (Wednesday 20 January, 14.45 – 15.45 CET) Connecting cities: Accra, Muscat, Al Khobar, Ahmedabad
  • Public Service and Millennials: Closing the Generational Gap (Thursday 21 January, 17.00 – 17.00 CET) Connecting cities: Monterrey, Mumbai, Tunis, Kyiv
  • The Power of the Platform (Friday 22 January, 17.00 – 18.00 CET) Connecting cities: Berlin, Giza, New Delhi, Bangalore
  • A “Glocal” Approach to Sustainable Development (Thursday 21 January, 11.15 – 12.15 CET) Connecting cities: Riyadh, Chandigarh, Rabat, Port Louis
  • Reimagining Urban Life (Saturday 23 January, 11.30 – 12.30 CET) Connecting cities: Moscow, Pune, Jeddah, Islamabad

Heads of state and government who will be there include: David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; Ahmet Davutoğlu, Prime Minister of Turkey; Joachim Gauck, President of Germany; Mauricio Macri, President of Argentina; Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico; Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada; Alexis Tsipras, Prime Minister of Greece; Manuel Valls, Prime Minister of France; and Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa.

Johann Schneider-Ammann, President and Federal Councillor of Economic Affairs, Education and Research of the host country, Switzerland, will attend.

Other key government representatives who will be present are: Haidar Al Abadi, Prime Minister of Iraq; Habib Essid, Head of Government of Tunisia; Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan, Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel; Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia; Tammam Saeb Salam, President of the Council of Ministers of Lebanon; Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka; and Yury Trutnev, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia.

The U.S. delegation is led by Vice-President Joe Biden and Jill Biden. Also attending are John Kerry, Secretary of State; Ashton Carter, Secretary of Defense; Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services; Michael Froman, U.S. Trade Representative; Jacob Lew, Secretary of the Treasury; Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce; Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney-General; and Gayle Smith, head of USAID. Gregory Abbott, governor of Texas, John Hickenlooper, governor of Colorado, Gina Raimondo, governor of Rhode Island as well as five senators and eight congressmen will be participating.

Participants include more than 1,500 business leaders from the World Economic Forum’s 1,000 Member companies and the heads of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as well as the governors of the central banks of Canada, England, France, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Switzerland.

Success at the COP21 climate talks in Paris offers great hope that challenges facing other global commons can be tackled through new models of public-private cooperation as well as the application of breakthrough science and technology solutions.

Participants include Laurent Fabius, France’s minister of foreign affairs and president of COP21; Christiana Figueres, executive secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; and Al Gore, vice-president of the United States (1993-2001); currently chairman and co-founder, Generation Investment Management, USA.

The World Economic Forum’s 22nd Annual Crystal Awards will celebrate the achievements of leading artists who have shown exemplary commitment to improving the state of the world. This year’s awardees are: actress Yao Chen; actor and film producer Leonardo DiCaprio; artist Olafur Eliasson; and musician and entrepreneur

Talent and engagement are strong, but risks are high. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2016 finds risks on the rise in 2016.

In this year’s annual survey, some 750 experts assessed 29 separate global risks for both impact and likelihood over a 10-year time horizon.

The risk with the greatest potential impact in 2016 was found to be a failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation. This is the first time since the report was published in 2006 that an environmental risk has topped the ranking.

In 2016, climate change was considered to have greater potential damage than weapons of mass destruction, water crises, large-scale involuntary migration, and severe energy price shock.

Cecilia Reyes, chief risk officer of Zurich Insurance Group, said, “Climate change is exacerbating more risks than ever before in terms of water crises, food shortages, constrained economic growth, weaker societal cohesion and increased security risks.”

“Meanwhile, geopolitical instability is exposing businesses to cancelled projects, revoked licenses, interrupted production, damaged assets and restricted movement of funds across borders,” said Reyes. “These political conflicts are in turn making the challenge of climate change all the more insurmountable – reducing the potential for political co-operation, as well as diverting resource, innovation and time away from climate change resilience and prevention.”

Notes to Editor:

  • More information about Shaping Davos
  • More information about the Global Shapers Community, visit
  • Follow the Global Shapers on Twitter at @globalshapers
  • List of the 50 Global Shapers at Annual Meeting 2016 in Davos
  • Become a fan of the Global Shapers on Facebook at https.//
  • Meet the Curators on our widget http.//

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Image 01: Much planning and advance work goes into each annual World Economic Forum meeting. Here, South African President Jacob Zuma, left, holds bilateral meeting with the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum Professor Klaus Schwab ahead of the 25th WEF on Africa Plenary. (Photo: GCIS) under creative commons license via Flickr

UK, China Collaborate on Low Carbon Cities

By Sunny Lewis

BEIJING, China, November 25, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Researchers from universities in China and the United Kingdom are putting their heads together to reduce carbon emissions from cities in both countries.

Four newly funded research projects aim to develop an overall understanding of current buildings, mobility and energy services to help urban planners lower climate-changing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions while keeping residents comfortable and moving efficiently.

One new project is directed towards integrating low carbon vehicles, such as electric cars, into urban planning.

The other three will tackle existing buildings to provide energy efficient lighting, heating and cooling, as well as indoor environmental quality.

Meeting the pressing carbon emission reduction targets expected to emerge from the upcoming Paris climate talks will require a major shift in the performance of buildings, say scientists in both countries.

The projects were announced as Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the UK October 20-23.

The UK will spend over £3 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and China will contribute equivalent financial resources from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC).

EPSRC’s chief executive Professor Philip Nelson, a Fellow of The Royal Academy of Engineering, said, “The aim of this UK-China research collaboration will be to reduce worldwide CO2 [carbon dioxide] production and ensure energy security and affordability.

“The projects build on the strength of our internationally renowned research and will benefit both the UK and Chinese economies,” said Nelson.

Professor Che Chengwei, deputy director general of NSFC’s Department of Engineering and Material Sciences, said, “NSFC has been working closely with EPSRC for several years to address challenges related to achieving a low-carbon economy.”

“This latest programme, with a focus on future urban environments, will build substantially stronger links between Chinese and UK research communities in relevant areas,” said Che. “It will also brighten the future bilateral collaboration between both countries.”

BYDelectricTaxiLondonCaption: In a London parking garage, electric taxis by Chinese automaker BYD, which stands for Build Your Dream, await their drivers, April 2015

The four funded projects are:

  1. Low Carbon Transitions of Fleet Operations in Metropolitan Sites to be researched at Newcastle University (NCL), Imperial College London, and Southeast University (SEU)

Low carbon vehicle fleets for personal mobility and freight could contribute to reducing the climate impact of urban transport and improve local traffic and air quality conditions.

But uncertainties remain on the demand for fleet services and effective fleet operations, especially for electric vehicles, where interaction with the power grid becomes a critical issue.

A range of new business models for the operation of urban freight and fleet services are emerging, enabled by new information and communications technologies.

This will provide an integrated planning and deployment strategy for multi-purpose low carbon fleets. It will devise operational business models for maximum economic viability and environmental effectiveness.

  1. City-Wide Analysis to Propel Cities towards Resource Efficiency and Better Wellbeing, to be researched at University of Southampton and Xi’an University of Architecture & Technology

This project is focused on two cities – Xi’an, China and Portsmouth, UK, both known for their cultural heritage and their population density.

On the southern coast of England, Portsmouth, population 205,000, is the densest city in the UK. Landlocked Xi’an in central China has a population of 5.56 million.

Both cities have published ambitious plans for reducing city-wide carbon emissions but both have lots of aging buildings and infrastructure. The project focuses on the likely impact of building refurbishments on human wellbeing and on carbon emissions.

The researchers will gather real energy use information through sensor deployments and surveys of building residents to identify low disruption and scaled-up retrofit methods.

They will model neighborhood and district retrofits and systems integration, including building refurbishment, district energy and micro-generation to improve buildings for their users.

They are expected to identify smart solutions that will reduce energy consumption and meet mobility needs while pursuing carbon reduction targets.

  1. The Total Performance of Low Carbon Buildings in China and the UK, to be researched by University College London (UCL)  and Tsinghua University

The potential unintended consequences of the inter-linked issues of energy and indoor environmental quality (IEQ) present a complex challenge that is gaining increasing importance in the UK and in China, these researchers say.

They will address the total performance of buildings to reduce the energy demand and carbon emissions while safeguarding productivity and health.

This project will address the policies and regulatory regimes that relate to energy/IEQ, the assessment techniques used and the ways that buildings are utilized.

An initial monitoring campaign in both countries will compare the same types of buildings in the two contexts and how energy/IEQ performance varies between building type and country.

Researchers will assemble a unique database relating to the interlinked performance gaps. They can then develop semi-automated building assessment methods, technologies and tools to determine the most cost-effective route to remedy the underlying root causes of energy/IEQ under performance.

A second stream of work will address the unintended consequences of decarbonizing the built environment, research already taking place at the University College London.

  1. Low carbon climate-responsive Heating and Cooling of Cities, to be researched by the University of Cambridge, University of Reading and Chongqing University

This project focuses on delivering economic and energy-efficient heating and cooling to city areas of different population densities and climates.

It confronts ways of offering greater winter and summer comfort within China’s Hot Summer/Cold Winter climate zone while mitigating vast amounts of carbon emitted by burning fossil fuels for heating and cooling.

It concentrates on recovering value from the existing building stock of some 3.4 billion square meters, where more than half a billion people live and work.

The cross-disciplinary team of engineers, building scientists, atmospheric scientists, architects and behavioral researchers in China and UK will measure real performance in new and existing buildings in Chinese cities.

They will investigate the use of passive and active systems within integrated design and re-engineering to improve living conditions and comfort levels in the buildings.

The researchers will compare their findings with existing UK research examining the current and future environmental conditions within the whole National Health Service (NHS) Hospital Estate in England to find practical economic opportunities for improvement while saving carbon at the rate required by ambitious NHS targets.

They will propose detailed practical and economic low and very low carbon options for re-engineering the dominant building types and test them in the current climate with its extreme events.

To ease China’s adaptation, recently published research “Air Pollution in China: Mapping of Concentrations and Sources” shows that China’s carbon emissions have been substantially over-estimated by international agencies for more than 10 years

From 2000-2013 China produced 2.9 gigatonnes less carbon than previous estimates of its cumulative emissions.

The findings suggest that overestimates of China’s emissions during this period may be larger than China’s estimated total forest sink – a natural carbon store – in 1990-2007 (2.66 gigatonnes of carbon) or China’s land carbon sink in 2000-2009 (2.6 gigatonnes of carbon).

Published in August in the journal “Nature,” the revised estimates of China’s carbon emissions were produced by an international team of researchers, led by Harvard University, the University of East Anglia, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Tsinghua University, in collaboration with 15 other international research institutions.

Low Carbon Cities forms part of the Low Carbon Innovation programme, a £20 million three-year investment announced in March 2014.

Facilitated by Research Councils UK (RCUK) China, the first team established outside Europe by the UK Research Councils, this programme builds on five years of collaborative energy research funded jointly by China and the UK.

To date, RCUK China has provided over £160 million in co-funded programmes, supporting 78 UK-China research projects that have involved more than 60 universities and 50 industry partners in both countries.

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: Buildings of all shapes and sizes enliven Shanghai, which is in China’s Hot Summer/Cold Winter climate zone. (Photo by Mike Lutz under creative commons license via Flickr)
Slide images: A. Climate-changing emissions cloud the air in the Chinese city of Xi’an, December 2013 (Photo by Edward Stojakovic under creative commons license via Flickr) B. The densely populated coastal English city of Portsmouth is under study by Chinese and British scientists as a potentially low carbon city. (Photo by Lawrie Cate under creative commons license via Flickr)
Image 01. In a London parking garage, electric taxis by Chinese automaker BYD, which stands for Build Your Dream, await their drivers, April 2015. (Photo by Mic V. under creative commons license via Flickr)

Pentagon Awards New Flexible Hybrid Electronics Hub to Silicon Valley

Flexible Hybrid Electronics

By Sunny Lewis

SAN JOSE, California, August 31, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Smart bandages, soft robotics for the injured, wearable electronics and self-monitoring weapons systems are among the innovations expected from a new flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing institute to be created in Silicon Valley.

After a nationwide bidding process, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter Friday announced the award of the Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Flexible Hybrid Electronics to a public-private consortium based in San Jose.

The seventh new manufacturing institute created by the Obama Administration since 2012 is a consortium of 96 companies, 41 universities, 14 state and local government organizations, and 11 labs and non-profits.

“This is one of my core goals as Secretary of Defense,” said Carter, announcing the award at Moffett Airfield, “renewing the ties, the bonds of trust between our national security endeavor at the Pentagon, and our wonderful, innovative, open technology community of companies and universities that make up one of America’s great strengths.”

The new institute will receive $75 million in Department of Defense funding over five years, matched with more than $90 million from industry, academia, and local governments, for a total of $171 million to advance flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing.

It will be managed by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and led by the FlexTech Alliance, a research consortium and trade association.

Jennifer Ernst, who chairs the FlexTech Alliance Governing Board and serves as chief strategy officer of Thin Film Electronics, said, “Flexible electronics are already re-shaping multiple markets, with a growing demand from customers. This initiative is a catalyst that ensures the U.S. will benefit from the industry’s commercial growth, with deep supply chains, multiple product developers and integrators participating.”

At the intersection of high precision printing and next generation sensors, hybrid electronics uses advanced flexible materials for circuits, communications, sensors and power combined with thinned silicon chips.

By packaging electronic components on flexible stretchable substrate, these devices can be attached to curved, irregular surfaces and stretched across buildings, objects, and humans.

Carter envisions seamless printing of lightweight, flexible structural integrity sensors right onto the surfaces of ships and aircraft, or folded into cracks and crevices where rigid circuit boards and bulky wiring could never fit.

“We’ll be able to have real-time damage reports,” he said. “Our troops will be able to lighten their loads with sensors and electronic gear embedded in their clothing, and wounded warriors will benefit from smart prosthetics that have the full flexibility of human skin.”

Embedded sensors will be able to monitor the state of commercial automobiles and aircraft operating in harsh conditions such as undersea pressure or extreme temperature.

U.S. Congressman Mike Honda, a Democrat who represents San Jose and Silicon Valley, worked with Congress to bring the institute to Silicon Valley.

At the award announcement, Honda said, “Headquartering this Flexible Hybrid Electronics hub in San Jose ensures that the best of Silicon Valley’s tremendous academic, commercial, industrial, public, and labor resources are available to bridge the technology transfer gap and develop this emerging, game-changing technology as it reshapes the electronics industry and brings good-paying, middle-class manufacturing jobs to the Bay Area.”

After a decade of decline in the 2000s, when 40 percent of all large U.S. factories closed their doors, American manufacturing is adding jobs at its fastest rate in decades, with nearly 900,000 new manufacturing jobs created since February 2010.

PHOTO: Electronic components on flexible stretchable substrate (Photo courtesy FlexTech Alliance)

The Evolving Meaning of Sustainability

By Marta Maretich  @maximpactdotcombaby hands plant

Sustainability is a key concept for our times. For impact investors who want to put their capital behind better ways of doing business, it’s an important indicator of investability. But what exactly do we mean when we say “sustainability” or “sustainable”?

The dictionary sheds a little light.

1. Conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources.
2. Able to be upheld or defended.

Originally taken from the biological sciences, the term sustainability first referred to conservation of natural resources. Though it retains this meaning, sustainability today can mean different things in different contexts. Sustainability in its classic sense and new uses of the term are proliferating as sustainability goes mainstream in business and popular culture.

The mainsteaming of classic sustainability

The definition is changing as the movement goes mainstream. More businesses are taking steps to incorporate sustainability into their operations as well as their performance metrics; national governments are regulating and incentivizing it in a number of new ways. Meanwhile investors are increasingly making non-financial performance, including sustainability, a priority when choosing where to place capital.

All this means that “sustainability” is an evolving idea with increasingly diverse interpretations. Most sustainability efforts still focus on the environment, however, with an emphasis on maintaining ecosystems and conserving natural resources for future use.

Sustainable forestry: Saving forest habitats has been an active area for impact investors. Despite the collapse of carbon markets, organizations like Rainforest Alliance are expanding their activities. Certification schemes like the FSC are helping sustainably sourced wood to become standard in building and consumer goods.

IrrigationSustainable agriculture: Impact intermediaries like Root Capital and development organizations like OPIC have developed successful models for promoting sustainability in agriculture. Encouraged by government regulation and subsidies, big agribusiness companies like Monsanto and multinationals like Coca Cola, are now pursuing sustainability strategies.

Sustainable water use: With changing climate in places like California driving the adoption of more sustainable water policies, businesses and services are springing up to meet a newly-defined demands. Driven by regulation, large multinationals including Unilever are beginning to look at water sustainability from a number of angles: their own use, water use by suppliers, and the water needed to use their products.

Sustainable mining: Mineral extraction is a sector with a raft of social and environmental issues and has been avoided by many social investors. That may change as groups like the IIED work to build the commitment to sustainability across the industry.

Sustainable energy: The focus is on wind, water, solar and other forms of generation and storage, such as hydrogen cell batteries. A popular area for impact investors, even designer Vivienne Westwood has committed GBP£1 million to sustainable energy. Big fossil fuel companies are also putting money into it. Though their motives are often questioned, it is a sign of how far the notion of sustainability is becoming part of the fabric of corporate life in the developed world.

Sustainable consumer goods

Sustainability has taken on a new meaning in consumer markets as it has become a persuasive selling point for everyday goods and services. Public enthusiasm remains high for brands with sustainability credentials and sustainable practices, far from being unusual, are now what consumers expect of businesses.

Sustainable fashion: The fashion industry has been thriving in a throwaway culture, but the photograph of a lady in a dress of flowerssustainable fashion movement hopes to change attitudes and move toward sustainability. To keep up with this vibrant movement, follow top tweeters in fashion sustainability and check out the five top sustainable fashion stories of 2014.

Sustainable building: Changing the way we build and design cities could make a huge difference to our future and, increasingly, governments are regulating for sustainability in construction processes, materials and design. This is reshaping the construction industry, especially in the developed world. Construction companies are adapting the way they source and use products and materials and new education centers, like this one at Harvard, and this one in Edinburgh, are training the sustainable builders of the future.

Sustainable tourism: More people are taking vacations than ever before, but increasingly tourists want to avoid damaging the environment, squandering natural resources or hurting local communities. The global travel industry is waking up to this fact and offering sustainable tourism to the masses. Portals such as Sustainable Tourism Online provide go-to resources for the public and professionals who want tourism to be good for the planet and the communities in host countries.

Evolving meanings: Financial sustainability

Beyond its original, environmental meaning, sustainability has recently developed a financial meaning that applies in some sectors. Governments strive to make public services “sustainable”. Non-profit organisations try to create “sustainable” programs to deliver mission. In this context, sustainable can mean both environmentally sound or financially viable for the future or both.

Sustainable healthcare: Concerns about being able to afford healthcare for citizens in the future is driving innovation in healthcare delivery and finance models.In a bold move, the UK health service, the NHS, is embracing both environmental and financial sustainability.

Sustainable transportation: Concerns about climate change, contracting budgets and public pressure are encouraging many governments, including China’s,  to organize public transportation policies around sustainable principles, in both the financial and evironmental senses.

Sustainable finance: In a final evolution, “sustainable finance” seeks to apply the principles of sustainability to banking and investment. Impact investing and its sister disciplines across the spectrum of social finance including responsible investing, ethical investing, social investing and microfinance form part of this growing movement, which seeks to revolutionize the use of market methods to create better social and environmental outcomes.  Sustainable finance methods are now being put to use in a wide, and growing, range of contexts, with new techniques and approaches developing across the sector. For more on sustainable finance,  browse the top five stories in sustainable finance for 2014.


Sustainability has moved from the margins to the mainstream and is now a widely-accepted approach being incorporated into many areas of business, finance and the consumer marketplace. As it continues to expand its influence, sustainability will continue to evolve new meanings and serve as a paradigm for conservation and wise stewardship of the environment, human and natural resources and, now, capital. This movement is positive, but for impact investors seeking sustainable investments, it will mean taking a closer look at all claims for sustainability and determining exactly what is meant.

Want to comment? Tell us how you are innovating in sustainability? Tweet us @maximpactdot com

The New Energy Landscape: A Roadmap for Impact and Sustainable Investors

By Marta Maretich, Maximpact Chief Editor @maximpactdotcom

Energy is set to be a key global concern for the foreseeable future; and to continue to be an important focus for the impact and sustainable investing sector.

The reasons for this are familiar by now: fossil fuels are becoming scarcer, energy costs are rising, levels of industrialization are increasing, as is global prosperity, bringing increased demand for energy as well as unwanted side effects from its use, like pollution.

Climate change is another factor driving interest in energy. A series of reports from the IPCC are shining a light on the urgent need to change the way we use energy as well as the types of energy we use. According its recent report, energy is responsible for 47% of the increase in anthropogenic (man-made) CO2 emissions; fossil fuel byproducts linked to climate change. High carbon-intensity energy, related to economic growth in developing countries, is an important contributor. These statistics mean that energy use is set to become an important front in the battle against runaway climate change.

Whether or not you accept the idea of man-made climate change, there’s little doubt that the IPCC’s reports will affect the outlook for investing in the energy sector. Right now, the UN is using them to inform its process of forging a new international convention on climate change. When this framework emerges in 2015, this in turn will have implications as governments react by establishing new policies, setting regulation and, probably, funneling more public money into mitigation measures.

All these factors; plus the fact that new technologies and approaches are proliferating; are making energy a focus for investors of all kinds, despite the fact that some alternative energy markets have proven volatile in the past. Today there are more ways to invest in energy than ever before and everyone seems to be looking for the technologies that will replace fossil fuels in our investment portfolios as well as our economies.

A multitude of solutions

Developments recent years seem to indicate that seeking a single solution to the energy question is the wrong approach. It’s more probable that there will be a wide array of approaches that form a patchwork of solutions for different applications. Many of these will be local, rooted in culture and geography, and investors who know how to spot an opportunity at the local level will reap the benefits, as will those who know how to support energy businesses as they scale up and roll out products and services on a wider basis.

But there is much more still to do if we are to meet growing energy demands while at the same time cutting emissions. Fortunately, there’s also increased scope for investing as the clean and green energy market grows and diversifies. Here are some of the areas to watch:

Known values

Solar power, wind power and hydroelectric generation businesses have long been staples in impact and sustainable investment portfolios. Global growth in the uptake of these technologies has been significant overall, at least partly due to government subsidies and policy support, and the worldwide demand for solar and wind power continues to skyrocket. Since 2009, global solar photovoltaic installations increased about 40% per year on average, and the installed capacity of wind turbines has doubled.

Against this background, some investors, like Triodos with its renewable energy fund, have already garnered considerable experience in investing in diverse energy solutions including hydroelectric, wind and solar. Others, like the Global Environment Facility (GEF) have been instrumental in financing specific energy technologies to fit local needs in countries as diverse as China, Mexico and Egypt.

Impact capital has played a role in bringing these technologies forward and rolling them out into new markets, sometimes riding the roller coaster of a new investment sector, as in the case of solar power. As a result, renewables now represent an evolved market and continue to have strong returns. With future outlooks positive, especially in light of advances such as new approaches to managing existing grids and new technologies coming online to improve energy storage thus making wind power more viable, these sectors remain good bets as we move into 2014.

IPCC top energy picks

The IPCC weighs into the energy debate with a new report flagging its top picks for alternative energy sources to lead climate change mitigation measures. In it, zero-carbon technologies join low-carbon ones, with both seen as essential to success. The list of top technologies they cite is controversial (even deeply flawed, according to some critics), yet the IPCC’s recommendations may turn out to be influential as the global conversation about new energy sources evolves. Certainly, it pays impact and sustainable investors to consider how they could usefully engage with these sectors.

Nuclear power

In a post-Fukushima world, nuclear power is more controversial than ever. Germany, a global leader in greening its energy sector, is set to phase out nuclear power entirely by 2030.

Nonetheless nuclear power is central to the IPCC’s plans for climate change mitigation. Though certainly not a “renewable”, as the report claims it is, nuclear is nonetheless a zero-carbon source of power and may be an option in some situations. Despite its drawbacks of danger and waste, it appeals to countries worried about energy security as well as those trying to wean themselves away from using polluting coal as a main source of energy. For these reasons, worldwide nuclear capacity is increasing annually, with countries such as Spain and the USA stepping up production. New reactors are going up in many counties including Taiwan, China, South Korea and Russia.

All this activity may hold opportunities for impact and sustainable investors who believe that nuclear may offer the best hope for a carbon-neutral future; as well as those who are willing to back an unpopular industry as it develops better, safer technologies. The good news is that advances in technology may change the outlook for nuclear soon. Molten salt reactors; which so far exist only on paper; could produce 20 times more power per plant, cast half the price of existing reactors and consume, rather than produce, nuclear waste. It’s worth noting that China has pledged to build one before 2050 and western countries too fastidious to take the risk may miss an important opportunity here.

Energy efficiency

The drive toward greater efficiency in energy use is already underway as rising fuel costs push consumers in every sector to find ways to get more out of their energy spending. The search for energy efficiency will create business opportunities in a number of industries including construction, where energy-saving design is becoming the norm, and transportation, where more efficient vehicles are cutting fuel bills for individual consumers, companies and municipalities.

Manufacturing will be an important growth area when in comes to energy efficiency. According to a recent survey, energy use is becoming an issue for top managers who now see it as key to bottom-line success. The drive for efficiency will create opportunities for growing businesses in consultancy and service delivery, too, as companies seek expert advice on how to optimize their specific processes: just six percent would know where to turn for more tailored advice, a recent survey reveals, and this is seen by managers as a significant barrier to investing in energy saving measures.


Biofuels have come in for a lot of criticism in recent years and now the United Nations has released a report officially warning that growing crops to make “green” biofuel harms the environment and drives up food prices. Still, biofuels are central to the mitigation pathways proposed by the IPCC, a fact that some critics, like environmental groups Biofuel Watch and the Global Forest Coalition, have attacked as “false” and “confused”.

This may not be sufficient reason to exclude biofuels from a green energy future, however. Promising new technologies, particularly those that convert waste into biofuel, may yet put this sector back on the map for impact and sustainable investors. A recent study found that biofuels derived from paper, wood and food waste could provide 16% of fuel needed for road transportation in Europe by 2030. On the other hand, the report warns that the successful commercialisation of these advanced biofuel technologies now depends on political leadership and adequate policies, a scenario that industry insiders fear is a long way off.


Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS or Bio-CCS) is another controversial technology central to the IPCC’s mitigation measures report. The process involves power plants burning biomass to generate electricity with the carbon created being extracted and stored underground for “geological timescales”. BECCS could potentially provide large amounts of carbon-zero electricity, yet there are doubts about how viable, or safe, it would prove in practice and so far no working plants are up and running. It may be years before BECCS can prove its worth; but watch this space as the idea of carbon capture as a necessary measure for achieving carbon neutrality gains ground.

And don’t forget…

In many ways, the IPCC recommendations for the future are notable for the many technologies they leave out of their vision of a low- and zero-carbon energy future. A quick scan of the alternative energy sector reveals a wealth of new approaches and processes the report ignores: micro-generation, hydrogen fuel cells and smart grids, to name only a few. There’s evidence, too, that large public utility companies are starting to change the way they provide energy, making them justifiable investments for impact and sustainable investors. Lifestyle changes leading to reduced energy consumption will also create attractive business opportunities, for example in the areas of smart metering, transportation and green building.

The list is long; and, happily, getting longer. Impact and sustainable investors would do well to have a good look around before deciding where to put their capital.

How to pick a winner

With all of these opportunities open to impact and sustainable investors, the challenge may be finding an effective focus when investing in energy. Where should we invest for maximum impact and delivering the most benefit?

To answer this question, investors should review their core values, determine their appetite for risk, and keep in mind the definitions provided by bodies like the World Economic Forum and GIIN. Employing evaluative tools like ESG and SROI can help narrow the search for the right place to put your capital, especially when it comes to mainstream investments.

In a rapidly changing energy landscape, however, there is no substitute for keeping informed. New technologies are coming online almost weekly. Known technologies are evolving, as is the political and regulatory climate. Investors with their ear glued to the ground and their feelers out will have the best chance of making the impact they want to make.

But the point isn’t just to pick a winner. Regardless of how effective the social investing sector is in bringing needed capital to a new energy landscape, there’s a bigger problem on the horizon, one that should concern all of us.

Despite massive IPCC reports and high-profile efforts by international bodies like the UN, there’s concern that the political will to deal with the problems caused by our energy use just isn’t there. C02 emissions have risen since 2010 and, with the upturn in the world economy, it doesn’t look like they’ll be falling any time soon. Global surveys indicate most world citizens are more concerned about economic development than they are about climate change. And look what happened to the flawed carbon trading system and the now defunct Kyoto agreement, our last attempts to tackle this issue.

Clearly, business as usual will only result in the deepening of our shared crisis. If impact and sustainable investors really want to make a difference to our future, they will have to do their part to fundamentally change the way business and finance works; and to convince others; governments, businesspeople, the public; that our way can deliver sustainable development and a viable future for the planet. To succeed at this, we will have to demonstrate that impact and sustainable approaches to finance really work. Let’s just hope we can do it in time.

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Image credit: lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo

The IPCC Summary Report on Climate Change: What it Means for Impact Investing

By Marta Maretich

On 27 September 2013, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the first of three volumes of its fifth Assessment Report (AR5). The long-awaited report summary emerged amid a flurry of media coverage and a volley of commentary, both pro and contra. Its main conclusions were clear, however: climate change is real, its effects are already measurable, and it is being caused by human activity.

AR5 Summary Highlights

– Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident in most regions of the globe.

– Warming in the climate system is unequivocal.

– Global surface temperature change for the end of the 21st century is projected to be likely to exceed 1.5°C relative to 1850 to 1900 in all but the lowest scenario considered, and likely to exceed 2ºC for the two high scenarios

– Projections of climate change are based on a new set of four scenarios of future greenhouse gas concentrations and aerosols, spanning a wide range of possible futures. The Working Group I report assessed global and regional-scale climate change for the early, mid-, and later 21st century.

Source: the UK government

The summary report has sparked controversy worldwide.

Some rushed to embrace the findings while others immediately set out to disprove the science and question the motives behind it. The world’s reaction is a measure of how emotive; and divisive; the issue of anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change has become for governments, businesses and individuals in the years since the first IPCC report in 1990. With passionate feelings on both sides, the controversy is set to continue.

Challenging times for believers

The report’s publication follows a rough period for those who believe that climate change poses a threat to life on earth. In 2001, the US, under the administration of George W. Bush, rejected the Kyoto agreement on global warming. Flaws in the AR4, IPCC’s 2007 report; among them the apparent claim that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035; drew intense fire from critics and distracted attention away from AR4’s core findings. They provided more fuel for the so-called climate change deniers; those who hold that global warming is a hoax or a conspiracy to slow progress.

From 2008, the economic crisis prompted world leaders to put economic growth ahead of environmental protection, with many governments backing away from previous emission-lowering commitments. The worldwide carbon market, including the EU’s cap-and-trade scheme, essentially collapsed in 2012, leaving questions about its efficacy as a means to control emissions.

Against this background the summary report comes as a wakeup call from the most respected source of climate science the world has. The new report has been widely accepted as the most convincing body of evidence of climate change and the human role in it so far. For impact investors, it could have profound importance on many levels.

What does it mean for the impact investing sector?

It’s fairly safe to say that most of those involved in the impact investing sector are already convinced of the reality of climate change. Many already focus their investing activity on areas relating to climate change such as agriculture and agribusiness, food security, forestry, land and water use, waste management and reduction, clean and renewable energy, energy efficiency and cleantech. For this reason, it’s likely that impact intermediaries, impact investing funds and social entrepreneurs will take the IPCC report as a renewed call to action.

However, the new IPCC report will change the impact investing landscape for everyone. Impact investors will see the effects of changes in government policy, the attitude of big business and international public opinion.
What will be some of the main currents affecting our impact investing strategies?

Governments respond with policy

The release of the summary report was a huge event, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the IPCC findings. The 19th annual meeting of the UN Climate Change Convention will be held in Warsaw from 11-22 November. At this meeting, the IPCC will deliver further scientific evidence to diplomats in order to facilitate policy decisions. A new legal commitment with respect to carbon emission will then be drawn up, replacing the 1994 accord. This is scheduled to take effect by 2015.

In preparation for these events, governments across the world are already formulating their policy stances. There are questions about how individual governments will react in the face of the new evidence. Climate change remains highly controversial in some developed countries, notably the US and Australia where it has become an issue that divides the political left and right. India, China and other rapidly industrializing countries are also wary: they have so far been unprepared to agree emissions cuts unless more developed countries do the same. Meanwhile island nations like Tuvalu, and South Asian countries like Bangladesh, both highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, argue for a robust international response.

For impact investors, one thing is certain: there will be a new legal framework guiding climate change policy worldwide in 2015. Whatever the shape of this framework, it will change the investing landscape in many countries and have far-reaching effects for impact investors in many parts of the world. Much will depend on the structure and extent of the new laws, which will be hotly debated by governments. Regardless of the outcome, things will change for impact investors. The direct effects will be felt through the policies, programs and incentives governments create in response.

Where governments take a lead

In places where government policy supports pro-climate investing there are likely to be more opportunities for collaborative investments working across government agencies, impact intermediaries, impact funds and private investors.

Collaborative cross-sectoral arrangements are already a characteristic of the impact investing world. In the UK, Sustainable Development Capital was awarded £50 million by the UK government’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills to invest in energy efficiency infrastructure projects. Big Society Capital, an independent fund created by the government, invests in many climate-friendly initiatives, especially in cleantech, energy efficiency, and sustainable energy for disadvantaged communities in Britain.

The UK provides what is probably the best current example of a dynamic government-lead approach to market-based social investing. As other governments take action to meet new policy commitments, they will be looking for solutions and partners.

Seasoned impact intermediaries and funds; of which there are a growing number; can bring specialist skills and knowledge to collaborative cross-sectoral arrangements for financing impactful businesses. They are also in position to benefit from government subsidies and tax incentives focused on meeting carbon reduction targets. For these reasons, the ability to work for and with government could prove essential for impact investors and the businesses they finance.

..and where they don’t

Where government leadership is lacking; and incentives such as tax breaks, subsidies and government co-investment are not forthcoming; global development agencies, philanthropic organizations, activists and impact investors will have to take the initiative in catalyzing the response to climate change. This may not be a bad thing: some commentators believe that private action, not government intervention, will be the key front in the fight against human-caused climate change. There’s already evidence that governments have been scaling back their commitments to climate change action and pushing responsibility onto NGOs and private companies, while private investors have been picking up the slack.

Many organizations and activists have been operating this way for decades and will continue to do so regardless of what governments do in response to the IPCC findings. The US provides many examples. The same country that rejected the Kyoto Protocol; and produced some of the most virulent and well-funded examples of climate change denial; has also given the world some of the most progressive models of local and state support for climate-friendly businesses and approaches.

This independence has made parts of the US leaders in areas like clean energy, energy efficiency, renewables, organic and sustainable agriculture and sustainable forestry. The States boasts some of the most mature markets in these new kinds of businesses, proving that federal government policy needn’t be an obstacle to progress.

The new markets remain volatile and, despite everything, still subject to the effects of government policy and subsidy (the rollercoaster of cleantech provides one example). Yet it looks as though these market areas will grow as communities and values-driven businesses, if not governments, look for new ways to react to climate change. This could be a growth area for impact investors and businesses.

Mainstream businesses go greener

Large multinational corporations and mainstream business will also feel the effect of the new climate change policies at ground level; and this will have a knock-on effect for impact investors and the businesses they capitalize.

All businesses will need to respond to the international regulations that grow out of the new IPCC report findings. More directly, they will need to meet national and regional standards set locally, and these too will be affected by the report. There also seems to be a feeling in the corporate sector that an upturn in the economy will leave them freer to take steps toward carbon emissions reduction. Many see a “green” profile as key to their corporate image. A growing number of organizations in the developed world are making sustainability a core value in their operations and employing sustainability professionals to help them achieve it.

All this will drive the market for services that support sustainability and carbon emission reduction in companies; for example, consultancies that help organizations shrink their carbon footprint and conserve resources. This will create a possible growth area for impact business-to-business providers, offering services that embed sustainability and carbon-thrift into corporate operations practice.

CSR, now a norm for business, will continue to play a key role in the business/government/climate change triangle. Already an important factor, CSR will become more central as the need for businesses to meet emissions targets increases under new regulations; and new, very real resource pressures anticipated by the IPCC report. A closer relationship between CSR and impact investing could open new avenues for corporations to use their considerable resources for good. Supports like the impact business CSR Hub, which helps track the effectiveness of CSR efforts, will help businesses hone their choices and give the public information about the real effect of corporate claims.

Beyond this, there’s a trend toward mainstreaming businesses that once were considered alternative. Words like sustainability, clean or green technology, renewable and clean energy; all important areas for lowering carbon emissions; already feature prominently in the reports of large multinational companies. General Electric invests in renewable energy projects, while ExxonMobile has programs for reducing its greenhouse emissions and innovating carbon capture technologies and biofuels made from algae. This is largely an effect of earlier government regulation on emissions. But it’s partly due to public pressure and, for some of the companies, canny strategic positioning for a future where business will have to be energy efficient to be successful.

The fact that these companies continue non-climate friendly business practices alongside these progressive ones leaves them open to the accusation of greenwashing from some quarters. Nonetheless, these examples are evidence of a mainstreaming of climate-friendly technologies and approaches in business. This trend suggests that the demand for them will continue and increase, especially as resources, such as fossil fuels, arable land and water become more scarce, as the IPCC findings seem to indicate they will.

This “greening” trend among multinationals could create opportunities for impact intermediaries, dynamic impact enterprises and engaged impact investors. Those who successfully bridge what’s been called the “pioneer gap” and manage to scale up socially and environmentally beneficial businesses to the point where they can join the mainstream, will be able to attract investment by multinationals and a wider pool of “neutral” investors; those for whom positive impact goals are not a motive for investment. This could increase the flow of capital into beneficial enterprises exponentially; and finally establish impact investing as a normal way to do finance.

Reducing Carbon Emissions: Key sectors for impact investment

(Maximpact Deal Listing)Agriculture




Renewable Energy

Energy Efficiency


Waste Reduction

Land Remediation



The public demands change

Another important consequence of the IPCC report will be its influence on public attitudes toward climate change; this too will have consequences for impact businesses and for the practice of impact investing.

Some recent surveys of public attitudes in developed countries have recorded a shift toward a more skeptical view of human-generated climate change. Pro-climate-change commentators put this down to the success of a well-organized media campaigns by special interest groups opposed to more government regulation.

But there is also a common-sense issue: people doubt the science when they don’t perceive significant climate change around them. Extreme weather events, such as the last year’s heavy snowfall in the US and the high temperatures in Australia, have been shown to produce large swings in public opinion in favor of belief in climate change. As events such as these become more common, as the IPCC report suggests they will, it’s likely that the climate will make its own case for action.

Still, there’s plenty of evidence that suggests that the public already accepts the idea of anthropogenic climate change and wants to see governments, businesses and individuals do something about it. The IPCC report will strengthen the convictions of many who already feel that we need to change tack. As impact investing becomes more accepted as a means of effecting positive change, this group will be supportive, buying products and services from impact businesses and providing funding, through micro-lending and crowdfunding platforms. The popular movement for divestment from fossil fuels could create a whole generation of small investors looking for more climate-friendly ways to deploy their capital.

People in developing countries; some of whom will be the worst hit by the effects of climate change; may need more convincing. As mentioned before, the governments of countries like China and India look on moves to limit carbon emissions as curbs to their growth by developed nations. Similarly, people in the developing world focus on the need for economic growth and view the talk of controlling emissions and resource consumption with suspicion.

There is some evidence that this is beginning to change. As in the developed world, people in economically emerging countries are beginning to see the effects of climate change for themselves; often in disastrous forms. Extreme weather events such as droughts and floods have the power to change opinions there, too. And there is anecdotal evidence that those who work on the land, farmers, are seeing the changes firsthand. These local observations, plus the hard lessons of extreme natural forces, may shift world opinion in time to make a difference.

For people in the developing world, the impact investing model could offer a middle way between economic development and climate stewardship. Its market-based approach encourages economic growth, while its commitment to positive impact has the power to channel that growth in climate-friendly directions. In this sense, the multiple bottom line of impact investing holds out hope for developed countries, too, who also need to find new ways to thrive economically without further damaging the planet.

Impact: a powerful tool to counter climate change

It looks likely that the IPCC report will generate a new groundswell of activity around the issue of climate change and this could be a boon for the growing, diversifying impact investing sector.

Impact investing’s pragmatic approach to finance, and its commitment to capitalizing impactful businesses, make it a powerful weapon in the fight to save the planet from the effects of global warming. Its market methods translate across borders and geographies, providing solutions for developed and developing countries alike. Its flexible techniques can be used in many contexts to support the kind of businesses, processes and technologies that can help minimize climate damage while supporting economic development.

All this means that it’s time to for the impact sector to get to work. There are still market infrastructure issues that need to be solved: impact metrics and the lack of exits are two important examples. More research is needed; investment models need to be tested, honed and replicated. Education for impact professionals, now in its early days, still needs to be developed as the sector expands, professionalizes and becomes, in time, part of mainstream finance.

However, if some of these limitations can be overcome, impact investing could play a key role in helping mankind develop an effective response to the threat of climate change. Let’s all hope the warning has come in time; and we are up to the job.

Impact Meets Cleantech at the Crossroads

by Tom Holland, CEO and founder of

Impact investing and the cleantech sector are both at a crossroads.

For impact, the outlook is positive. We’re expanding, entering the mainstream and becoming a widely accepted approach to doing business and doing good. The recent Impact G8 in London is one measure of how far impact has come in just a few short years. The sector is growing at a fast rate and new players are getting involved every day. Maximpact’s portal reflects this movement. It now hosts more deals and a wider variety of deals than ever before and we look forward to continuing to grow with the sector.

The story is different for cleantech. Despite amazing success over recent years that sector is facing a much tougher financial landscape. Investment is down, capital is harder to come by. There are bright spots, like the success of Tesla. Yet many cleantech companies are finding it necessary to retrench or change tack. Some are going out of business. Many more are looking for new markets and new sources of finance.

At Maximpact, we’re in two minds about this change of fortune. On the one hand, we don’t like it because we think cleantech holds the key to a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable future for the whole planet. They’re coming up with solutions to problems we share and showing the kind of creativity that should have us all excited. Renewable energy, biomimicry, 3D printing: these things are going to reshape industries, revolutionize business models and change the way we live our lives for the better. We don’t want to see cleantech’s progress slowed or stopped by financial fluctuations.

On the other hand, the sobering of the cleantech market presents opportunities for impact and sustainability investors. This, we like.

“At Maximpact we think cleantech holds the key to a cleaner, healthier and a more sustainable future for the whole planet.” Tom Holland

From the beginning, Maximpact was designed around a broad definition of impact that specifically included cleantech, eco and green. The idea was to bring cleantech, eco and green together with other sectors including philanthropy, venture philanthropy and CSR. The aim was to break down silos and encourage collaboration and investment across sectors to accelerate the pace of change.

Maximpact was always intended to be a hub for aggregating and finding new applications for technology. We intentionally made the platform transparent so users can observe how others are applying technologies to solve problems. This allows people to see what technologies are available out there. It gives them the opportunity to find ones they can adapt for their own uses and deploy them in different parts of the world, multiplying the force of their impact.

Given the situation of the sector today, I believe that is the perfect time for investors to get behind cleantech. They should do this for several reasons:

  1. The first is purely financial. Despite the cooling of the market, many clean tech companies are promising from a business standpoint. They’ve proven they can scale and there’s evidence that they will continue to gain ground in the mainstream of business. It’s certain that well chosen clean tech investments can help impact investors meet their goal of achieving a sustainable financial return.
  2. The second reason is altruistic: clean technologies have the potential to bring a better life and a cleaner environment to all of us. Clean tech’s products have applications in every country and at every social level from the bottom of the pyramid to the top. Cleantech also helps emerging economies and regions to start off with the tools that will provide a more sustainable future from day one.
  3. The benefits clean tech can bring; preserved eco-systems, more efficient use of energy, more sustainable economies; align with the impact ambitions of many investors and are the best reason to get behind clean tech and help the sector grow.

So impact and clean tech meet at the crossroads. Here at Maximpact, we’d like to see them join forces and continue along the same path.

Impact and Cleantech: A Winning Combination

impact and cleantech a winning combinationby Marta Maretich

Impact investing and cleantech seem to be made for one another. The ethical attraction is obvious: impact puts capital behind businesses that generate social and environmental benefit; cleantech comes up with innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Savvy impact investors spotted the synergy early on. An altruistic pedigree combined with potential profitability made cleantech a natural choice for ethical investors. Many funds; like Alpha Mundi and Chain Capital on the Maximpact platform; have already furnished their portfolios with investments in companies delivering cleantech products and services. A 2012 McKinsey’Co report projects up to $1.2 billion of investment in solar energy alone over the next decade, a chunk of which is impact capital.

Yet, recent turbulence in the market has changed the investing landscape for all kinds of industries, not least cleantech. This leaves many investors asking: Is cleantech still a good investment for impact?


The past two or three years have been challenging for cleantech. 2012 saw industry layoffs and high profile bankruptcies including Odersun and Soltecture. US-based venture capital investment contracted for the first time in three years, a drop of 26% according to Clean Edge, a cleantech research and advisory firm. Worldwide, cleantech venture capital (VC) was down 33% from the previous year and global cleantech investments beyond VC fell 11%, partly due to lower prices for solar and wind technology exerting downward pressure on investment volumes.

There’s no denying the sector is under pressure, yet there’s a silver lining. This year Tesla, a manufacturer of luxury electric vehicles, paid off its US Department of Energy loan 9 years early and saw its share price rocket, proving that cleantech can be profitable. Cleantech stocks are creeping up again. Meanwhile, big corporates like General Electric and Siemens are busily ramping up their investments in cleantech for strategic purposes: cleantech venture deals with corporate involvement went up 12% between 2006-2011 and the trend continues.


More importantly for the future, the drivers toward cleantech remain strong. Issues such as resource constraints, population growth and climate change are not going away. Governments continue to back cleantech even in these pinched times, often seeing it as a source of new jobs and an alternative means of service provision: just this year the US government eked out a surprising $12 billion dollar subsidy for wind power while teetering on the brink of the fiscal cliff.

Public opinion, too, continues to drive corporations and governments in the direction of cleantech. There’s a widespread belief that technical innovation is capable of providing the answers to global challenges. Ordinary people are putting their money where their principles are and contributing to crowdfunding initiatives to finance clean energy projects, such as those offered on the online platform, Solar Mosaic. So far, this may be a drop in the investment ocean, but these distributed financing models are widely thought to have potential; and their success is an indication of the strength of public enthusiasm for cleantech.

Clint Wilder founder of Clean Edge and co-author of two successful books about the cleantech sector, shares the view of a bright future. He has good reason: Clean Edge’s First Trust NASDAQ Green Energy exchange traded fund, QCLN, was chosen by Forbes and others as one of the year’s top two best-performing ETFs.

.Clint-Wilder-A2“Clean Edge’s philosophy has always been that, regardless of whether you’re interested in impact or social responsibility, cleantech is a good business to be in,” Wilder explains. “These are the companies and businesses that are producing the products and services that the world needs today and is going to need more of in the future. Clean renewable energy sources, energy efficiency technologies, greener materials, clean water: these industries have the technology solutions to the big problems the world faces. We certainly support philanthropy, it goes without saying. Yet we want to emphasize that if you’re purely interested in making money, cleantech is something you should look at.” 


This chimes with the view of Richard Youngman from the Cleantech Group, an industry analyst based in London, who sees a solid future for cleantech. In a recent report on the top 100 cleantech companies, he writes of a “third wave” of cleantech investing. According to Youngman, waves one and two culminated in “hundreds of cleantech companies founded, billions of dollars invested (and) optimism in abundance”: a boom, in short, but one he believes will produce lasting effects.

With wave two petering out in the wake of the economic squeeze, the third wave will be characterized, Youngman writes, by companies that can be more “capital light because the railroads, so to speak, have largely been laid; the manufacturers exist; value chains are more developed and costs are on a downward trajectory.” This could bring advantages for smaller, more focused investors. He also points to the adoption of cleantech businesses by corporates to indicate that cleantech solutions are becoming the norm; “offering a customer economic and resource efficiency will no longer be seen as different but standard.”


Youngman’s words point to one attraction of the sector for impact investors: its increasing maturity and size. The sheer volume and variety of cleantech opportunities now on the market is impressive. Maximpact’s portal provides a cross section of deals from kitchen table startups to sophisticated investment vehicles combining groups of cleantech companies. Areas of focus range widely from renewable energy systems to new materials designed to clean up oil spills. Given so much choice, impact investors can find the deal that meets their precise financial and non-financial needs. (See our articles Shine On, Pyrum Innovations and Cleantech Cleans Up for more details or login to

Choice and profitability are two reasons why impact investors should look to the cleantech sector, but it has other advantages. One is that it is borderless: new technologies lend themselves to bringing change on an international basis, an appealing quality for impact investors with a global focus. Another is that new technologies can act as social levellers: all parts of society can benefit from them; and the poor and underserved may be the greatest beneficiaries of all. Cleantech products and services naturally touch many different parts of the altruistic agenda, too: health, environmental preservation, poverty alleviation. This means they can be neatly aligned with other impact programs designed to bring benefit.

All these qualities help cleantech fit the bill for many impact investors. With impact sector development still hampered by lack of deal-flow, investing in clean tech could make a huge difference to the amount of capital placed strategically in businesses that create positive change.


A less examined part of the equation is how cleantech can benefit from the involvement of impact investors. The recent rise in cleantech’s fortunes is a positive sign, but the sector remains volatile, vulnerable to insufficient investment and fluctuations in government commitment. For every triumphant Tesla there are many smaller, less developed cleantech companies struggling to stay viable. For them, getting through the build-up phase can be tricky. It often requires longer-term investor commitment; commitment they are finding harder to come by in the current marketplace.

Impact could be a vital new source of capital for cleantech businesses, especially those whose products have applications in developing economies and with low-income customers. In their article, Closing the Pioneer Gap, authors Dichter, Katz, Koh and Kramchandani point out the need for targeted early- and mid-stage capital (along with more realistic expectations of returns) to foster the early growth of businesses that deliver social and environmental benefit in the places that need it most. Driven by a blend of social mission and financial pragmatism, impact investing could provide cleantech businesses with the right kind of capital during the crucial development stages.


Impact also has a potential role in fostering and guiding the deployment of clean technology solutions in emerging economies. While such economies were ignored by business for decades, philanthropic organizations have long been active there, serving impoverished populations, for example, or protecting eco-systems.

Today, emerging economies are seen as growth markets. They already form a focus for cleantech businesses looking for customers and new sources of financing. Yet many companies are hampered in their efforts to enter emerging markets by lack of local knowledge; knowledge that impact investors with a local track record may be able to provide.

In addition to capital, impact investors can bring the benefit of their experience working with specific governments, populations and geographies; as well as a sharp focus on desired social and environmental outcomes. Cleantech may have the power to transform lives and change the fate of the planet but it will do so only if the technology is deployed where it’s needed most. The involvement of impact can help cleantech partners identify new applications for technologies and establish effective strategies for deployment; for example making use of cleantech products in existing programs. Admittedly, not all impact investors will want this level of engagement with their investees, but collaboration has the potential to focus the positive impact of cleantech on the parts of society where it can make the most difference.

All things considered, cleantech is still a good investment for impact investors. In fact it may make more sense than ever. Indications are that the sector is experiencing a shakeout rather than a meltdown. Overheated investing in some areas, especially solar, may have cooled off, but new areas of activity are coming to the fore. Cleantech companies are refocusing on emerging markets and deployment of existing technologies. Meanwhile the retreat of VC leaves smaller cleantech companies seeking new sources of capital and strategic partnerships. All this is good news for impact investors who have much to gain from the success of cleantech both financially and in altruistic terms.