Investors and climate action don’t often go together. In fact, they are often at odds, with investors worried that too much climate action too soon will result in a slowing economy and diminishing returns. But climate action is increasingly in the news and in investors’ minds as its effects are now considered materials considerations for investors.
Yet, in some cases, investors are warming up to the idea of climate-conscious opportunities, and at the Social Capital Markets conference last week, entrepreneurs, accelerators, and investors convened to explore the intersection of money and meaning, and how they could partner to address some of the greatest issues facing the world – with the environment at the top of the list.
In our conversations with social entrepreneurs at the event, we were surprised to see how many were aware of the climate crisis, even if their businesses were not immediately at stake. Take, for example, the social enterprise Enuma, which is the developer of the Kitkit School. Enuma’s mission is to build technologically exceptional learning tools that help kids out of school as well as struggling learners gain confidence and independence while building foundational skills. According to the South Korean parents who founded Enuma, Gunho Lee and Sooinn Lee, Kitkit School is a tablet-based application with a comprehensive curriculum that spans early childhood through early elementary. While an innovative, tech-based learning tool is not influencing nor being influenced by climate change, the business will certainly be affected by it as there are more climate refugees in need of educational tools that can move with them during lengthy relocations
While the Kitkit school is not addressing this particular challenge today, it is scaling and increasingly aware of the needs of the increasingly diverse populations it is serving. This awareness comes from Enuma’s participation in the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) accelerator programs for social good businesses. At SOCAP, Seo Young So, Assistant Manager at KOICA, shared that “amongst all entrepreneurs in our program, climate change is the most consistent issue [even if they develop solutions not related to the environment]”. This awareness comes from the fact that all KOICA entrepreneurs are forced to spend as much time as possible in the field amidst the populations their solutions aim to serve, which creates an increased awareness on the needs and desires of the people they hope to serve.
What else did we learn from entrepreneurs taking on climate change? Check out these 13 quotes from award-winning social entrepreneurs who were at SOCAP to help turn capitalism into a force for good:
Entrepreneurs must take on the climate change challenge
“As climate change occurs, migration, medical issues, water access, air quality, and food shortages will all continue to worsen, and so we need social enterprise leaders who are laser-focused to solving these issues.”
-Katherine Clayton, of OmniVis. Follow Katherine’s work at @omnivistech and on Instagram at @omnivistech
“There is an old David Bowie line, ‘I deserve a better future’. The world won’t adopt solutions that reduce the quality of life. We have to invent and implement practical and commercial solutions, and that means cleantech businesses.”
-Jonathan Levine, of Folia Materials. Follow Jonathan’s work on Twitter at @foliawater.
“We cannot continue to patronize an economy rooted in extracting from our environment – all enterprises have to be social enterprises in order to effectively address climate change.”
-Sydney Gray, of Mama Maji (http://www.mamamaji.org). Follow Sydney’s work at and on Instagram at @mama.maji
“Some social businesses exist to address climate change. But these can’t be the only organizations dedicated to climate. All companies must operate environmentally responsible in order to save the planet.”
-Abraham Abramovitz, of Doktuz. Follow Abraham’s work on Twitter at @Doktuz_Espanol and on Instagram at @Doktuz.
Act today, but think long-term
“if you stop and think about the type of would you want your children to grow up in, and you compare that with what we have, you are left with two choices: 1 – Don’t have kids, or 2 – Do something about the way we are running this planet.”
-Kobe Nagar, of 374Water. Follow Kobe’s work on Instagram at @374bluebox
“Climate change will result in increasingly expensive food and more natural disasters, which will disproportionality affect and impoverish the least economically developed countries. We must create solutions to problems today while creating more resilient countries tomorrow.”
-Seunghyun Bahn, of O2&B Co. Ltd.
“Social enterprises understand earth resources are limited, and we need to make sure the planet stays habitable. Nature matters as much as business and money, so the solutions entrepreneurs create must push us forward the right way.”
-Javier Graterol, of Cuantix. Follow Javier’s work on Twitter at @cuantix_is and on Instagram at @cuantix_is
Focus on the biggest levers
“Buildings account for one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. At our manufactured housing communities, we are getting American families into energy-efficient manufactured homes that are affordable by design. Every time you take an energy-inefficient home out of the housing stock and replace it with an efficient home, you reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the next 50 years.”
-Daniel Weisfield, of Three Pillar Communities.
“When the social good sector intersects with business, social enterprises influences existing organizations to combine of healthy business practices, which will create a more healthy world.”
-Miguel Sagastume, of Amigos de la Aldea. Follow Miguel’s work on Twitter at @amigosaldea.org and on Instagram at @amigosladea.org.
“In the absence of social mission, business is agnostic and will only pursue profits – there is no reason to think in terms of positive environmental impact unless a business has then its bottom line in mind. Creating businesses that can focus on more than just profits becomes a massive lever for sustainable change.”
-Philip Teverow, of Yolele Foods. Follow Philip’s work at @yolelefoods and on Instagram at @yolelefoods
Enterprises can (and must) increase education
“Social enterprises empower people living at the lowest tier of the economic pyramid, and the success of these enterprises leads to more prosperity and higher education for these people. This, in turn, enables more people to be aware of climate change needs [and become advocates for it].”
-Patricia Maldonado, of NANAY. Follow Patricia’s work on Instagram at Instagram@nanaykids
“Conscious consumerism is a necessary response to social and environmental issues. Without social enterprises to facilitate change, we cannot evolve as consumers.”
-Shuchi Vyas, of GuestBox. Follow Shuchi ‘s work on Twitter at @shopguestbox and on Instagram at @shopguestbox
“Social enterprise can reduce unnecessary resource consumption in the creation, delivery, and usage of goods and services. To address the climate, more businesses must do all of these and influence their partners to do the same.”
-Bo Sun Suh, of BioSquare, Inc.
Starting a business is hard enough, but starting one that puts the benefits of society above profits brings even more challenges to the entrepreneurs behind the ideas. However, never has the ingenuity, creativity, and tenacity of entrepreneurs been needed to take on the global crisis that is climate change. Regardless of your role, hopefully, their words inspire you to make your business just a little more responsible.