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What 50 Years of Public-private Partnerships Lends to the World’s Green Transition

Claudia Baldwin

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Since the 1970s, Denmark has had a tradition of enacting agreements with broad consensus across the political spectrum on energy and environmental policy issues. Political stability has been vital in securing continuous investment and establishing ambitious, long-term targets. In this regard, public-private partnerships have proved a highly successful way of devising solutions to many sustainable development challenges.

Effective public-private partnerships have allowed shifting Danish governments to enact regulations and programs with the support of business and industry, ensuring successful implementation and adherence. The Danish way of conducting public-private partnerships is characterized by openness and high levels of societal trust. Beyond harnessing the strengths of public and private stakeholders, the Danish model tries to cushion the unavoidable twists and turns faced on an unknown path.

While the public sector provides the ambitious long-term goals and stable framework conditions, the private sector supplies the innovation, solutions and investments needed to achieve the visions. As a current example, Denmark’s 14 industry-specific Climate Partnerships, initiated by the government in 2019, is an instrumental to realizing Denmark’s 2030 climate target. Spanning from energy and finance to construction and transport, industry leaders from ?rsted, Maersk and Danfoss have been tasked with formulating each sector’s contributions to carbon reductions. In simple terms, it is a green roadmap for the industries by the industries. Collectively, the Climate Partnerships have produced more than 400 recommendations, many of which are being integrated into national policy.

Teaming-up the usually separated players from the energy and environmental fields is not new. Trustful collaboration across sectors and industries has long been a key ingredient in the Danish way of innovating and doing business. An example of this is the linkup between the water and energy sector, where sludge from wastewater treatment plants is used to produce power and heating. Collaborations between Danish players such as Ramboll, an environmental consultancy, Biofos, a wastewater treatment company, and public utilities in the cities of Taarnby, Odense and Aarhus have shown great results. Similar tie-ups within climate adaptation have brought about solutions that prevent flooding in cities, while simultaneously creating greener, more resilient cities with strong liveability. Through decades of working across professional boundaries, we have learned that effective sector integration requires a pragmatic approach, and an experimental mindset. But more so, it comes back to stability and trust.

Everyone may not agree on the measures and the speed, but each play an important role on the journey towards the common goal: a greener future. Constructive and committed interplay is key for any societal change to succeed. This goes for public authorities at national and local levels, the business community, investors, academia and citizens.

What did we learn along the way?

The conclusion to Denmark’s learning curve over the past decades speaks loud and clear: Green business is good business. Investing in renewable energy, water, energy efficiency and resource optimization makes good economic sense.

Today, more than 75,000 Danes hold green jobs out of a national workforce of some 2.8 million people.

Every time one gigawatt of offshore wind is set up in Denmark, 14,600 jobs are secured in Danish companies. Today, more than 75,000 Danes hold green jobs out of a national workforce of some 2.8 million people. Looking ahead, realizing the Danish 2030 climate target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent by 2030 may create up to 300,000 green jobs.

With an annual turnover of around $39 billion, Denmark’s green economy share of GDP is roughly 11 percent, more than twice the EU average. Contributing some 12 percent of total Danish exports, the green share of energy and water technology exports has grown by more than 55 percent since 2010 — compared to a 35 percent increase in total exports of Danish goods. Today, green technologies account for more than three-quarters of total Danish energy and water technology exports.

When it comes to research and development in green technologies, the rewards of a whole-of-society approach also stands out. Today, Denmark boasts several companies that hold globally leading positions in the energy and environment industries, and no other OECD country displays a similar development of green technology measured in patent applications. The gains of public-private tie-up further translates into sustainable financing, where the legacy of long-term commitments has resulted in a number of trailblazing asset managers. In 2019, Denmark’s pension industry committed to invest more than $55 billion in green initiatives towards 2030. Only two years down the road, this target appears to be safely within reach. Nationally, Denmark also allocated 60 percent of the EU COVID-19 recovery funds to green initiatives, against the required 37 percent.

We all need the world more than the world needs us

The global demand for accelerated and coordinated climate action is apparent. While Denmark’s well-proven solutions and long-running experiments with green transition and public-private partnerships may prove valuable, the effects are nothing but a drop in the ocean. Unless they fare globally.

Denmark accounts for 0.1 percent of global CO2-emissions. In driving the global path to net-zero, its national efforts offer very little but inspiration. Inspiration that stands on the shoulder of societal efforts underlining why public-private efforts are essential in the quest to develop technologies, policies and partnerships to accelerate the green transition. Above all, Denmark offers a 50-year strong foundation and a green legacy with primed solutions, which hopefully can show the way for bigger economies.

Being neither a silver bullet nor a standalone, the Danish story is simply a sentiment that trust, continuity and binding commitments are paying dividends. As such, it should be seen as a testament to place public-private partnerships and global cooperation at the center of green transition.

[Interested in learning more about sustainable business? Learn more about GreenBiz 22, the premier annual event for sustainable business leaders]

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Original Article: greenbiz.com

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Is Climate Tech the Hottest Corner of the VC Business in the 2020s?

Claudia Baldwin

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This is an excerpt from “Climatenomics: Washington, Wall Street, and the Economic Battle to Save Our Planet” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2022). Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

While government policies and leadership from Washington can help accelerate change, there’s another place that can accelerate change much faster: Silicon Valley.

In 2003, as a national technology reporter for a chain of newspapers, I visited the Mountain View, California campus of Google to meet with cofounder Sergey Brin. At the time, Google was still a private company, though there was widespread speculation that it would launch an initial public offering soon. The moment I pulled into the company parking lot, I got a taste that Google wasn’t a typical company. Covering many of the parking spaces were canopies made from solar panels, something that’s commonplace today but back then was pretty unusual. Even more unusual were the thick power cords hanging down from the panels over nearly every parking space, something that didn’t make sense until Brin and team later explained it to me. At the time, electric vehicles were even more uncommon than solar parking lot canopies (the first Tesla wouldn’t hit the streets for another five years). But Google knew EVs were coming someday soon, and it wanted to be ready. Google also wanted employees and other visitors to think about the possibilities that could come with solar-powered parking lots and cars that you could plug in to refuel.

Two of the forward-thinking people responsible for Google’s early solar deployment were Chris Sacca, who as the company’s corporate counsel and later head of special initiatives was involved in Google’s energy purchase agreements, and Andrew Beebe, who was chief commercial officer at solar company Suntech, which helped Google go solar.

“There really wasn’t any corporate interest until those guys stepped up and said, ‘Please build solar arrays all over our campus,'” Beebe recalled during a GreenBiz VERGE [climate] tech conference in October 2021. “But (Google executives) also said, ‘Set it up so we can have Walmart and Cisco and Microsoft and all of our competitors come over and see what we have done.’ They obviously had a hugely catalytic role in making all this happen.”

Both Beebe and Sacca would go on to become successful venture capitalists, Beebe with Obvious Ventures, the firm that helped launch companies such as Medium, Beyond Meat and electric bus maker Proterra, and Sacca with his firm called Lowercase Capital, which funded companies such as Twitter, Uber and Instagram. For about three years, Sacca also was a “guest shark” on the ABC television show “Shark Tank,” where budding entrepreneurs bid for the favor — and the funding — of millionaire investors. But it didn’t take long before Sacca was feeling unfulfilled by funding kitchen gadget start-ups on “Shark Tank” or electronic-gaming companies back in Silicon Valley. He, like Beebe, turned his attention almost fully toward clean-energy and climate-related investments.

Sacca and Beebe represent one of the hottest corners of the venture capital business in the 2020s: climate tech. Some of the companies that investors like them are backing today will likely become the Googles of tomorrow. Only instead of changing the way we search for stuff on the Internet, climate tech companies will change the way we source and store our energy, grow our food, and move from point A to point B, whether on land, water, or air. In doing so, they’ll not only transform our economy, but help save the planet.

In 2021, investments in climate tech companies hit more $31 billion, according to deal tracking firm PitchBook. That was 30 percent more than in 2020 and more than 2.5 times what it was in 2019. Those big numbers will likely only get bigger as federal, state and international clean climate and clean-energy policies are implemented. Quite simply, government policies and funding help reassure venture capitalists and other private investors to put more of their money at risk.

In 2021, investments in climate tech companies hit more $31 billion, according to deal tracking firm PitchBook.

Climate-tech and clean-tech investing is no longer just about solar or wind or even batteries anymore. Those businesses now attract plenty of mainstream investors. They’re almost like investing in restaurants or real estate — they’re too passe for venture capitalists who are more interested in finding more disruptive technologies that can scale quickly and create big returns.

“What we look at every day are energy innovations that are just insane, some of which are doing things that Einstein declared literally would not be possible,” Sacca said at the VERGE conference. “We see stuff happening in synthetic biology, for instance, that’s just nuts.”

Amid the hellish fires in the West, back-to-back hurricanes in the East and scientists everywhere warning that things were only going to get worse, Sacca in August 2021 stepped away from Lowercase Capital, quit “Shark Tank,” and with wife Crystal turned his attention specifically toward figuring out how to fund and support companies trying to do more to address climate change. The couple launched a new investment fund called Lowercarbon Capital. In a matter of days, they raised more than $800 million that Lowercarbon Capital could deploy to try to “un— the planet,” in Sacca’s terms. The fund was so popular, Sacca wrote on Lowercarbon Capital’s blog, that it had to turn investors away. “It turns out that raising for a climate fund in the context of an unprecedented heatwave and from behind the thick clouds of fire smoke probably didn’t hurt,” he wrote.

Since then, Lowercarbon has invested in companies that capture carbon dioxide and turn it into consumer products, reduce carbon emissions from livestock and fertilizers on the farm, and mine materials that are key to batteries and storage in ways that don’t destroy the environment. One such company is Twelve, a Bay Area start-up that “upcycles” carbon dioxide captured from industrial emissions and turns it into everything from jet fuel to sunglasses lenses, replacing fossil fuels and plastic. Another company Sacca was particularly excited about in 2021 was Lilac Solutions, which has raised $150 million to commercialize its lithium-mining technology. Lilac claims it can produce the essential element for batteries 10,000 times faster than conventional methods, using 90 percent less land and water. Lowercarbon Capital has also made numerous major investments in companies at the intersection of agriculture and climate, including start-up Formo, which is following the Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger model to make fine European cheeses that don’t require dairy or cows; Entocycle, which has figured out how to speed up the gestation period for black soldier fly larvae which happen to be some of the world’s fastest converters of food waste to protein; and Nitricity, which uses solar-powered modules placed around farms to literally make fertilizer out of thin air by converting and processing nitrates found in the atmosphere.

If garbage-eating fly larvae and fine cheeses bioengineered in a sterile laboratory don’t sound like appealing business models, think again. According to research group Climate Tech VC, food-and-water-related climate tech was the biggest sector for climate venture funding in 2021, followed by mobility, consumer goods, and clean energy. Tech investors’ take on food and agriculture is yielding new high-tech twists in one of the world’s oldest and most established economic sectors. Seattle-based clean-agriculture start-up Nori, for instance, got its start in 2017 when its cofounders entered a hackathon contest for coders to figure out new ways to use blockchain technology for social good. Far from the nearest farm, what they came up with was a way to use blockchain technology to monitor and track low-carbon agriculture practices and then monetize that by selling farm-based carbon-removal offsets.

In doing so, Nori is incentivizing farmers to use more climate-friendly agriculture practices that don’t just reduce carbon emissions but actually increase the ability of soil and crops to store carbon, while also creating a new marketplace for carbon removal and trading. In 2020, Nori raised more than $5 million in seed funding to launch its platform. “We call it climate-smart agriculture — thinking of carbon removal like a crop,” Christophe Jospe, a Nori cofounder, told E2.

This excerpt has been updated since publication.

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Original Article: greenbiz.com

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Walmart Begins Search for Sustainable Packaging

Claudia Baldwin

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“We don’t have time to waste.” With this imperative tagline, American retail giant Walmart launched its Circular Connector this spring.

The goal: to accelerate innovation in the field of sustainable and circular packaging, creating a bridge between companies looking for packaging that has less impact on the environment and those with new solutions to offer.

Searching for sustainable packaging

That the world’s largest retail multinational is launching an online platform to encourage the circular economy of packaging — even while accounting for some form of greenwashing — is undoubtedly great news.

After all, it’s a fact that consumers are becoming increasingly sensitive to the problem of plastic pollution and in general to any aspect related to the sustainability of products. And Walmart, the retail chain of over 10,000 stores around the world, is held accountable by consumers on a daily basis.

Hence the ambitious commitment that the multinational has set for itself by 2025: to achieve that 100 percent of packaging on its shelves would be either recyclable, reusable or industrially compostable. And hence the rush to find solutions to reach the goals.

It’s a fact that consumers are becoming increasingly sensitive to the problem of plastic pollution… And Walmart is held accountable by consumers on a daily basis.

The Circular Connector was therefore created as an online tool to connect packaging designers and manufacturers with companies in various sectors, from food to cosmetics, from fashion to toys. “Basically,” explains a statement on Walmart’s website, “it’s a platform to accelerate packaging innovation and implementation. We want to make it easier for suppliers and brands to find sustainable packaging solutions, thus enabling all of us to move faster toward waste reduction.”

How does the Circular Connector work?

The Circular Connector is accessed from the multinational company’s sustainability policy site, the Walmart Sustainability Hub. To participate, sustainable packaging manufacturers or designers must fill out a special questionnaire with a series of questions about the functions, materials and recyclability of the candidate packaging. Each proposal will then be reviewed according to Walmart’s packaging sustainability goals and, if compatible, will be posted on the site and made available to brands for possible supply contracts.

Reiterating, pragmatically, that they “don’t have time to waste,” the project leaders also made available the company’s Recycling Playbook, based on the two principles of recyclability established by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Namely: 1. Is there, in practice, a system for large-scale recycling of this category of packaging that guarantees at least a 30 percent recycling rate for over 400 million people? 2. Do the packaging components fit into that system?

Walmart’s handbook also contains valuable guidance on materials, such as those that are difficult to recycle and therefore tend to be excluded from sorting: metallic films, multi-layer materials, PVC or PVDC, PETG in rigid plastic packaging, oxo-degradable plastics and colored PET.

“We need to work together to promote innovative solutions on a large scale,” states Walmart. “Companies with reusable, refillable, recyclable and other sustainable packaging solutions should therefore come forward. There are hundreds of brands striving to achieve their own packaging sustainability goals, just like Walmart, and the Circular Connector is one tool available to them in this journey.”

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Original Post: greenbiz.com

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Episode 317: Conversations About Circularity

Claudia Baldwin

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This week’s run time is 1:03:05.

CONSIDERING CIRCULARITY (8:50)

Featuring a recap of interviews and stories from Circularity 22, held this week in Atlanta.

INTERVIEW: Jon Smieja, vice president of circularity and senior analyst for GreenBiz, reflects on hot topics and themes
STORY/AUDIO HIGHLIGHT: Planet vs. plastic: Three steps to solving the global plastics crisis (Featuring Keiran Smith, co-founder and CEO of Mr. Green Africa, on how to encourage decisions made at the local level.)
STORY/AUDIO HIGHLIGHT: John Warner: How to do the materials economy right (Featuring John Warner, senior vice president and research fellow of Zymergen, on how green chemistry could enable the leap to a regenerative, circular economy … if we educated chemists.)
CHITCHAT: Textile recycling tech startup triumphs in Circularity 22’s Accelerate competition
AUDIO HIGHLIGHT: Suzanne Shelton, founder and CEO, Shelton Group (On the importance of shifting context; and what that disturbing baby wrapped in cellophane image teaches us about marketing circularity.)

FEATURE
More sustainable consumer goods (47:30)

Interview with new CEO Christy Slay of The Sustainability Consortium, about priorities, circularity and engaging nimble innovators.

*Music in this episode: Lee Rosevere: “Not My Problem” and “Let That Sink In”; ItsWatR: “Awakening Instrumental”

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Original Post: greenbiz.com

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