It’s a simple equation. The rise in average global temperatures represents the biggest problem facing the world at the moment, so naturally enough we are seeing a commensurate increase in the number of new ventures focused on ways and means to address the crisis. Many of them are seeking to sell their services to large corporate entities.
But here’s the question. While it’s certainly true that businesses are – with varying degrees of enthusiasm – embracing ESG reporting and the concept of sustainability, how much change are we seeing? And from a startup and early-stage company perspective, is there any real appetite for solutions that might help to mitigate the impact of businesses on the environment?
In theory, the answer to that question should be yes. A transition to net zero is on the global agenda and pressure from policymakers, regulators and investors is certainly growing. Set against that are the many other pressures that businesses face in the here and now – inflation, the great resignation, and competitiveness in the digital age to name but three. Arguably the temptation is to mentally file net-zero transition as a problem for the future.
So how do climate startups convince potential buyers that now is the right time to invest in change?
Accentuate The Positive
Well, you could point out that a product or solution that might be seen as a “nice to have ” rather than a “must have” could actually play an important role in boosting productivity or improving employee retention rates.
That’s the approach taken by Climate School – an educational venture, born out of Kite Insights, a company founded ten years ago with the intention of providing helping companies turn environmental and social aspirations into action.
The premise behind Climate School itself is that any efforts made by businesses to become more sustainable will be much more effective if employees are playing their part. To that end, the company offers educational programmes designed to give team members the scientific knowledge and skills needed to bring about change within their organisations, while also encouraging an emotional connection with the climate issue. As founder Sophie, Lambin puts it, the programs aim to engage the “head, heart and hands.”
An alumnus of professional services firm PWC, Lambin founded Kite Insights ten years ago. “I started Kite on the premise that businesses had the power to do good but they don’t always know how,” she says. The extension of that logic is that growing numbers of employees also want to play their part in making their companies more sustainable, but to be effective they need both knowledge and skills. “Employees need to be educated,” says Lambin.
That’s what Climate School sets out to do. Working with partners, it offers clients e-learning around climate issues and insights into how to turn that knowledge into action.
But isn’t this one of those “nice to haves” rather than something that is essential? You could argue that teams require quite a lot of education. And employers might well consider that training on digital skills or product knowledge should take priority over helping their staff to get to grips with the science of climate change”
Climate School would argue otherwise. According to research released by the company to coincide with London Climate Action Week 2022, 53 percent of employees link their companies’ climate action to job satisfaction and 93 percent say it is important for their motivation and wellbeing. Equally important, 77 percent say they are ready and willing to tackle the climate crisis at work but they require more education.
So from Climate School’s perspective, the implication is that companies that involve employees when addressing the climate issue will perform better in terms of recruitment and retention than those that don’t, not least because their people will be more engaged. “The case for upskilling the workforce is very strong,” says Lampin.
By educating teams she says, companies can help build climate awareness into a range of functions including sales, R&D and supply chain management. All this feeds into the sustainability agenda.
To date, climate school is mainly focused on corporate clients, such as Microsoft and Schneider Electric, but Lampin says that medium-sized and small businesses can also benefit from staff education. To that end, the company is continuing to develop an online modular curriculum.
The question is, of course, will potential clients buy into the logic. You could argue that employee surveys enable individuals to present their best selves, for instance by stating a clear personal commitment to tackling climate change. Whether action on the part of a company will translate into a genuine uptick in employee motivation or improved staff retention is another matter. That said, getting employees involved should have an impact on the ability of businesses to drive forward their climate-related targets.
But there is a bigger picture here. As the climate tech sector burgeons and attracts more VC cash, the challenge for emerging companies is not simply to encourage potential clients to invest in good deeds in a wicked world. It’s also about making the business case.