Smart Green Venture Capital Firms

According to Climate Action, the Sustainability Sector employs over 4.5 million people!

Back in 2011, the Sustainability Sector only supported 3.4 millions. This massive surge is only indicative of a growing niche sector as apparel brands, like REI or Patagonia, continue to experience growth. And there is a reason why the outdoor industry is selling.

When considering the lifeblood of the American Economy, it would be part to mention industries without mentioning energy. Of that, installation and management of solar panels often lead to better paying jobs when compared to the median numbers. To elaborate, wages are higher than $17 / hr and result in an additional $5k per year. Definitely something to think about when considering whether college is worth it — something Gary Vaynerchuk loves to ask.

So, if you have a great idea and are seeking a capital infusion, here are a list of our favorite 5.

  1. BP Ventures

  2. DBL Partners

  3. Generation Investment Management

  4. IP Group

  5. SET Ventures

If you want to read more about the firms, check them out here!

The Truth About China Turning Away US Businesses

When it comes to recycling, most people have heard stories about China turning away US businesses. But most people don’t know the truth.

For years, China has taken waste from US businesses. Now they are saying enough is enough.

“Simon Ellin, the chief executive of the Recycling Association in the United Kingdom, said the ban is prompting more investment into recycling technologies.”  - CNN News

After a series of measures and even a recent Vox article, there is a lot of concern over what is going to happen to the recycling industry. In fact, many believe that the speculative future of recycling will lead to more US cities cancelling their recycling programs. Simply put, if costs increase, firms may be less likely to focus on environmentally-sourced products and go for options that cost the firm less (read: opportunity cost).

“U.S. consumers also face increased costs as refuse companies up their rates, because they are paying more to ship refuse to alternative countries, like India, and because they are spending more to clean and process the waste better to make it eligible for acceptance in foreign markets.” -NBC News

While these concepts are nothing new, there are several factors that account for China’s change in behavior. Primarily, there is an angle no one is talking about in the recycling sector. That is, China’s desire to become a more powerful nation. This idea stems from articles you may see talking about the ‘great power clashes’ that can manifest themselves in the form of South China Sea aggression.

For those unfamiliar with the contentious military exercises conducted in the Pacific Ocean near Japan, China, and Thailand — the root of it is China believes they have a legitimate claim to extend sovereignty because of a maritime law that allows ownership 10 miles from the coast and pretty much every Western nation disagrees.

Second, if China is viewed as the ‘garbage can’ for the world, they displace political capital. To elaborate, mothers often tell their daughters “you get the love you command/deserve based on how you are expecting to be treated” is just as applicable to geopolitics, as ever.

“He said that knowing the country would no longer be able to ship poor-quality recycling materials to China, its biggest buyer, meant the UK recycling industry had to start changing. Others will follow.” - CNN News

Thirdly, China is still accepting waste. Yes, you read that correctly. Despite what most believe, China has actually just lowered the threshold of contaminated waste that they are willing to accept. US Businesses, under these new guidelines, are unwilling to decontaminate the waste to the level requested. Therefore, whether consumers see a shrink in recyclable offered products, the reason could be US businesses just don’t want to do deal with the hassle.

What does this mean? Well, likely, the United States will ship waste to another developing nation in the Global South and business will continue. However, the growing tranches of the population that demand sustainable products is growing and savvy businesses would do well to capture the economic trends.

Georgetown Strategy Group: First Annual Letter - 2019

DEAR FRIENDS:

On May 1, 2018 at 6:00 am, we launched the Georgetown Strategy Group with a social media campaign attracting 20,000 people in its first days. Last week, the the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee introduced me, “the Managing Director of the Georgetown Strategy Group,” as its first witness of the new 116th Congress to speak about U.S. Policy in the Arabian Peninsula (read statement and watch hearing). Every day in between has been heady, exciting, exhausting but always interesting.

OUR MISSION

From the outset, the Georgetown Strategy Group had one mission: to leverage talent, technology, and capital to help solve some of the world’s most complex problems. Working with the private sector, communities, and governments, the Georgetown Strategy Group seeks to promote trade and investment, develop economic opportunity, advance security and stability, and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance in the Middle East and Africa. The leaders of the Georgetown Strategy Group have dedicated their lives to improve the human condition. We have designed and managed programs to deliver essential services; negotiated agreements to facilitate the movement of goods and people; developed businesses and tech ecosystems; and contributed to building more effective institutions throughout the Middle East and Africa during times of war and crisis.

THE RESULTS

In the first 8 months, the firm has demonstrated profitability, growth, and impact. Revenue exceeded projections; strong earnings continue in early 2019. The firm has diversified its client base with 12 customers and prospects for 50% further growth by the end of the first full operating year. Importantly, the firm has no long term liabilities and has sufficient financial sustainability to continue to grow. Aside from a financial bottom line, the firm has assisted non-governmental organizations and for-profit corporations manage critical challenges. The firm is positioned to take advantage of the growing nexus between capital and technology in frontier markets. We have advised FinTech companies intending to launch in Yemen, agricultural firms seeking to open high-end markets; structured big data analytics throughout the Middle East, Asia, and Africa; provided strategic management for leading DC consulting firms; and helped bring pre-commercial research and development of remote sensing, advances in renewable power and water, and operational research and analysis to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS

The Georgetown Strategy Group (GSG) entered into two strategic partnerships in 2018. In June, GSG announced its partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory. MIT’s mission is “to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world,” and through Lincoln Laboratory, has developed novel technologies in support of stabilization and humanitarian assistance. The Georgetown Strategy Group and MIT Lincoln Laboratory seek to disrupt and improve humanitarian and disaster assistance response capabilities to meet the most pressing challenges of this century.

In November, the Georgetown Strategy Group entered into a joint venture with Souktel Inc., a leading provider of custom digital solutions solutions for emerging markets. Through this partnership, the firms will work jointly to expand into new markets across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia — building on Souktel’s decade-long track record of digital solutions delivery, to add new private sector business lines in 2019. With the launch of the new partnership, I have assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer for Souktel, Inc. and will continue to lead GSG.

INTREPID OPPORTUNITIES

While scouting opportunities for the Souktel-Georgetown Strategy Group joint venture, I traveled to Gaza in December. This time not as a diplomat, journalist, or aid worker, but rather as an entrepreneur in search of software developers and rugged water technologies. My first stop: Gaza Sky Geeks. This Mercy Corps incubator operating in Gaza City helps startups build products and offers teams of designers and full stack developers for international clients. I then met with the CEOs of half a dozen firms leading the Gaza tech sector; these firms are doing early stage outsourcing in the region and beyond. Collectively, their firms employ over 150 engineers who work through blackouts, disruptions, and conflict to deliver services to the world. The eager young developers at Gaza Sky Geeks, coupled with the more seasoned tech firm leaders, provided great insight into the emerging talent, passion, creativity, and drive that can flourish, even in one of the most challenging of circumstances.

Software is not the only nascent sign of hope. The collapse of the water aquifer and the resulting necessity of desalination of nearly all the water in Gaza has propelled new thinking in water and treatment technology that could be viable in frontier markets around the globe. MIT is piloting a community based off-grid solar desalination plant for brackish water; this technology is pre-commercial but primed to hit emerging markets in 2019. This technology adapted in Gaza would be effective for the people of Yemen and can readily be employed as an off-grid alternative to refugee communities along the Syrian border or in the horn of Africa. Moreover, Gaza is ripe to test other, newer technologies such as air-to-water systems, greywater re-use in rugged environments, and private community solar and water, obviating the need for large-scale government infrastructure.

THE MEDIA

The firm’s expansion strategy includes building a name brand public platform. In the first 8 months, the firm has been prominently referenced in leading U.S. and international media including the New York Times, National Public Radio, The Hill, The Atlantic, Associated Press, United Press International, and Jerusalem Post coupled with television interviews on Al Jazeera, i24, TRT and other channels. This profile has led to numerous speaking engagements throughout the country and has helped to drive business opportunities in the Middle East and beyond.

POSITIONING FOR THREE TRENDS IN THE NEXT DECADE

The Georgetown Strategy Group sees three macro political-economic trends shaping the Middle East and Africa in the decade ahead

First, the world order as largely built by the U.S. post-World War II, which has served as the greatest force for peace and prosperity in history, is being challenged by emergent world leaders. These WWII institutions, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the UN, and the multilateral finance banks served as global shaping forces for more than 70 years. We are now witnessing the rise of a new great game with China, Russia, Turkey, and Iran vying for power, position, and markets throughout the Middle East, particularly in the Arabian Peninsula as well as in the Horn of Africa.

Second, the decade ahead will be defined by rapid technological changes, (particularly in artificial intelligence and big data analytics), rapid public and private capital flows (including increased financing from non-U.S. sources), the continued mass movement of people across borders and regions as we have seen in Syria, and a shifting of markets and trade routes away from the dollar economy in favor of our rising nation state challengers.

Third, national aspirations, particularly in the Gulf states, will result in unprecedented opportunity and serious inflection points for American business leaders. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are rising regional powers with complementary and, at times, competing geo-political interests. Saudi Arabia has an ambitious economic vision for 2030 that will require a respect for human rights and consistent rule of law if it hopes to actually implement its vision. The United Arab Emirates seeks economic expansion and political influence, as demonstrated specifically by its race to build regional seaports, boost trade partnerships, and create new markets. Rising national aspirations, coupled with rapid technological and financial trends, will likely accelerate the Israel-Sunni bloc re-alignment in way which will be exciting and unexpected in the U.S.

THE YEAR AHEAD

The Georgetown Strategy Group has a bold vision for 2019. Specifically, the firm seeks to aggressively position for market share at the corner of capital and technology. Further, the firm’s agility and speed will allow it to effectively capitalize on the three macro political-economic trends ahead. This vision will begin by expanding into power and water technologies adaptable for complex crises in the first quarter of 2019. This strategic alignment coupled with Souktel’s corporate capabilities will position both firms to drive transformative impact in frontier markets throughout 2019.

CONCLUSION

The future favors the bold. The Georgetown Strategy Group seeks create a legacy that positively shapes and influences the future for generations. 2018 was just the start.

Sincerely,

R. David Harden

***Originally published on Medium by R. David Harden.***

RecyProcity Takes the Lead After China Stumbles

China imports an estimated 45% of the world’s plastic for recycling.

Almost 106 million metric tons of waste are sent on barges to be reintegrated in China’s green economy. For many developed nations, exporting waste can be more profitable than recycling.

“The only reason recyclables are that contaminated is because the majority of worldly citizens don’t separate their waste and recyclables.  But if they did, or at least did better at it, the US, UK, and really the world would not need China that badly anymore. We wouldn’t need them at all actually, because we could do our own refining here! More jobs, easier materials to process, the whole thing would set us free from sending waste to Asia.” - Chris Hauser, Founder of RecyProcity

However, China has new plans. Since the 2017 National Sword Policy passage, China has taken actionable steps to pivot away from its role as the global leader in recycling. Universally used plastics, such as PET or PVC, are now banned; along with 24 other types of solid waste products that are now illegal to import.

Not only has the Chinese Government cited both detrimental environmental effects and public health concerns as new worries, but this new law is also projected to displace 50% of all plastics from 2019 to 2030. Or, in other words, 111 million metric tons of plastics will not have homes.
"What we need to do is take responsibility in making sure that waste is managed in a way that is responsible, wherever that waste goes — responsible meaning both environmentally and socially.” — Jenna Jambeck, Associate Professor of Engineering at the University of Georgia

RecyProcity Pays You To Recycle and Solves The China Issue.

This New York based recycling company not only will accept plastic waste that China no longer will take, but they also pay you. It is an opportunity for Americans to benefit from improving their environmental impact, without the difficulty or time it takes to recycle.

We are faced [with], what I believe, is the greatest moral crisis of our time…[that] those least responsible for nature’s destruction will suffer the greatest consequences. We need nature now more than ever because nature doesn’t need people, people need nature. — Harrison Ford

RecyProcity is set to launch in April 2019. This highly anticipated firm has negotiated with over 300 facilities that intend to use the service and includes three nationally-recognized recycling businesses. In terms of demographics, RecyProcity has partnered with over 300 facilities that intend to use the service in at least eight U.S. states and is also available in the U.K. Specifically, this includes: California, Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and cities in the United Kingdom like Birmingham or London.

In our previous article, our team wrote about the payment structure. However, as a brief recap, we wanted to reiterate why signing up for RecyProcity will be a good idea. For less than the price of a Netflix membership, users can either “drop and go” or use “the exchange” to redeem recycle materials for cash. Not only does the service streamline the customer experience, but there are no contracts or termination charges with anyone. Further, the app is localized to users within a specific, geographical radius.

To elaborate, with their patent pending ‘App’, the user is able to locate and exchange recyclable items in return for cash that is electronically transferred into and out of their accounts. After the transaction is made, the other user will pick up and transport the items to a processing facility. Just like Uber has replaced cab drivers, the RecyProcity App has the ability to create new, green jobs that connect consumers with third party service providers to maximize trips from ‘the exchange’ to the redemption facilities!

Parting Thoughts

Read about RecyProcity in our previous article! If you want to learn more, please visit their website by clicking here.  Their Twitter account is @apprecyprocity, and their Facebook page is here, and their Instagram is here.  We hope you check them out because they will revolutionize this space!

The Conservation Alliance

Environmental Businesses Should Check Out The Conservation Alliance.

The Conservation Alliance was founded in 1989 by key outdoor industry leaders, such as REI, Patagonia, or The North Face. Since the organization was established, the Conservation Alliance has worked with businesses of all sizes for the shared goal of increasing preservation efforts. With over $20 million in donations, the Alliance has managed to help save “51 million acres of wildlands; protect 3,102 miles of rivers; stop or remove 30 dams; designate five marine reserves; and purchase 13 climbing areas”.

To be a member, however, there are stipulations. Not only does a business have to complete an application, but the firm also has to contribute at a rate of $1,000 per $1,000,000 in revenue or 0.1%. Also, what’s fantastic about the organization is the knowledge that 100% of funds go directly towards 501c3 organizations. The operating expenses are paid for by the Legacy Fund Endowment and additional member funds that are specifically earmarked.

Not only does the Conservation Alliance provide transparency on their website on how funds are appropriated, but the organization has received positive reviews from charity watch-dogs. One example is “Charity Navigator” that provides a thorough compensation breakdown of the organization leader, the revenue and various expenses of the firm, and financial indicators like “fundraising efficiency”. For the Conservation Alliance the cost to raise $1 is only $0.02.

So, next time you are thinking about giving someone your 2 cents — think about giving it to the Conservation Alliance.

Parting Thoughts!

If your business is interested in aligning its environmental values with an established conservation organization, be sure to check out the Conservation Alliance!

Chick-fil-A's Eco Contribution

Chick-fil-A is America’s favorite fast-food chain.

In the United States, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, Chick-fil-A is the most popular fast-food establishment. As the apex predator for the third consecutive year, Chick-fil-A rose to the top of the food chain by delivering quality service, good sandwiches, and living their Judeo-Christian values.

Whether some may disagree with the values they preach or are just upset that Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays, Chick-fil-A has a rapport for garnering national attention to promote target messages that relate to their core principles. This led Waverly — an enthusiast for all things Chick-fil-A —to speculate more about another more subdued message.

“Is Chick-fil-A suggesting that eating chicken, as opposed to cows, is better for the environment?” —Waverly

Not only does the iconic Chick-fil-A mascot (read: cow) suggest that consumers “Eat more chikin”, but there is a lesser well-known environmental truth attached to those words. In 2014, the National Academy of Sciences answered this particular question by stating “beef” was worse than “chicken” when considering the carbon emissions of greenhouse gases for the environment.

Further, the study focused on the environmental impact of chickens and cows on land, air, and sea. Specifically, the survey focused on greenhouse conditions — the same conditions oft-cited when discussing our planet — and the nitrogen burdens required in the United States. The study concluded that beef is 10x more damaging to the environment than any other types of meat, including chicken. However, the verdict is more difficult to uniformly apply since the mitigating factors are harder to calculate. Especially, when considering the agricultural industries carrying capacity to switch from beef to chicken or vice versa.

In addition to former Truett Cathy’s claims that he applied God’s principals to Chick-fil-A operations, Chick-fil-A still is working on improving their current environmental standards to diminish its environmental impact. So what’s the issue?

Questionable Chicken Ethics and Dicey Involvements with Factory Farmed Chickens Plague Chick-fil-A

In 2014, Chick-fil-A announced they would no longer use chickens that were raised with antibiotics. Their ambitious plan had a five year time frame. Historically, to place this plan into perspective, the firm created an annual 282 million sandwiches — equating to 141 million birds — in 2010. So the 2014 transition, truly, is a paradigm shift.

When considering the role of factory farming, however, these birds are kept in poor conditions even if antibiotic use was excluded. Dirty, cramped, and with little space are commonplace for these birds. As many of our readers may know, antibiotics are added to livestock to simultaneously prevent disease and increase growth. In the National Public Radio’s most recent broadcast, “Finite”, their was discussion that this practice of liberally injecting antibiotics into livestock is detrimental to bio-security for humans as pathogens become more resistant with each use. Lastly, in 2016, they announced their mission to source 100% of cage-free eggs in the next 10 years — another ambitious plan we will be sure to verify in 2026.

So How Successful Was Chick-fil-A?

After the five year mark for Chick-fil-A’s “No Antibiotics Ever” commitment, the firm proudly reported that upwards of 80% of their chicken supply is raised without antibiotics. A remarkable step in the right direction. By December of this year, Chick-fil-A will attempt to convert that figure to 100%.

While Truett Cathy has made bold claims in the past, maybe his words were not too far fetched? The firm has made changes to become more environmentally sustainable while still maintaining its ability to compete and succeed with near-peer competitors. When considering all the factors, it is impressive. After all, Chick-fil-A is a fast-food chain reliant on chicken.

Mor Than Chikin’

Chick-fil-A has a few other goals on the topic of environmental sustainability. Specifically, they primarily focus on the four areas listed below.

  1. Sustainable new restaurant development

  2. Reducing energy and water consumption in existing restaurants

  3. Sustainable supply chain

  4. Cup recycling

Right now, the firm is working towards the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) gold standard. This is an internationally recognized green building certification system and, notably, gold is the highest attainable certification. Presumably, the gold standard indicates that a building is actively consuming a fourth less energy and generates 34% less of greenhouse gas emissions than previously.

For Chick-fil-A, they are planning to launch their firm’s first test kitchen in Fort Worth, Texas! For other existing restaurants, the goal is to reduce energy usage and water consumption by reinstalling more efficient utilities — including lighting, refrigeration, and water faucet restrictors. Further, when considering the supply chain, the firm is working with suppliers to establish more green-friendly changes. Lastly, Chick-fil-A claims that its use of foam cups are recyclable, whereas some plastics are not. While one maybe the lesser of two evils, neither can be wholly acknowledged as “great”. Notably, foam has many documented challenges with recycling.

Chick-fil-A is not a perfect model for environmental sustainability. However, the changes that it and other fast food chains or companies are committing to making (and actually following through) are and will make a significant substantial impact. Kudos to the firm for working towards a better future.

Polar Society

If you love Polar Bears, you may want to check out the Polar Society.

Polar Society is an apparel company founded by Geovana Flores and Joanne Wong. When they first started, in 2008, the two conducted research and discovered that the polar bear was listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) specifically because of the projected effects of climate change on their habitat. As you may recall in our earlier articles, there is significant precedent that climate change is real and environmental stewardship is a necessity.

“There needs to be a reduction of gas emissions in order to prevent the declines in polar bear population.”

—Geovana Flores & Joanne Wong of the Polar Society

Polar Society’s apparel brand is “not only fashion forward[,] but provides a means to improve the current natural habitat for polar bears and their preservation.” With every purchase, Polar Society donates a part of their profit or proceeds to organizations that “support polar bear conversation and habitat preservation.” Clearly, both Geovana Flores and Joanne Wong are inspired about how to be activists in a consumer-based economy. They are inspired, simply, by both preservation of the polar bears as climate change worsens and are concerned about the future generation.

Success for the duo is a work in progress. Each time the company is able to donate part of their profits to Polar Bears International is something they consider a success. In January 2019, the company donated $300 to the cause! This is fantastic! Further, the love and positive optimism they have received from customers or with their brand ambassadors is what helps them keep their focus, according to the owners.

Parting Thoughts

When asked what are a few things that everyone should know, they said… eat less meat, use energy efficient light bulbs, turn off electric devices when you’re not using them, walk, ride bicycles or take public transportation whenever possible. Not only are there immense benefits to you health, but these simple ideas have benefits psychologically too! So, be sure to get out there and save the world with one small decision at a time!

If you want to learn more, check out their website or follow them on Instagram at @polarsociety!