There are few easy answers to global challenges, such as the eight to 11 million tonnes of plastic waste ending up in the oceans each year.
If nothing happens, this level could treble by 2040.
Fortunately, therefore, something is happening. The Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) has raised more than $1bn from 50 corporations to invest in the infrastructure, innovation, education and clean-up required. The Alliance under its powerful leader, Jacob Duer, is trying to use the funding to tap 32 startups able to fit into integrated waste management and advanced recycling use cases.
His presentation at the European Venture Fair panel led by the host, Emerald Technology Ventures managing partner Gina Domanig, resonated with the other panellists, including Nicolas Gregoire from food group Danone as finding new and more recyclable packaging was important for the company to keep up with consumer demands.
Danone this year set out a plan to invest €2bn ($2.3bn) over the next three years, with about half allocated to packaging. About 50,000 tonnes of Danone’s packaging ends up in nature or the ocean each year so finding new business models, materials, such as paper, and collection services while protecting food is important to achieve its mission.
The third member of the panel, Uwe Krueger, head of industrials at Temasek, a $300bn Singapore-based investment company of which 40% is allocated to private investments, said the sustainability thesis was driving his portfolio. Singapore as an island has strategic interests in water and food as well as energy production, he said.
In particular, “water is as important as carbon dioxide emissions,” he told the audience, with drip irrigation and vertical farming reducing waste in agriculture and boosting yields. He also was looking at reducing carbon emissions in transport, especially hydrogen fuel for shipping and alternative fuels for aircraft, and nuclear fusion for alternative energy. With the US just approving testing for NuScale’s small modular reactors (based on fission) there is increased attention on nuclear energy again if the risks can be managed and for this it requires often global levels of cooperation.
The AEPW is similar to an alliance of energy groups coming together under the Oil & Gas Climate Initiative and the model of collaboration seen in other developing fields from antibiotics to blockchain and quantum computing. The syndication and collaboration model in open innovation and venture investing is increasingly helpful as corporations open up to partnership and look beyond their four walls for solutions to societal challenges, which, if they are successful in meeting, can become new growth drivers for their own business.
The final piece is the shift from a fixed to growth mindset beyond the entrepreneurial and innovation capital ecosystem to the wider set of business leaders and unit managers, a shake-up covid-19 is helping create.
To hear more from Domanig do join her keynote at the GCV Digital Forum on 29 September alongside the sustainability and mobility track and following keynotes including Sir Ronald Cohen, chairman of the Global Steering Group, and Harvard’s George Serafeim.