There has hardly been a day when I have not encountered conversations about abnormality of climate activity around us — be it temperature spikes, wildfires, melting of polar ice, hurricanes, typhoons, droughts, or excessive rains. It is not that surprising given how many new records (highs, lows, or near exponential increase in intensity) are being set every day, week and month, leaving no one unscathed from the negative impacts. A simple time-series linear graph involving any of these adverse climate events will easily show rapidly increasing slope — both in terms of volume, financial, and societal impacts. And, speaking of society in America, economic inequity (i.e., gap between haves and have-nots), violence (gun, terror, hate-crimes, etc), ills (addiction, human trafficking, etc.) continue to rise at a faster pace than the population growth. Something has to give.
Naturally these accelerating events are not going unnoticed. They are pulling in people across all walks of life, geographies, and organizations. The world at-large is converging on a common taxonomy of ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) metrics pushed by those with the purse-strings, and SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) espoused by the UN. More than 70M millennials in US alone are reported to be driven by ESG concerns (while buying things, choosing where to work, or joining hands for change). There is a rapid explosion in number of ESG-oriented groups, clubs, for-profit, or non-profit innovation, development, and field-work entities. Foundations, family-offices, and funds are being set up to channel capital and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and ‘Green’ marketing is becoming commonplace across corporate world.
As most of us in business have been trained, everything is expected to show up one way or the other through dollars and cents. There is frequent reporting of the total money ESG as a factor in decision-making — e.g., Barron’s reporting nearly about $20 trillion in 2016, and then taking it up to $30 trillion in 2018. And, if one takes those with a pinch of salt, those financial numbers are just astounding. In the same way, Classy and Guidestar reports nearly 12,000 and 13,000 non-profit entities in their databases active in ESG work (whether development, field efforts, or services). Very likely, the total number of entities is 10-20x more since many outside the US are unlikely to make efforts or have wherewithal to feature in these reporting databases. In a nutshell, it is easy to see rapid acceleration in mitigating actions to deal with the adverse impacts mentioned earlier.
However, the fact is that adverse events on both the environmental and social fronts are not decreasing, but rather accelerating, the slope between aggregate adverse events and aggregate mitigating solutions continues to widen at a faster pace!
Simply put, we are losing the battle for a sustainable future world!
While we do need to recognize a lot of great work being done, and that lot more is being done when previously compared, it is just not going to be enough. In some ways, it is a classic hamster running on a flywheel — no matter how hard it runs, it is not going to catch up!!
As one of the wisest luminaries of our time, Einstein, said very eloquently, “You can’t expect different outcomes, if you keep on doing the same things”.
We need to take a different approach. In my simple mind, either we can do more of what we are doing (i.e., more funds, more feet on the ground, more NGOs, more CSR programs, etc.) or we need to get lot more leverage from what we already have. Since we don’t live in a world of infinities, as Einstein’s quote suggests, we need to focus on the latter — i.e., much higher leverage from what we have. At the rate things are deteriorating around us, we may not get enough changes in time from mere marginal improvements of 10% or 20%. We need exponential leverage.
The good news is that that exponential leverage is entirely within our reach!
From my work of last 2.5 years in engaging hundreds of new startups, memberships and active work in half-a-dozen incubators and accelerators, and my angel networks in the NorthEast corridor, I am coming across almost 10+ new exciting innovations every month with transformative potential across many domains of ESG. And, my direct visibility is just a tiny fraction of what exists. What is also a recurring theme is that most of the innovative solutions in the sustainability domain are part of a slow crawl of serial scaling, taking decades to achieve even a fraction of their overall transformative potential. Simply put, the founders start with a vision of solving a problem for 1,000s of towns or communities, and they are barely at a 2nd or 3rd deployment after 7-8 years of hard yards!
It need not be this way anymore. We have a real opportunity to completely change it. Imagine what happens, when we can create a platform to help these 1,000s of existing proven sustainability solutions and concurrently spread them to their 100s of target domains!! Now we are talking of not a 10%-20% improvement, but rather a more than 1000x leverage effect!! That is what going to change the slope of two curves — aggregate adverse events and aggregate mitigating solutions. That is what is going to put the ‘inflection point for sustainable world in our line of sight in our own lifetimes’.
There are several key demographic, technology and social trends that makes it possible NOW. That is what the CARBON is about!