Sustainability has become a buzz-word in business over the last few years, but start-ups who are truly building it into their business models from the word go are finding it can help attract savvy investors. Blue and Green Tomorrow gets the low-down on one innovative business that is doing just that.
Companies are becoming increasingly aware of the wider impact of how they operate and, alongside making financial returns, they are also looking to take an approach to business that makes a positive impact socially and environmentally. The emergence of organisations such as BCorporation, whose UK arm launched in Sept 2015, show that forward-thinking businesses are choosing this Triple Bottom Line approach to business, whereby financial, social and environmental sustainability are all given equal importance.
Interestingly, as well as established businesses developing this side of what they do, some start-ups are building this in from the very beginning and are reaping rewards in terms of attracting investors.
The Wave is a Bristol-based project looking to build an inland surfing lake, powered by the latest wave-making technology. The lake is at the heart of the project, but it’s about a lot more than surfing alone. Founder, Nick Housfield, explains.
“Our vision is to create an amazing natural landscape, with spaces where people can surf, have fun, socialise, get back in touch with nature, learn and explore. We want to attract people of all ages, background and abilities to come along, reap the benefits of surfing and being in nature – and ultimately support them to develop and reach their full potential in a number of ways.”
From the very beginning Nick, a successful osteopath and keen amateur surfer, knew he wanted to take a sustainable approach to doing business. He pulled together a great team of experts in their fields, including Chris Hines MBE, to help shape the business model. Chris’ role at The Wave is to ensure sustainability on all levels really is part of the company’s DNA and that it ‘walks the talk’ as far as social and environmental impact is concerned.
“Getting Chris in from the beginning of the project was key to how it has developed. He is a highly respected communicator and driver of positive change and he introduced us to the concept of the Triple Bottom Line of Sustainability, which has governed everything we have done.”
Chris was founder and Director of environmental campaigning group, Surfers Against Sewage, for 10 years. With a strong focus on ‘solution to problems’, he helped deliver £5 billion spend on UK coastline and has a track record of challenging the status quo and bringing about changes to the way things have ‘always been done’. He feels this equally applies to how modern companies do business.
Chris expands on this, ““There is a real opportunity for commercial companies to adopt a new model of doing business that reduces environmental impacts and maximises social and environmental benefits, at the same time as helping them to be more successful financially and attract investors. If a company is truly sustainable then it will be able to build a brand that is attractive to the public and investors, it will help them attract and retain good staff, and it will help encourage good external relationships – all of which helps make an investment in the company safer in the long term.”
This rounded approach to business has helped The Wave to attract a strong following of supporters (the project has over 200,000 social media followers), was a key driver for its successful Crowdfunder campaign which smashed its £150,000 target to raise £224,000, and helped them to secure their cornerstone investors – Christopher and Jenna Gordon.
Christopher (38) and Jenna (35) Gordon became interested in The Wave after seeing its hugely successful Crowdfunder rewards-based campaign in Nov 2014. They invested 20k via this and subsequently approached the team to understand the opportunities for further investment. They subsequently invested substantial time and money in the project and now sit on the Board.
They were impressed by the robust business plan and clear indications that the project would make a good financial return, but what really struck them were the social and environmental impact aims of this pioneering project. They believe that not only is The Wave brand, vision and concept commercially viable and inevitably financially rewarding, it also offers the opportunity to facilitate positive change on a scalable and global level.
Christopher is an Angel Investor, a fully qualified paramedic and one of the judges for UnLtd’s Big Venture Challenge 2016. He comments, “Having money to invest is a very powerful position to be in. That power can be used in a number of ways. We choose to invest in entrepreneurs that think ‘out of the box’, who challenge standardised ways of operating and thinking, who are mindful of the impact they have (or don’t have) on their surroundings, who think long-term growth and impact rather than short-term gain. We want to invest in a future that inspires us and in businesses that inspire us.”
For Jenna, who has a background in child protection and has worked for a number charities, the vision of creating a place that could help everyone reach their full potential was hugely appealing. She adds:
“The Wave’s vision of providing opportunities for children and families to learn about and experience holistic healthy living, of enabling ground-breaking research to be carried out and of reducing the impact of disadvantage and segregation within communities, was compelling. To be able to help build an environment of respect,
innovation, learning, growth and inspiration – which is also financially viable and rewarding – was an opportunity we simply could not refuse.”
The Wave team has a number of specific plans for positive social and environmental impact, from outreach to inner-city kids and apprenticeships for disengaged young people, to hands-on education in marine conservation, use of renewables, and the creation of the Making Waves Foundation to support local charities and community initiatives. However in many ways it’s the core aim of creating a space for everyone, regardless of age, background or ability, to have fun and interact with each other that is it’s strongest attraction to the public and investors alike.
The project has obtained full planning approval for its site in Bristol and is now raising construction capital in order to commence work. The Wave has also applied for B-Corporation’s ‘B-Corp Pending Status’ for start-ups, which recognises its plans to be a truly sustainable business. For more information visit
Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?
Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?
But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?
The Big Picture
The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.
That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.
One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.
There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.
As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.
Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.
Make and Model of Car
Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.
On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.
The Bottom Line
Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?
Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.
Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family
When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?
What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?
As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.
Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.
5 Good Options
As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:
1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country
Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.
2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica
If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.
3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas
Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.
4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.
5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel
If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?
Putting it All Together
You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.
You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.
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