David Tebbutt meets the environmental entrepreneur
What if we dug out and burned all the hydrocarbons buried in the ground? “Then we’d be toast.”
Thus ended a conversation with the delightful Ben Goldsmith, a man with remarkable clarity of thought and purpose. At thirty years old, he is already a veteran in philanthropic ventures, the environment and making money.
He sees the green industrial revolution as a fantastic opportunity, not only financially, but also for the good of the planet and the people on it. He owes a lot of his outlook to his family, especially his older brother Zac, who encouraged his love of nature. As boys they used to roam the woods and fields around their Ham home, learning about the wildlife, especially the birds. They used to watch mothers going back and forth, feeding their young, and they’d often ring birds to see which ones came back.
His uncle Teddy – founder of the Green Party and The Ecologist magazine – pointed him towards several business opportunities. And it’s very likely he inherited some of his business sense from his financier father, Sir James, who himself realised that “there’s no business to be done on a dead planet”.
The home he grew up in backs on to Richmond golf course and, when he was nine, Ben used to collect lost balls, clean them up and sell them back to the golfers. To get a better price, he offered to clean up the changing rooms so he could lay his hands on discarded ball boxes. Golfers would ring the bell at the gate and down would trot Ben to sell them for £15 a box.
Nowadays his business interests centre on WHEB Partners, which he co-founded in 2002, and its associated investment businesses. WHEB Partners invests in fast-growing businesses that focus on helping companies across all industrial sectors to improve their resource efficiency, thus saving money and benefitting the environment. Using resources more efficiently reduces a company’s exposure to commodity price increases and regulatory changes. In pragmatic terms, keep costs down first, conform to regulations second and be green third.
WHEB Partners’ two associated investment businesses are WHEB Asset Management, which runs a listed green equities fund with exposure to some of the world’s largest companies that are at the forefront of the green industrial revolution, and WHEB Infrastructure Partners, which invests in renewable energy infrastructure projects across Europe and is largely backed by pension funds. In total the WHEB Group has around €350 million under management today.
But Goldsmith’s time is spent primarily within WHEB Partners, which does venture and growth funding and buy-outs within the so-called cleantech theme. Its first fund was launched in 2004 and WHEB Partners now manages £130 million in long-term investments.
Goldsmith is modest about his achievements, but points out that off-market deals in the private fund are showing a decent premium on the buy-in price and the 18-month track record for the public fund is showing 20 percent growth. He is proud that he and his colleagues have created a multi-faceted green investment platform. He says: “We have built a nice solid foundation. We have a long way to go. We can’t claim any success yet.”
His commercial activities are driven by an underlying commitment to the environment. He describes himself as “an environmentalist by the age of 13″. He is utterly anti-nuclear, citing massive taxpayer subsidies in construction, insurance, waste management, security and decommissioning. Not to mention straightforward risks, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the fact that we probably can’t wait 10 years for each one to be built.
He also rails at the fact that agrochemicals are responsible for the loss of 97 percent of British wild flowers. He owns a farm on the Somerset/Wiltshire border and, while the land is not particularly good for anything other than pasture, he is proud that it has never been artificially fertilised and so contains sites of special scientific interest.
He likes nothing better than taking his wife and three children there, where they can all get close to nature. They swim in the pond and delight in catching crayfish, “an invasive species”. When they’ve caught 20 to 30 of them, they take them back to the farmhouse and cook them in a pasta sauce.
Goldsmith is involved in a number of philanthropic activities but one of the most important is the Environmental Funders Network, which he co-founded in 2003. It comprises approximately 100 trusts, foundations and individuals making grants on environmental and conservation issues, providing them with a platform to exchange information. By collaborating informally they are able to learn from each other, pool their talents and generally be more effective than they could be acting alone.
So there we have it. At just thirty, Ben Goldsmith has achieved much already. He’s optimistic that the world will come round to his way of thinking and that we will probably wean ourselves off of hydrocarbon burning. “After all,” he says, “the Stone Age didn’t come to an end because we ran out of stone.”
Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy
Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.
Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.
Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.
How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:
- They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
- They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
- They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
- They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.
Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.
Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use
The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.
Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.
Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers
Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.
Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.
Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy
Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:
- Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
- Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
- Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.
You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.
How Going Green Can Save Your Business Thousands
Running a company isn’t easy. From reporting wages in an efficient way to meeting deadlines and targets, there’s always something to think about – with green business ideas giving entrepreneurs something extra to ponder. While environmental issues may not be at the forefront of your mind right now, it could save your business thousands, so let’s delve deeper into this issue.
Small waste adds up over time
A computer left on overnight might not seem like the end of the world, right? Sure, it’s a rather minor issue compared to losing a client or being refused a loan – but small waste adds up over time. Conserving energy is an effective money saver, so to hold onto that hard-earned cash, try to:
- Turn all electrical gadgets off at the socket rather than leaving them on standby as the latter can crank up your energy bill without you even realizing.
- Switch all lights off when you exit a room and try switching to halogen incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps or light emitting diodes as these can use up to 80 per cent less energy than traditional incandescent and are therefore more efficient.
- Replace outdated appliances with their greener counterparts. Energy Star appliances have labels which help you to understand their energy requirements over time.
- Draught-proof your premises as sealing up leaks could slash your energy bills by 30 per cent.
Going electronic has significant benefits
If you don’t want to be buried under a mountain of paperwork, why not opt for digital documents instead of printing everything out? Not only will this save a lot of money on paper and ink but it will also conserve energy and help protect the planet. You may even be entitled to one of the many tax breaks and grants issued to organizations committed to achieving their environmental goals. This is particularly good news for start-ups with limited funds as the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is keen to support companies opening up their company in a green manner.
Of course, if you’re used to handing out brochures and leaflets at every company meeting or printing out newsletters whenever you get the chance, going electronic may be a challenge – but here are some things you can try:
- Using PowerPoint presentations not printouts
- Communicating via instant messenger apps or email
- Using financial software to manage your books
- Downloading accounting software to keep track of figures
- Arranging digital feedback and review forms
- Making the most of Google Docs
Going green can help you to make money too
Going green and environmental stability is big news at the moment with many companies doing their bit for the environment. While implementing eco-friendly strategies will certainly save you money, reducing your carbon footprint could also make you a few bucks too. How? Well, consumers care about what brands are doing more than ever before, with many deliberately siding with those who are implementing green policies. Essentially, doing your bit for the environment is a PR dream as it allows you to talk about what everyone wants to hear.
Going green can certainly save your money but it should also improve your reputation too and give you a platform to promote your business.