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Green Dragon: Ben Goldsmith

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.

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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 entrepreneur

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.”
The environmentalist

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.”

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Green Weddings Trend: Why 70% of Newlyweds Are Going Green

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A couple of months ago, my best friend got married to her new husband. They are both very eco-conscious people, so they decided to have a unique twist on their wedding. They asked for the following:

  • They arranged a carpool with their friends.
  • They didn’t have any balloons. Instead they used umbrellas.
  • They used plant materials instead of plastic confetti.
  • My friend insisted her husband not purchase a diamond. In addition to being ecologically conscious, she didn’t like the idea of having a stone that was used in conflict zones.

My friends aren’t the only ones making these changes. In fact, nearly a quarter of all newlyweds are organizing green weddings.

Green Weddings Are Becoming the Norm

People are more concerned about green living than ever before. They are trying to incorporate environmental protectionist ideas into every facet of their lives, even the most intimate, such as marriage. A growing number of people are trying to have green weddings, which can make a big difference in reducing their carbon footprint.

How much of a difference can this make? Here are some statistics to bear in mind:

There are a number ofreasons that green weddings are becoming more important. Here are a few.

People Are More Worried About Environmental Preservation than Ever Before

Green living in general is becoming a greater concern for most people. Even younger conservatives are breaking from their older counterparts by insisting on fighting climate change. According to a poll from Pew Research earlier this year, 75% of Americans say that they are very concerned about protecting the environment. Having green weddings is a good way to act on this concern.

One of the biggest changes people are making is using recycled products for their green weddings. This is explained by the research from Pew:

“Overall, 32% of U.S. adults say they are bothered a lot by people throwing away things that could be recycled. Roughly six-in-ten Americans (61%) who say they always try to live in ways that protect the environment say it bothers them “a lot” when others throw away things that could be recycled. Among those who are less focused on environmental protection, only a quarter say it bothers them a lot when others don’t recycle. People who are environmentally conscious are also twice as likely as others to say that seeing someone incorrectly putting trash in recycling bins bothers them a lot (42% vs. 21%).”

Indifferent Politicians Are Driving them to Take More Initiative

Many politicians in power have been very hesitant to take action on climate change. Many of them have openly stated that it is a hoax. These politicians are forcing people to do what they can in their own lives to make a difference. Making small changes, such as hosting green weddings, is a great way to improve the environment without waiting for political momentum.

Cost and Simplicity

A couple of the biggest reasons that people want to host green weddings have nothing to do with their concern for the environment. Running green weddings is simply cheaper and simpler than having a massive, traditional one. One of the biggest changes is that they are buying green engagement rings from the best brands.

Green Weddings Are the Future

Green weddings have become very popular over the past few years. They will probably account for close to 90% of all marriages by 2025. People that are planning to get married should look into the benefits and plan accordingly.

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Green Tech Start-Ups: Are they the Future?

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Endless innovations are occurring in green companies, reinventing the industries they belong to. Gradually, they are beginning to amass more success and popularity. Consequently, these factors serve as a good indicator for green technology businesses, and their development must begin somewhere.

Green tech start-ups boast a wide array of opportunities for the economy and environment, while boosting recruitment openings with valuable services. While the technology industry is littered with high revenues and competition, the green tech start-ups are the clear sign of a cleaner future.

Fulfilling a Genuine Need

Many tech companies will market themselves as the ultimate tech giants to shift stock and make profit. As they all vie for attention through warped corporate rhetoric, there is only one ethical winner; the start-up green tech company.

Some argue that mainstream tech businesses have grown far too big, branching out into other industries and standing between the consumer and practically everything they do. However, green tech start-ups go beyond the shallow ambitions of a company, answering a call to sincerely help the customer and climate in any way they can. Of course, this is an attractive business model, putting customers at ease as they contribute to a humanitarian cause that is genuine through and through.

After all, empathy is a striking trait to have in business, and green tech start-ups maintain this composure by their very nature and purpose.

Creating Opportunities

Despite the pursuits for clean energy still needing more awareness, green tech is an area that is ripe for contribution and expansion. There’s no need to copy another company or be a business of cheap knockoffs; green tech start-ups can add a new voice to the economy by being fresh, fearless and entrepreneurial.

Technology is at its most useful when it breaks new ground, an awe that eco-friendly innovations have by default in their operations. Of course, green tech start-ups have the chance to build on this foundation and create harmony instead of climate crisis. Ultimately, the tech advancements are what revolutionise clean energy as more than an activist niche, putting theory into practice.

Despite the US gradually becoming more disengaged with green technology, others such as China and Canada recognise the potential in green technology for creating jobs and growth in their respective economies. The slack of others spurs them on, which creates a constant influx of prospects for the green tech sector. Put simply, their services are always required, able to thrive from country to country.

A Fundamental Foresight

Mainstream technology can seem repetitive and dull, tinkering with what has come before rather than turning tech on its head. Since 2011, technology has been accused of stagnation, something which the internet and petty app services seem to disguise in short reaching ideas of creativity.

However, green tech start-ups aren’t just winging it, and operate with a roadmap of climate change in the years ahead to strategize accordingly. In other words, they aren’t simply looking to make a quick profit by sticking to a trend, but have the long-term future in mind. Consequently, the green tech start-up will be there from the very start, building up from the foundational level to only grow as more and more people inevitably go green.

They can additionally forecast their finances too, with the ability to access online platforms despite the differing levels of experience, keeping them in the loop. Consequently, with an eye for the future, green tech startups are the ones who will eventually usher in the new era.

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