You can help choose the Your Mark on the World Changemaker of the month for January 2109 right here. We have 9 great candidates for your consideration. You can read more about each candidate–and watch the interview with them–by clicking the link next to each name in the list below.
The winner will receive an autographed copy of my book, Your Mark on the World, along with ten lifetime passes to my GoodCrowd.School worth a total of $2,500. The winner will also be qualified for the 2019 Changemaker of the Year award, which will include a cash prize.
Be sure to scroll within the frame below to see all of the candidates. Voting ends Friday, January 25, at 5:00 PM MDT. Please note that employees of the Your Mark on the World Center and our sponsors, including CaringCrowd and Johnson & Johnson, are not eligible and so are not listed below.
Don’t vote in the comments below. Scroll in the box above or click here.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
While debates rage about what should be done about climate change, some social entrepreneurs are doing something about it. Among other things, they’re making it easy for 2019 to your first carbon neutral year.
Paul Hawken, the author of the 2017 environmental masterwork Drawdown, founded an organization of the same name, to track and monitor the top climate change interventions by effectiveness, cost and ancillary savings.
While Drawdown won’t provide you with a personal, step-by-step guide to personal carbon neutrality, it will give you a clear vision that smart people do have a reasonable plan for preventing the worst effects of climate change. Given that success seems possible, you may feel an even greater responsibility to do your part to go carbon neutral yourself.
One of the great lessons from Drawdown’s work is that many interventions have non-environmental benefits. Educating girls has a huge climate change impact—Drawdown ranks it as the sixth most impactful thing we can do to mitigate climate change—but it is an even more important intervention for the girls.
There are countless carbon footprint calculators available on the internet; here’s one. There seems to be some agreement that the average carbon footprint of a person living in the United States, the highest per capita emitter of carbon, is about 16 or 17 metric tons of carbon each year. (China, with its 1.3 billion people, now emits more carbon than the U.S. in aggregate)
Because I travel extensively on airplanes, my air travel contributes more carbon than my cars and home combined. Still, the calculator suggests my food consumption generates still more. The calculator did not ask about my diet so it does not appear to have considered the fact that I eat a vegan diet, which produces less than half as much carbon as a meat lover’s diet.
Use a calculator to help you see opportunities for reducing your carbon output.
Electric cars, some made by social entrepreneurs, don’t just have zero tailpipe emissions, they are three to four times as efficient as cars powered by gasoline. Even if your electric car is powered in part by coal-fired electricity, it is driving much less carbon than a similar car with an internal combustion engine. With the adoption of renewable energy outpacing the adoption of electric cars in the U.S., one could argue that most of the electricity for automobiles is coming from the increase in renewable energy. Of course, if you put solar panels on the roof of your house to power your car, then 100% of the energy for your car is clean.
My Leaf requires only about 100 kWh per month, about $10 worth of energy from Rocky Mountain Power, for me to drive the 400 or so miles I cover each month. While much has been made of Tesla’s Model 3 being nominally priced around $35,000, the untold story is that used electric cars from Fiat, Nissan and Smart are readily available in the U.S. for well under $10,000. (Full disclosure: I own 60 shares of Tesla.)
Even if you do better than I at reducing your carbon footprint, eliminating air travel, walking more and eating only food grown on organic, regenerative farms, chances are you won’t be able to bring your carbon footprint to zero. “So, how do I get to carbon neutral?” you ask.
The answer is simple and surprisingly affordable. There are lots of ways to buy carbon offsets but my favorite is with the crowdfunding site Cool Effect, founded by Richard and Dee Lawrence. All the projects on the site have a triple-audited carbon reduction impact that you can purchase for prices as low as $5.27 per ton. The average on the site is $9.41 per metric ton.
Virtually all the projects have other social impacts as well. For instance, the $5.27 per ton project provides biogas digestors and clean cookstoves to low-income people in China. This provides economic and health benefits directly to people who need them while reducing carbon output for all.
As the years roll forward, I expect it will quickly become even easier to reduce our personal carbon output but it will never be easier than it is today to be carbon neutral. For just $155.27, that is, $9.41 per ton times 16.5 tons per year, you can do your part.
If you cut your emissions to 50% of average and buy the cheapest offsets at $5.27 per ton, you could conceivably offset your carbon output for just $43.48 per year. You can also subscribe to a monthly purchase, making it feel more affordable.
There are some people on the edge of economic survival for whom $155.27 is an impossible amount. If you are able, consider buying extra offsets for someone who can’t afford to do so.
While the debates continue to rage, you can act. You can do your part. Thanks in part to social entrepreneurs, today and going forward, we have no excuse for not being carbon neutral.
Sara Jones is perhaps the most American-sounding name one can imagine. She is as American as her name sounds. Raised in the United States by her adoptive white family, she admits that because of her Korean heritage she has been accused of being a banana–yellow on the outside but white on the inside.
Last year began, however, with an itch to find her biological family. Knowing little more than that she had been adopted from Korea, she began her search. The one other clue she had was a faint scar from having a tattoo removed from her arm when she came to the U.S. Recreating the tattoo with a marker, she shared photos of her arm with the markings on social media.
Much faster than she anticipated, she connected with her brother, who has the same tattoo on his arm. She learned that her father had given her up for adoption after her mother left. He had tattooed himself and the three children with the same, simple tattoo: cross with four dots underneath the cross, representing a father and three children.
The experience of connecting with her biological family has provided her with a whole new perspective on life, one the recognizes the reality of a completely different path her life might taken.
Be sure to watch the full interview with Sara in the video player above to learn more about how this experience has changed her.
Interview with Sara Jones, the President of InclusionPro.
The following is the pre-interview with Sara Jones. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.
We’ll be discussing her experiences as a Korean adoptee, raised in Utah. I met my Korean birth family for the first time in October – after 42 years. with Sara Jones.
It really was miraculous how my Korean family and I found each other. I’m grateful to my birth father for giving me a unique tattoo that I could use later in life to find my family.
What is your take on adoption?
I’ve reflected a lot on what this journey has meant for me personally. It won’t be the same for all Korean adoptees.
Television Report: Miracle of the Yoon Tattoo: https://youtu.be/WVAvDlXAOB4
More about InclusionPro:
InclusionPro™ helps CEOs and companies build and execute diversity and inclusion strategy. With its Inclusion Growth™ Framework, we use best practices for real impact.
Sara Jones’s bio:
Sara Jones is President of InclusionPro™, where she consults executive teams on diversity and inclusion – how to attract, grow and retain diverse and winning teams through her Inclusion Growth™ Framework strategies. As a consultant, she has keynoted or trained over 30 groups on leadership, high performing teams, talent strategies, and career skills. Sara has almost 20 years of experience within companies leading operational, partnership, fundraising and legal strategies. She was CEO of ApplicantPro, an HR SaaS company providing recruiting tools to over 3000 clients, with a strong female workforce. She was VP of Strategic Development at Patent Law Works, an IP firm based in Silicon Valley. She was head of business development at School Improvement Network, an ed tech SaaS company. She started her career as a patent attorney, where she led diversity efforts and became a partner at Workman Nydegger, having worked on over 400 patents, mostly in the software arts. Ms. Jones has a law degree from BYU and a B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Utah.
In 2007, she co-founded and is COO of Women Tech Council, a non-profit with a community of 10,000 women and men nationwide. Over the past 11 years, Women Tech Council has recognized over 200 women tech leaders, mentored over 2,000 college women in STEM, and activated over 12,000 high school girls through its SheTech program.
Samyr Qureshi, the co-founder and CEO of Knack, is scaling up the tutoring platform to serve more students. Knack helps schools to match students who have recently completed a course successfully with students who are taking the course to get the help they need to learn the material. Both students benefit from the experience and schools find this to be an affordable way to improve student outcomes.
Interview with Samyr Qureshi, the Co-Founder & CEO of Knack.
The following is the pre-interview with Samyr Qureshi. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.
Revenue model: License/platform fee charged to universities + service fee on sessions
Scale: 8 full-time employees, 4,000+ tutors on the platform
What is the problem you solve and how do you solve it?
Access and coverage of academic support services on college campuses. We leverage high-achieving students on-campus as peer leaders to fill in the gaps and offer those services on a one-on-one and group basis both on-campus and online.
More about Knack:
Knack’s student and admin-friendly platforms increase coverage and accessibility of academic support services by on-boarding high achieving students to become campus peer leaders and offer appointment-based student support services on-campus (peer tutoring, mentoring, coaching, etc.). What’s really interesting is our focus on up-skilling students to be successful not just in the classroom, but also in the workplace. We do this by marrying the tutoring/mentoring with our Corporate Partners ––companies like PwC will support the Knack program on our partnered campuses by sponsoring student services within certain disciplines (e.g. accounting tutoring), further reducing the cost for the university and its student body.
Samyr Qureshi’s bio:
Samyr Qureshi is the Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Knack, the fastest growing peer learning platform on college campuses. Knack’s mission is to help students discover and deliver their knack – giving them the best platform to build, sharpen, and showcase their skills to their peers and future employers. Previously, Samyr worked as an Account Executive in the Emerging Technology division at Gartner and also formerly served as a Product Advisor at Apple.
Samyr was born in Abu Dhabi, UAE and immigrated to the US with his mother and sister at the age of seven. Landing in Florida, Samyr grew up in the Clearwater area and earned his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Florida. He graduated with honors in 2014 with a degree in Law & Criminology. Samyr has been featured on Inc.com as a Top 30 Entrepreneur to Watch in 2017, is apart of the Thiel Network, and is a K50 Fellow through the Kairos Society.
Samyr currently resides in Tampa, Florida where Knack is headquartered. When he’s not traveling, he enjoys playing guitar, listening to live music, and spending time outdoors with his dog Koda.
Based on research and observation, scientists and environmentalists have a good reason to believe that our precious Earth is in trouble. So, the need for an environmentally sustainable lifestyle cannot be overemphasized. The United Nations has reported that human-caused issues such as air pollution and deforestation threaten to harm the planet in irreversible ways. And, if we do not change our ways, there are both unintended and potentially permanent consequences we are going to face. With that said, far too many people believe that adopting a green lifestyle is expensive. That is not necessarily the case, though. Taking steps to help the planet doesn’t have to break the bank.
Here are 10 ways you can reduce your environmental impact without draining your wallet:
These are just some of the ways you can help save our precious Earth. If you want to learn more how to get started today, read CouponChief’s cheap green living guide for saving the planet: https://www.couponchief.com/guides/guide_to_cheap_green_living
As a young professional–a trader at Citigroup–Rhoden Monrose felt a tug to do more good in the world at real scale. He also recognized that others in the Millennial generation had a similar passion for good but weren’t always getting the same opportunities older professionals did.
He created CariClub to match young professionals with nonprofits to serve as associate board members, offering the same sort of counsel and connections that their older peers provide on traditional board.
The innovative model provides a win to employers (who pay a fee for their employees to participate) in that they get more engaged employees who are building valuable experience at the same time they give back. Young professionals win as they get an opportunity to learn and develop new skills and a broader network even as they give back to their communities. Nonprofits win as they receive an infusion of young talent and perspective.
Be sure to watch the full interview with Rhoden in the video player at the top of this article.
Interview with Rhoden Monrose, the Founder & CEO of CariClub.
The following is the pre-interview with Rhoden Monrose. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.
What is the problem you solve and how do you solve it?
Since launching in 2014, CariClub has partnered with nearly 500 highly regarded nonprofit organizations to place young professionals on associate boards from top industry firms such as Citigroup, KKR, Davis Polk, Third Point, Berkshire Capital, and many others.
More about CariClub:
CariClub is a unique technology platform strategically positioned at the intersection of corporate citizenship and professional networking. CariClub is a community of talented professionals working together to tackle society’s biggest problems. Our technology makes it easy for our members to discover associate board positions with hundreds of inspiring and effective nonprofit organizations. CariClub also helps firms connect with their millennial workforce and subsequently help them attract, retain and develop their next generation of leaders by giving young professionals access to philanthropic leadership opportunities, specifically associate board positions with well-known nonprofits and foundations.
Since launching in 2014, CariClub has partnered with nearly 500 highly regarded nonprofit organizations to place young professionals on associate boards from top industry firms such as Citigroup, KKR, Davis Polk, Third Point, Berkshire Capital, and many others. Headquartered in New York City with plans for global expansion, CariClub is reinventing what it means to give back for the next generation of business leaders. Headquartered in New York City with plans for global expansion, CariClub is reimagining what it means to give back and get involved for the millennial generation.
Our mission is to unlock the potential within each individual to become a driving force for good.
Rhoden Monrose’s bio:
After emigrating from Saint Lucia at the age of twelve, Rhoden Monrose grew up in Harlem, NY. With the help of nonprofits, he attended a prestigious university and got a job as a derivatives trader at Citigroup. While the work was rewarding he felt something missing, and he tried to fill the void by working (and playing) harder. In 2011, he found a circle of like-minded people who found purpose in using their time, talent and money to make an impact. In 2014, he founded CariClub, a digital community designed to connect young professionals to nonprofit associate boards. Citigroup became Rhoden’s first client. CariClub now works with a large network of nonprofits, companies and young professionals, building a pipeline for the future leaders of the nonprofit world…and is having a lot of fun doing it.
Rhoden’s personal experiences with nonprofit organizations helped fuel his passion to develop a technology platform where other young professionals have the opportunity to engage with nonprofits at a higher level Rhoden is a member of Row New York’s associate board.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
The New Year usually starts with a bit of healthy self-reflection and goal setting, that typically fills the gyms in January—a problem that abates in February.
We often set a variety of other professional and personal development goals as well.
This year, I want to encourage social entrepreneurs and impact investors to take a different approach. Before you sit down to identify the things you want to do or do better this year, may I suggest that you consider what you want to be?
I’m not talking about “to be” in the sense of the question we pointlessly ask six-year-olds, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Rather, I’m suggesting you really think about the sort of person you want to be. Ultimately, I think we all want not just to be good at something but to be good.
Those who focus on impact on the world are off to a good start. A focus on others’ wellbeing is healthy and I would not want to discourage that.
Still, as you reflect today on the year past and the year to come, take a moment to consider how to become a better human being.
You may also wish to be a better leader, a better investor, a better parent or even a better golfer. You can identify actions that will help you to be a better anything you want to be.
In addition to thinking about being a better professional, a better entrepreneur or a better Cranium player at parties, think about what it would take to be a better person.
Some of the tasks that will make you better at things you do will also make you a better human and everything that makes you a human should help you do everything else better, too.
While I want to avoid being proscriptive about what makes a person better, I think many would agree that patience, kindness and more open-mindedness are good traits.
Years ago, when I wanted to become more patient, I did some research and found several people suggested counting to ten when waiting for things or before taking actions. I count to ten a lot. I should count to ten even more.
In fairness to yourself, setting lots of goals can be self-defeating. As you ponder all the things you could focus on this year, think about choosing just one or two. Perhaps you could focus on building on one core strength and another area of your life where you have a deficiency.
Growing evidence suggests that remarkable people often succeed because of one or two key abilities that stand out rather than a general well-roundedness. Didn’t Michael Jordan effectively prove this when he chose to play baseball?
At the same time, a bad temper, lack of empathy or other notable deficiency can create problems in our lives that we are constantly having to overcome or may block opportunities we would otherwise enjoy. It is probably worth some effort to knock the roughest edges off our character—one at a time.
So, this year, think deeply about what you want to be before you plan what to do. Then your “to do” list will naturally align with your “to be” list.
Most teenagers find themselves facing important life decisions about where to go to college or trade school. Kids who find themselves on the wrong side of the law or in the foster care system often face starker questions, like where to sleep tonight or how to find food to eat.
Such youth face additional challenges in the form of drugs and alcohol that allow them to self-medicate to avoid the pain associated with lives turned upside down, often by circumstances beyond their control.
More Than Words is a social enterprise that sells books but does so much more. The nonprofit employs youth who have been involved with the criminal justice system or foster care, teaching them life skills that can mean the difference between surviving as an adult outside the system and not.
Founded by Jodi Rosenbaum, the organization is proving to be such an effective intervention that when Boston brought Amazon executives to the city to show off all it had going for it in a failed attempt to woo the company’s second headquarters to the city, a stop at More Than Words was on the agenda.
Be sure to watch the full interview with Jodi in the video at the top of this article.
Interview with Jodi Rosenbaum, the Founder and CEO of More Than Words.
The following is the pre-interview with Jodi Rosenbaum. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.
For-profit/Nonprofit: 501(c)3 Nonprofit
Revenue model: Young adults work approximately 20 hours per week managing our online, retail, pop-up and wholesale book-selling businesses, running a high-end event space, and gaining critical life skills and work experience while generating ~$4MM in earned revenue that offsets program costs. Youth facilitate peer-led training and weekly team meetings, manage sales, and plan and host events. Youth are also out on 3 trucks doing daily pickups at donation bins, homes, businesses and institutions in the community, sourcing over 3M donated books annually to run their businesses. Through the Business job, young people learn marketable and transferable job skills, including customer service, technology, inventory management, as well as critical professional skills such as showing up on time and working as a team.
Scale: FY19: 400 youth served; retail storefront 40K books; online inventory 140K books; youth ship ~800 books/day all over the world; 7K book pickups; $4MM gross earned revenue sales from all businesses;
What is the problem you solve and how do you solve it?
Eighty percent of low-income minority youth in MA are unemployed, and national research shows that 43% of women and 74% of men who age out of the foster care system will be incarcerated at least once in their lifetimes. These young people are bursting with potential but there are numerous factors contributing to their disengagement. These are the youth that MTW serves.
All of the youth at MTW are 16-21, have compounding risk factors and are in need of an empowering life experience to help them transition into a successful and self-sufficient adulthood. All are low income and represent all racial and ethnic groups. Across both our Boston and Waltham sites:
MTW has developed an innovative work-based social enterprise youth development program to empower the most marginalized youth to reach positive outcomes in education, employment, and self-efficacy and is shifting perceptions about their potential. Our model consists of 3 components:
Business Job: MTW youth work paid jobs as part of a team generating over $1M annually by managing their online and retail bookstores approximately 20 hours/week, and are integrated into all aspects of the business. Youth facilitate peer-led training and weekly team meetings, track financials, manage sales, guide tours, plan and host events, manage marketing/promotions, and source the 2.4 million books per year needed to run their business doing daily pickups at donation bins, homes, businesses and institutions in the community.
“You” Job: Youth have a second equally important “YOU” job – deliberate transition planning and case management to ensure they have life essentials in place and move on to meaningful jobs and higher education. Youth attend weekly youth development shifts and gain exposure to potential jobs and post-secondary education through site visits with partners at hotels, banks, businesses, trade schools and universities. Youth participate in workshops, mock interviews, dinners with community leaders, and regular meetings with Youth Development Managers. By tackling personal barriers in their lives and gaining exposure to new opportunities, youth are able to craft their own action plans with concrete steps for earning their diploma or HiSet, securing post-MTW employment, and pursuing post-secondary education.
Graduate Program: Once youth graduate, after 6-12 months in the core program, they continue to receive intensive case management from Youth Development and Education and Employment Managers who support them toward higher education, door-opening credentials, or growth-focused pathway employment, and track data on achievements in education and career pathways for 2 years.
We have shown that when we put young people in charge of running a business – in roles where they can make tangible contributions – they are inspired and empowered to take charge of their lives.
Read the More Than Words Annual Report.
More about More Than Words:
More Than Words is a nonprofit social enterprise that empowers young adults who are in the foster care system, court-involved, homeless, or out of school to take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business.
We believe that when system-involved youth are empowered with authentic and increasing responsibilities in a business setting, and are given high expectations and a culture of support, they can and will address personal barriers to success, create concrete action plans, and become contributing members of society who live, love and own their futures.
Jodi Rosenbaum’s bio:
Jodi Rosenbaum piloted MTW as an online book-selling venture with several teenage boys in foster care in 2004, and then worked with the youth to grow MTW into a vibrant retail and online bookstore and café and a platform for youth to radically transform their lives. Jodi has over 16 years’ experience with youth in the juvenile justice and public school systems and served as a Teach For America fellow. She serves on the state-wide Advisory Council of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families and the MA chapter of the Social Enterprise Alliance. Jodi was selected as the Advocate of the Year by the MA Providers’ Council in 2009, The Rising Star by Germaine Lawrence in 2010, and received the Next Generation Award by the Social Enterprise Alliance in 2010. She received a political science degree with a focus on juvenile justice policy from Emory University and a master’s in education in risk and prevention from Harvard. She resides in Waltham.
Dr. Kevin Shurtleff, a tenured professor at Utah Valley University, has developed a prototype of a system that will remove algae from water during an algal bloom and then convert it to energy. While the energy produced cannot financially support the operation, there are reasons governments would pay to remove the algae.
Public safety and environmental benefits may justify paying to have the algae removed. Once removed, it can be converted to energy.
Kevin is looking for partners to commercialize the idea.
Interview with Kevin Shurtleff, the Associate Professor of Utah Valley University.
We’ll be discussing Harvesting of algae to prevent or reduce harmful algal blooms with Kevin Shurtleff.
How are you personally affected by Harvesting of algae to prevent or reduce harmful algal blooms?
As a resident of Utah County for 28 years, I’ve water skied, canoed, and fished on Utah Lake. It is a beautiful, natural resource that has been degraded over time by bigger and longer algal blooms during the summer. The algae harvesting technology my students and I developed can prevent or reduce the worst algal blooms, returning Utah Lake to a more pristine state, increasing its recreational value.
What is your take on Harvesting of algae to prevent or reduce harmful algal blooms?
We’ve demonstrated the algae harvesting technologies with laboratory scale equipment and processes. We use microalgae (cyanobacteria) we’ve grown in the greenhouse on campus when there isn’t an algal bloom on Utah Lake. Last summer, we also harvested algae directly from the harbor at Utah Lake State Park. We are now seeking funding to build a full-scale, 30 ft long x 10 foot wide, algae harvesting barge. It will process 1800 gallons per minute removing most of the algae and returning cleaner water to the lake. We hope to be operational by next spring. We will use satellite imagery to target the worst algal blooms on the lake. In a targeted area, we will harvest algae throughout the spring and summer to prevent an algal bloom later in the summer. I would like to use the harvested algae to produce electricity using gasification. Eventually, I would like to power the algae harvesting barge using the algae we harvest with an on-board gasifier/engine/generator system.
More about Utah Valley University:
College of Science, Chemistry Department
Kevin Shurtleff’s bio:
Dr. Shurtleff received a PhD in physical chemistry from Brigham Young University and a Masters of Business Administration from the Marriott School. He is an associate professor of chemistry at Utah Valley University. He has been teaching and doing research at UVU for the past 7 years. In that time, he has mentored over 70 students as they performed research on recycling used motor oil, renewable, wind, solar, and river compressed air electricity generation, microalgae harvesting, and clean air technologies. For the past two years, his research has focused on developing algae harvesting technologies to prevent harmful algal blooms (HABs) on Utah Lake and beyond. Before UVU, he spent 25 years in industry, taking technologies from the laboratory into the marketplace. He has been working in the energy field for the past 20 years. Dr. Shurtleff is a serial entrepreneur. He has started five companies based on technologies he developed: MicromistNOW – fast micromist products, Mountain West Energy – enhanced oil recovery, Trulite, Inc. – powdered source of hydrogen fuel, Synexus, Inc. – portable, integrated fuel cell system, and Peak Semiconductor – gallium arsenide crystal growth. He is married to a UVU professor. He has 7 adult children and 8 grandchildren.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
GQ’s Luke Darby’s article, “Billionaires Are the Leading Cause of Climate Change,” makes the compelling point that 100 corporations produce 70% of the global greenhouse gas or GHG emissions.
Upon reading that, the first thought that comes to my mind is that climate change should be easy to address, simply because only 100 boardrooms need be convinced to change their ways. Darby argues it won’t be so easy.
Next, I think that corporations have zero incentive to produce GHGs unless consumers are buying up products derived from or requiring emission of GHGs. GM presumably sells lots of Suburbans that get only 15 miles per gallon in the city because people buy them. There is an easy way for us to stop GM from producing Suburbans—stop buying them.
And, let’s note, that a Suburban carrying eight people on a long road trip where the massive vehicle impressively logs 22 miles per gallon is arguably more efficient per passenger (about 176 miles per gallon per person) than my electric Nissan Leaf when I’m driving it alone (99 MPGe on average).
Still, the argument that powerful corporations could do more than they are to reduce GHG emissions is almost undeniable. The argument—and we need to have it—should be how much more and how quickly should they do more. Such an argument falls outside my Forbes-sanctioned “swim lane” so look to someone else to lead that discussion.
Darby points out that we have only about 12 years “to prevent the worst, most catastrophic elements of [climate change] from wreaking havoc on the world’s population.” He may be right that gambling on large companies to move quickly enough to address these problems is betting against the house.
Instead, I wish to make the point that Harvard’s Clayton Christensen explained more than 20 years ago what is likely to happen in his seminal work, The Innovator’s Dilemma. Startups will innovate and displace behemoths that fail to do so—and real innovation within the massive organization of a large corporation is painfully difficult.
Ford still has a market capitalization of $31.4 billion as I write this. GM’s is even larger at $46.55 billion. Tesla, however, is still larger still at $54.2 billion, despite producing a small fraction of the cars produced by the U.S. auto giants. We seem to be watching the feature film version of The Innovator’s Dilemma playing out in a sort of real-time slow motion. (Full disclosure: I own 60 shares of Tesla).
If Christensen is to be believed, over the next 25 to 30 years, we can expect to see a complete replacement of some of the world’s largest companies, especially those tied to high GHG emissions, like oil and gas companies and some players in the auto industry. While most if not all of them are making investments in clean energy, the dilemma they face between profiting from their legacy businesses and innovating their replacements could be too great for them to succeed.
At the same time, startups with nothing invested and nothing to lose in the production of GHGs, can innovate around them. It will be billionaires who provide at least some of the funding for these startups, providing the economic fuel for their success.
For an example you’re less likely to recognize, Renewlogy is a startup based in Salt Lake City that converts even the lowest quality plastics, including both high-quality plastics that have been degraded by floating in the ocean for years and low-quality plastics like grocery bags that typically aren’t recycled into either diesel fuel or the raw material for food-grade plastic.
Innovation in the renewable energy space is certainly more than I can keep pace with, but I’ve written about solar energy advancements in almost every phase of their design, production, distribution, installation and operation.
Wind energy is already the cheapest source of electricity (but without batteries can’t yet be relied upon for baseload power to the grid). GE, it should be noted, has helped lead innovation in wind turbines and is a major producer—proving that all is not lost for the incumbents.
There are startups in the wind-power arena who are working on affordable rooftop and backyard turbines that could work alongside or in place of rooftop solar where there is too little sun.
Since he published The Innovator’s Dilemma in 1997, much of Christensen’s work has been focused on helping large companies innovate. I hope the 100 big GHG emitters Darby mentioned have Christensen on retainer. They’re going to need him.
In the meantime, I will look to social entrepreneurs to lead the innovations that will solve climate change. Remember, we don’t have to solve climate change with yesterday’s technology or even today’s. The financial incentives have never been bigger. You can count on entrepreneurs and inventors to keep right on innovating in 2019 and beyond—and there is no bureaucracy preventing them from succeeding.