The Advancing Leadership Blog

Opportunities for Sustainability-Savvy Entrepreneurs

By Romany Rzechowicz with Mike Gerbis

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with sustainability expert and CEO of the Delphi Group, Mike Gerbis. One of the topics we touched on was opportunities for entrepreneurs – from those who are still at school and starting to make career choices, to those who are more established in the business world and looking to their next opportunity. Mike outlined some significant growth areas that entrepreneurs can really start considering for the future.

“There’s a huge opportunity for both entrepreneurial individuals and students, or emerging leaders, ranging across all aspects of environmental business.

For a start, there’s a need for technological solutions that are going to help reduce our environmental impact: reduce our energy use, water use, electricity use and make things more environmentally responsible. Green chemistry, especially biomimicry (mimicking what happens in the ecosystem for human use) is a realm that is developing rapidly. For example, spider web is significantly stronger than Kevlar, and more malleable than steel. But they make it out of dead bugs, right?! So how can we replicate that in the developed world?

There are organisms in the ocean that create glass from salt water in their own systems, whereas we create glass at 1500 degrees. So scientists are mimicking what’s going on in the ecosystem to make our processes much more benign, and it’s just fascinating. And that’s the same with green chemistry – the development of chemicals that aren’t persistent or toxic in the environment. So technology is a significant growth arena, particularly for entrepreneurs.

There’s the need, of course, for venture capitalists, for money to make that happen. There’s also need for management skills: people who understand how to develop, commercialize, market and bring those technologies to market because, typically, in the environmental field – and a lot of small technology firms for that matter – it is engineers or scientists who have come up with great ideas. They’re not necessarily business people or marketers. They don’t know how to access finance etc. There are a lot that do, but a lot that don’t. So a lot of the great technologies out there never make it to market because the creators didn’t know what they didn’t know.

There’s also opportunities within these corporations for environmental policy developers, technology experts, environmental and other engineers, to actually implement sustainable tools and practices within an organization. Corporate sustainability ranges from the social side; employee engagement, stakeholder engagement, human rights, all the way to environmental operators, technologists, energy management and waste reduction experts.

So there are many opportunities out there for those who are interested.”

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