How young people are tackling climate change through innovative business

Climate change is not all doom and gloom, it’s a business opportunity. Young aspiring entrepreneurs are growing profitable businesses that are helping to make the planet a more habitable place.

Video: Climate KIC

The words “climate change” often evoke notions of global warming, extreme weather events, and catastrophic natural disasters.

But increasingly, the global community is realising that climate change also offers a big opportunity for entrepreneurship by highlighting the need for business to turn a profit while operating sustainably and helping tackle what is considered to be mankind’s biggest threat today.

According to the Better Business Better World report released by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission in January this year, sustainable business can unlock up to US$12 trillion in opportunities and create up to 380 million jobs by 2030.

US$5 trillion of these opportunities and 230 million of new jobs could be created in Asia alone.

What are some of the innovative climate solutions that can also be profitable business opportunities? Where can aspiring entrepreneurs turn to for help as they try to turn their planet-saving ideas into economic enterprises?

One organisation that is supporting young entrepreneurs who want to cash in on this opportunity is London-headquartered Climate Knowledge and Innovation Community (Climate KIC), a network of climate innovators supported by the European Union.

The organisation aims to give young people the chance to develop business ideas that help mitigate and adapt to climate change, especially in areas such as urban sustainability, green finance, and sustainable manufacturing practices. 

It does so through a variety of programmes including a summer school for environmental entrepreneurs, a series of global hackathon events on urban issues, and a conference event that brings innovators, scientists, academics and policy leaders together to advance climate solutions. 

This year’s Journey, Climate KIC’s annual summer camp, saw 40 young people from all over Europe present their innovations that will challenge the way people consume, use transport, and live. The young innovators went through intense mentoring over the course of five weeks and pitched their business ideas to a jury panel which consisted of sustainable business owners and climate advocates.

The stage has been set for businesses to step in, to turn the policies into reality.

Wael Hmaidan, director, Climate Action Network International

Starting a climate innovation business

Wael Hmaidan, director, Climate Action Network International and one of the jury members, said that developments in recent years have finally ingrained climate change awareness in political platforms. 

“Now, the stage has been set for businesses to step in, to turn the policies into reality,” he said.

Talis Juhna, vice-rector for research in Latvia’s Riga Technical University and another member of the pitch jury, said that startups working as a team is important to making climate innovations a reality. “If you would like to go fast, go alone. If you would like to go far, go together,” he said.

“It is important for startups to surround themselves with like-minded individuals and to highlight the team when pitching the business to potential investors,” he advised the young entrepreneurs.

Here are three of the innovations arising from the Climate-KIC summer camp:

Denmark’s Josephine Strandgaard, a master’s in innovation student at the Danish Technical University, is hoping to inspire young children to be aware of and adopt sustainable consumption practices as a means to tackle climate change. She is developing modular toys for children than can be rebuilt to change function and grow with the child during the whole of childhood. “Tackling climate change can be done in very indirect ways,” she said.

Lili Balogh from Hungary is trying to find a way to use food processing by-products such as olive pits and sunflower shells and turn them into food packaging for delivery or take-away food. “It’s a really simple concept, but nobody has ever thought about it. That’s why innovation is really important, especially in times when resources are getting scarce,” she said.

Dominic Müller from Switzerland, Sofia Tsaliki from Greece and Eveline Kantor from the Netherlands presented a start up called Dom’s Angels, where they provide a platform for special-occasion clothes that can be rented out instead of bought. “It’s time to start building a share-economy in the clothing sector, in the same way it already exists for other goods or services,” they said.

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