In early November, two of our True Innovators, Aarthi and Owen, attended the WIRED Impact event – featuring a host of global game-changing speakers taking action and exploring opportunities for innovation to tackle humankind’s most pressing challenges.
The sessions examined the fast-changing world of sustainability, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and explored the challenges and opportunities for organisations to innovate and rethink how we live today to take better care of our planet. Here are some of our key learnings:
Reimagining the Basics
Whilst there is a lot of activity - and value - in the optimisation of impact across the entire retail value chain, real change requires an overhaul of the fundamentals. So many of the building blocks of modern industry stem from petrochemicals, rely on unsustainable energy sources and generate harmful by-products, all of which necessitate eco-alternatives if we are to reach global sustainability goals which look increasingly aspirational as we continue at current standards.
Fortunately, there is hope. We heard from a selection of potential disruptors who are looking to solve these omnipresent problems.
True portfolio company Shellworks and ex-Premier League Footballer Mathieu Flamini’s GFBiochemicals outlined how they make it possible to provide radically more sustainable alternatives to plastic packaging and finite petrochemicals as a commodity. Meanwhile, the event explored the potential to unlock energy efficiencies and drive-down operational costs through the installation of Eco Wave Power’s robust and relatively inexpensive hydro-energy capture solution.
As so aptly put by Grant Aarons at FabricNano, we must look to 'deconstruct and reconstruct’.
Tech as an Enabler of Social Mobility
Through the inspirational first-hand accounts of Innocent Tshilombo at Kakuma Ventures, and Hovig Etyemezian at UNHCR, we were reminded of the power technology wields within social mobility, often fostering life-changing results.
Communication tools we take for granted such as WhatsApp, allow for the dissemination of information and rapid aid responses, ultimately giving the most vulnerable communities the ability to allocate time and resources towards additive development as opposed to protective stagnation.
Whilst it is paramount to protect vulnerable groups from the peril technology can harbour, like disinformation, we must improve access to even the most basic tools - and of course associated infrastructure - if we are to facilitate the possibility of upwards mobility amongst the lowest income groups.
Our Collective Custodian Duties
Driving impact does not fall into a single individual or organisation’s hands. As Lubomila Jordanova at Plan A described, ‘you can’t ignore the key stakeholders that define the success of your business’.
For many of our portfolio brands and Partners, it often falls on the business to address this with some focus on suppliers. However, truly making a change across the ESG agenda will require all of us to collaborate, from businesses to individual suppliers, investors to consumers.
As an example, Richard Hubbard at ISG spoke about the opportunities to improve the environment and community through collaboration by connecting siloed groups in the construction and property industries. Hayaatun Sillem at the Royal Academy of Engineering and Lila Ibrahim at DeepMind both spoke about being underrepresented voices to solve some of our hardest challenges, and how ‘being an outsider on the inside’ can improve communications across different communities. We all have a role to play in changing the narrative of our future – but we can only achieve this through a collective force for good.
As COP27 takes place over the next two weeks, we will see the results of some collaboration across governments tackling several climate-related issues. COP27 won’t answer all the issues at hand - it’s fundamental that we share learnings and work together. We must give people the knowledge to move forward and ultimately transform the way we live.