Snapshot: Cleantech needs more visible leaders

Reports of surging cleantech investment is a good start, but it won't lead to lasting change without visible leadership.

Reports of cleantech investment hitting $2 trillion this year will naturally excite many. However, the harsh reality is that achieving net-zero is still some distance away.

Ever since 193 countries plus the EU signed the 2015 Paris Agreement to curb global warming, no global economy has come close to hitting 2030 emissions reduction targets.

This even despite cleantech investment tripling in that time.

Why? Because funding is only half of the battle.

What the cleantech sector really needs is more visible leaders who can drive innovation and wide-scale impact.

The problem with the cleantech sector.

At the moment, far too many cleantech leaders hide behind their businesses to avoid being pulled into burdensome political, economic, or logistics debates.

There are many reasons why.

  • Cleantech companies rely heavily on government support and can’t be seen to take sides.

  • Leaders are wary of deterring investors or potential partners.

  • The development of cleantech is time-consuming.

  • Leaders don't have the confidence to use their voices.

As a result, these leaders are unable to influence public discussion, advocate for policy shifts, and build the trust and credibility of their stakeholders.

The only “safe-haven” where industry leaders often discuss the progress, objectives, and ambitions of the sector tends to be at climate and cleantech conferences.

Rhys Marks

Consequently, many cleantech start-ups fail to take off, while more established businesses often stagnate.

It's time for more leaders to step out into the spotlight.

Leaders don't necessarily need to emphasise how cleantech will change the world, but they should dispel misconceptions about the industry and improve general understanding.

  • Leaders must take up more opportunities to speak to trade or national media.

  • They must post more regularly on social media, keeping abreast industry trends.

  • They must spend more time filming multimedia content that can be leveraged online.

This is the only way to engage broader audiences, attract more partners and investors, and accelerate innovation. The cleantech leaders who do flourish significantly.

Cleantech are one and the same.

Perhaps the greatest barrier visible leaders can help eradicate is how overgeneralised the cleantech sector is perceived to be.

For instance, bio-based plastics have no relation to EVs, while smart grids act very differently from precision agriculture. Yet, cleantech discussion often falls under one bracket.

The headlines touting cleantech's $2 trillion investment milestone epitomise this issue, potentially misleading by suggesting all cleantech industries have been performing well.

But this isn't the case.

Game-changing technologies like carbon capture are yet to become fully scalable despite being researched for decades.

Rhys Marks

Without more visible leaders representing the different facets of the cleantech ecosystem, how can we ever expect more targeted investment and innovation to reach its full potential?

Us vs them.

There is also a huge issue of the media pitting gas and oil companies against cleantech.

Largely, this is to create conflict and drama to draw in readers due to the huge global economic interests in gas and oil.

However, it is also a myth.

Many oil and gas companies invest heavily in lithium batteries for EVs to diversify their portfolios. Others fund carbon capture research to prolong the use of fossil fuels.

Rhys Marks

Addressing this reality would help leaders control harmful narratives too often perpetuated by the media and advance cross-sector efforts to better the planet.

Cleantech will save the world.

It's also important to highlight that while cleantech can significantly improve issues like the climate crisis, it won’t single-handedly solve it.

This expectation that the sector shoulders continues to hold it back. We need leaders to be more transparent.

  • Cleantech businesses would face much less pressure to have an immediate impact.

  • Research and development would progress more naturally.

  • The public wouldn't oversimplify the challenges involved with transitioning to a sustainable economy.

This would give leaders the license to promote conservative energy use, plant-based diets, and more responsible travel, which must all be adopted in tandem with cleantech uptake to make a real difference.

Rhys Marks

Ultimately, cleantech leaders would come across as far more genuine.

Cleantech is expensive.

Leaders must also address the misconception that cleantech is expensive.

While this can be true concerning initial R&D or when founders mismanage VC funding, once cleantech's are fully installed and operational, they save a considerable amount of money.

Research shows that switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy could save the world $12 trillion by 2050.

Rhys Marks

While this data might be shared within written proposals and company reports, words from leaders themselves carry much more weight.

Becoming a cleantech thought leader.

Cleantech will be a prominent topic for the foreseeable future, particularly with the growing importance of Corporate Social Responsibility. There are many discussions yet to be had.

Therefore, in light of the sector's current lack of thought leaders, there is a huge opportunity that cleantech executives can and must capitalise on.

By becoming a thought leader, cleantech leaders can demystify the sector for good, and cement themselves at the forefront of its continued growth.

Rhys Marks

It doesn't matter whether leaders operate in renewable energy, waste treatment, green building development, ag-tech, or else. They can all make a tangible difference.

For more information about becoming a thought leader, you can read here.

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