Earlier this month, I attended Greentech Festival, which is described as ‘a pioneering extended festival concept creating an inspiring space for people, ideas, innovations, companies and organisations that change the world for the better’. Right up my street.
Attended by 100 leaders and hosted by Dr Sally Uren OBE, there were some pretty heavy topics to cover, but their format made it easy to manage and digest – a mix of keynotes, bootcamps and masterclasses which formed a celebration of change in the industry.
There was no shortage of fascinating and inspiring talks to keep us engaged throughout the festival, so here are a few of my highlights:
- Satya Tripathi’s opening keynote touched upon net zero being a common theme for us all, whilst other themes have come and gone. And a rather disturbing fact too – you eat ONE CREDIT CARD’S WORTH of plastic every week. And an inspiring final comment: the future is already here, it just hasn’t been properly distributed. A call to action, if ever we heard one.
- A supergroup of speakers (Nico Rosberg, Jo Bamford, Enass Abo-Hamed and Roger Atkins) came together to discuss the arguments for a hydrogen-led energy economy. The conversation covered storage, logistics and how it can be applied to domestic situations such as personal transport. Whilst right now, it’s not the greenest approach to energy, it certainly has promise and will improve as we see greater adoption.
- Another panel discussed the sacrifices needed to make sustainability work. Very much an ‘elephant in the room’ topic, this talk was poignant and raised some interesting questions, such as “Has plastic made us lazy?” A clear conclusion was that business and society need to reinvent themselves if we are going to meet targets. Particularly in first-world countries, where we are producing nine times more carbon than we should be.
- Finance is a driving force behind the change that we need to see, so a sustainable finance panel was a welcome reminder that even the mechanisms of money itself is damaging, and we must move away from traditional methods and models. Whilst blockchain isn’t the favourable answer, there are some interesting ways in which it can be used for carbon credits (check out Dekarbon). Looking at some revealing stats, only 5% of investment is making its way to climate projects, green bonds are just 1% of the marketing, and only 3% of people understand that sustainable investments are one of the biggest ways they can make an impact.
- Bringing it back down to earth, a panel looking at sustainable communities hammered home the reality that trust is somewhat of a problem in sustainability, but when done right, honest and transparent sustainability efforts will win loyal customers and attract the best partners (and therefore, investments). The call to arms here was to not leave people behind.
Paul Polman’s closing keynote was an inspiring and energising way to launch us all into the afternoon workshops. His frank and open delivery left us with food for thought; we simply cannot have infinite growth, we can’t be healthy people on an unhealthy planet, and we must all be asking ourselves one simple question – “Is the world a better place because my company exists?”
We like to think so.
Harvesting our collective knowledge
By the afternoon, it was time for bootcamp. No, I wasn’t going back to coding school, this was an in-person event at County Hall where three groups spent time tackling various concepts around sustainable communities. The format here was also great, with each participant engaging with every topic area whilst the moderators ‘harvest’ the collective knowledge of the entire group. This approach felt like a very fair, agile and inclusive way to work – something we always strive for in our own ways of working at AndAnotherDay.
I came away from these talks and events feeling more energised, enthusiastic and optimistic than I have been for some time. It’s not been difficult to feel a little pessimistic after COP26, with headlines woeful and promises underwhelming.
But being part of such a forward thinking and future thinking community, having direct access to each other’s shared knowledge, and being able to hear from sustainability leaders is something I urge every agency owner to do. Because we have a responsibility. To quote Paul Polman’s closing keynote, “Yesterday, I was clever. Today, I am wise.”
Be a changemaker.