Earlier this month, leaders from 20 major countries met at the G20 Summit in Germany to discuss the biggest challenges of our time. But in the end, no far-reaching or pioneering solutions were brought to the table. But there's certainly no shortage of ideas out there - like, for example, the concept of the circular economy.
The refugee crisis, climate change and the slow transition to renewable energies. At the root of many of these problems are our consumption habits, which lead to rapidly dwindling natural resources such as water, coal and rare minerals, which become rare commodities and are extracted under exploitative conditions. This subsequently leads to poverty and armed conflict in different regions of the world.
One of the solutions to all of the challenges mentioned above would be to transform our linear economic model into a circular one and create strong, balanced, sustainable and inclusive economies. However, considering recent developments, for example the Paris Agreement, we certainly shouldn't leave the transition towards a circular economy solely in the hands of governments. The private sector needs to take on a bigger responsibility. Firstly, by changing its production lines and the materials used, and secondly, by investing in innovative green ideas.
Going from words to action
Here is a recent example of how this can work. While the United Nations continues to debate how best to remove waste from our oceans, but still haven't yet produced a call for action, Boyan Slat has raised 30 million USD from the private sector in short period of time for his startup “The Ocean Cleanup”.
Slat’s idea is only one of many similar emerging sustainable concepts and business opportunities, although most of them are still desperately looking for partners and support. There's no doubt about it - financial assistance is fundamental. Nevertheless, it's usually not sufficient to turn a good idea into a successful business.
Young entrepreneurs are often looking for guidance and access to experts and partners. Naturally, most startups don’t have a big network when they begin their journey. To fill this gap, Green Alley was founded to provide a platform that brings together green startups, industry and research partners. Entrepreneurs who apply for the Green Alley Award have the opportunity to profit from an exceptional network of experts, exchange knowledge with peers and get support in turning their ideas into a functioning business.
Networking – the key to success
A successful example of a startup that has benefited from the platform is the Finnish ResQ Club, which was one of the Green Alley Award finalists in 2016. Their idea was to develop an app that allowed restaurants to sell meals that otherwise would have gone to waste. The concept is great, and tackles one of the major waste issues of our time head on. But ResQ Club had difficulties expanding to new markets. Participating in the Green Alley Award allowed them to extend their network and by doing so, overcome that challenge. Since merging with their German equivalent, Mealsaver, they are now the leading software application for reducing restaurant food waste. Considering that one-third of all food produced worldwide (approx. 1.3 billion tons) is lost or going to waste, ResQ Club’s solution can have a major impact.
This example also demonstrates that the transition towards a circular economy is only going to work if innovative and sustainable business models are accelerated and made available to mass markets. Yes, we need governments to create the right frameworks, but the private sector needs to be in the driving seat when it comes to pushing new ideas onto the market.
About the Green Alley Award
If you would like to apply for the Green Alley Award or you know a startup that might be interested in applying, be sure to note that applications are open until July 25, 2017.
The Green Alley Award is a European business competition where circular economy startups and eco-entrepreneurs meet. The award gives green ideas visibility and helps start-ups to grow. The Green Alley network includes partners such as the British accelerator programme Bethnal Green Ventures, Germany’s crowdfunding pioneer Seedmatch and ERP Finland, another specialist in the recycling sector. This year, the Green Alley Award is joined by H2 Compliance, a compliance service providing advice on chemical legislation as well as R2Pi, a Horizon 2020 project.
Detailed information about Green Alley, the Green Alley Award and the application process can be found here: www.green-alley-award.com
This is a guest post by Christina Drechsel (Marketing and Communication at Green Alley).