Nick Parker, co-founder and chairman of the Cleantech Venture Network, is profiled in the New York Times (via CNET’s News.com) today talking about the rising interest in the “cleantech” sector and how this shouldn’t be confused as a treehugging trend. The piece also touches on how companies are starting to rebrand their products “cleantech” so they can take advantage of the flow of investment going into the area. What Nick, and I think others, are concerned about is a backlash against the whole term cleantech. The buzz and hype is nice, but only to an extent. The bottom line, emphasizes Nick, is exactly that: the bottom line. The associated environmental benefits may boost the business case, but they’re not the foundation for it. This sector is about business fundamentals and real economic drivers.
Environmentalists may criticize this approach, but the fact remains if you want to get businesses to embrace a more sustainable way of operating and convince consumers to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle you’ve got to go back to basics: Will this lower costs/monthly bills? Will this improve operational efficiency? Will this lower risk? Will this give me an edge over rivals?
If a clean technology can answer YES to any of the above questions, then the hype and investment around it is justified. If it can’t, then it may not be that different than all those dot-com companies that bit the dust after their 15 minutes of undeserved fame.