ChangeNow. The name says it all. During a three-day conference in Paris innovators from across the world gathered to share their inventions and ideas to tackle climate change with their peers and investors:
Sparo, a Microsoft Entrepreneurship for Positive Impact company, was invited to present its vision for sustainable social impact. Our host, Microsoft’s EVP, Jean-Philippe Courtois, introduced the companies that ranged from leveraging AI for STEM education to using virtual reality tools to train employees on empathy. Jean-Philippe was focused on the ESG-driven mission of Microsoft and how his office and his team are dedicated to bringing innovative ideas into our daily lives. In fact, meeting with his team members Anthony, Kate, Edit, Apoline and Renee, it was very clear to me that Microsoft is not just a corporation but is a company with a kind soul. For example, at a session focused on partnerships, the founder of Koolboks https://www.koolboks.com/ (that make lost cost refrigerators for sub-Saharan countries in Africa) thanked Anthony Virapin of Microsoft for being his agent of change by embracing his game-changing device.
When the opportunity presented itself to share the mission of Sparo with European brands such as Chloe and L’Oréal the reception was positive. It was clear to me that these brands are also looking for solutions that enhance not just their ESG channel but to make CSR an integral part of their corporate DNA. In fact, at the same session where Anthony Virapin spoke about the importance to Microsoft of partnerships, the conclusion was that capitalism needs a new metric for gauging success. This was also highlighted by EY’s EVP who agreed that we must measure a corporation’s success not just in terms of revenues it generates but also the economic value it produces for society.
Sparo was honored to be presenting next to six other passionate entrepreneurs. Sara Smolley of Voiceitt, Mathieu Etienne of Eliq.io, Omer Gorgulu of Twinscience.com, Alex Tavasoli of enliven.one, Jetteke Valent of ifunds.nl Each of these individuals are focused on making an impact and deserve our 100% support. Thank God they have Microsoft’s blessings.
During my visit to various booths and meetings with such nascent and not so nascent companies such as AlgaEnergy, Yopla, Terres de Café, Reforestation, Toopi Organics, Metrikus, Wepot, and Urban Cuisine, it became apparent to me that we have been deploying capital in a totally wrong way. Venture capital and other institutional investors have poured money ($150 billion in the past ten years on the hype around self-driving cars for example) into companies that have indeed increased in valuation and thus made their LPs very rich but have not had a social impact. Funding companies I met in Paris at ChangeNow would have made a massive impact on our planet.
Which brings me to China and India, two of the most populous countries on the planet. With all the good intentions that companies and counties have towards addressing the “E” in ESG and those who participated in ChangeNow we all live on Planet Earth. If China and India continue to burn coal to generate electricity and power their economies, I am afraid we will not be able to tackle climate change. Just the AI training done in China alone will burn thousands of tons of coal, after all, AI does have a carbon-footprint.
As I reflect on my three days at ChangeNow I am optimistic that good intentions will prevail and technologies that touch the human soul will see the light of day.