10 Oct 2014

Hacking Sustainability. What are we looking for?

By Lily

As applications are currently open for Bethnal Green Ventures Winter programme, we wanted to talk about some of the things we are interested in investing in. This week is Sustainability.


After two centuries of industrialisation, sustainability will be one of the defining issues of the 21st century. How we live within the limits of our environment without increasing social inequality or tension is a key issue for everyone. Some examples of themes we’d like to invest in are:

Keeping the lights on: If we’re going to tackle climate change, we need new products and services that will help people reduce their energy use by a factor of 10 not just by a few per cent. And we need new ways of getting zero-carbon energy generation to be adopted.

Unleashing underused assets: One of the main problems of twentieth century consumerism was that we all had to have one of everything. It made sense for companies to try and sell us new things all the time. In a resource constrained century, that no longer makes sense. We’re looking for tools that help co-ordinate sharing, lending and swapping of real world durable goods and property.

The story of stuff: we own more and more stuff, yet we hardly ever know where it came from or how it was made. These opaque supply chains hide all manner of cruelty and waste that desperately needs to be tackled. We want to invest in ideas that force producers to be radically transparent in how they make, ship and dispose of our stuff. (For a great animation on the subject – see here)

Radically better democracy: Public levels of trust in democratic institutions such as political parties and parliament are at their lowest ebb. We’re interested in technology that helps people reconnect with decision makers, calling them out on their mistakes and builds much greater levels of trust within and between communities.

Companies we’ve backed: FairphoneOpen Utility, Commonplace, Kutoa, voXup, Walacea


Photo by Kyle MacKenzie