Climate and transition awareness for all STATION F entrepreneurs
« As a future business leader, you have far more power than anyone else to make a difference in the fight against climate change. You could even influence what happens within your sector and work with public authorities on these issues ». That was how Anita de Voisins, Director of Entrepreneurship at CentraleSupélec, introduced ClimateDay on 9 March at STATION F. It was an afternoon spent raising awareness and taking action within the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem around the challenges of climate change. It was co-organised for the first time by two incubators, EDHEC Entrepreneurs, by EDHEC, and 21st, by CentraleSupélec in partnership with STATION F.
The goal for the event was just as ambitious as the stakes involved in rising to the climate challenge: find ways of ramping up the environmental transition within the entire ecosystem, first by raising awareness among all stakeholders, and then by providing them with practical tools. The challenge is even more significant because, as Marwan Elfitesse (Head of Startup Programmes & Business Services at STATION F) pointed out, “Greentech is now the best-represented vertical at Station F, with 30% of new startups since January”.
What challenges are there in transition and entrepreneurship?
All the startups incubated on the site were therefore invited to attend a series of talks on subjects such as how startups can commit to the transition, what innovation opportunities are generated by the climate emergency and what challenges impact investing can bring.
Gabriel Chevallier (coordinator of Atelier 2tonnes) and Axel Reinaud (creator of NetZero) suggested guidelines for reflection and action on how to initiate decarbonisation through training and innovation.
At a second talk, participants learnt more about the importance of responsible investment strategies. Laurence Méhaignerie, Co-founder and Partner at Citizen Capital, and Lorraine Artur de la Villarmois, Legal & ESG Officer at 2050, explained how capital could be used as a lever to deal with major social issues. Laurence Méhaignerie suggested that the key to success is to “steer the growth of the impact”. Lorraine Artur de la Villarmois talked about 2050’s strategy. It involves investing over a long period of time (as an evergreen fund), working together with her companies to ensure they are on the right path to a fertile future, and investing 10% in staff to benefit ecosystems, without the slightest expectation of return on investment. “With its SFDR regulations, Europe provides a pull factor. The funds will have to take stance. By choosing to be an Article 9 fund, we are publicly displaying our desire to invest sustainably and to support entrepreneurs on regulatory issues as well as implementing their approach. To achieve that, our approach is based on the co-construction of an alignment plan, knowledge and long-term monitoring.”
Bastien Oggeri, founder of InnovaFeed and CentraleSupélec alumni, shared some feedback from his own experience as an entrepreneur involved in the transition. “For me, there are two aspects to impact: direction and magnitude. I think we’re on the right path with Innovafeed by reducing the environmental impact of the food we eat while creating sustainable jobs in the areas that need them most. But beyond direction, the project’s magnitude is also important. To have an impact, you need to work on a massive scale. That is why we wanted to reconcile environmental performance and economic performance from the outset. Without economic performance, our project would have stayed small and only had a minor impact.”
The meetings were followed by practical workshops on how a carbon footprint is produced, and how important it is to take a responsible approach as soon as the business starts operating. This final workshop was co-hosted by Justine Soudier, Director of EDHEC Entrepreneurs, alongside Yasmine Machwate, ESG Consultant, and Thomas Arnaudo, the founder of 900.care. The EDHEC graduate focused on the need to find purpose right from the launch of a startup, and then the need to stick to it. In his view, “there should be no such thing as an ESG department, because these criteria should be included everywhere, and ESG should definitely not be an afterthought.” EDHEC Entrepreneurs, which recently published its white paper on responsible entrepreneurship practices, was able to share its method. Yasmine Machwate, who contributed to building this method, explains: “You have to launch your idea and then structure your approach starting with your purpose, so as not to limit yourself to a checklist of good intentions. Your purpose can then be translated into priority projects, then into a roadmap.”
Justine Soudier, Director of EDHEC Entrepreneurs, believes the subject is essential: “We are the first generation to be so aware of change, and the last to be able do anything about it. That was the approach taken by B Lab France recently when they gave their B Leader training. And that as an incubator with ties to a school, we choose to train and infuse good transition practices for startups right from the very beginning, with a method that includes both good practice and intellectual thought.”