By the Community, For the Community: New Startup Accelerator Backs Locally-Led Climate Solutions

20 05 2023

Young people rally in front of the California statehouse in support of climate justice at a Fridays for Future demonstration on April 21, 2023. Image: Lynn Friedman/Flickr

By Mary Mazzzoni from • Reposted: May 20, 2023

Investing in viable solutions to social and environmental problems can turn a profit — and the most lucrative ideas may not come from where you’d expect. That’s the philosophy behind Village Capital. The nonprofit launched in 2009 under the tagline “democratizing entrepreneurship.” Though it’s based in Washington, D.C., its founding mission centers on identifying and supporting innovators outside the big coastal cities that receive the lion’s share of venture funding. 

Over the past 14 years, Village Capital has supported nearly 1,000 such startups through 45 U.S.-based accelerator programs — which provide funding and mentoring to entrepreneurs with smart ideas to solve big problems. 

One of its most recent accelerators squares in on the crucial issue of climate justice, with a call for innovators on the front lines of climate change to submit locally-driven solutions for backing from Village Capital. 

What is climate justice? 

For the uninitiated, climate justice refers to the imbalanced nature of the real-world impacts caused by climate change: Those who fare the worst amidst natural disasters and sea-level rise tend to be poor and underserved, and as such have contributed least to the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. For context, a billionaire will produce a million times moregreenhouse gas emissions in their lifetime than the average person, according to research from Oxfam. 

The related cause of environmental justice refers not only to the impacts of climate change, but also the sources of climate-inducing pollution — and where they’re located. In the U.S. in particular, years of segregation has created a situation in which communities of color are far more likely to be in the direct vicinity of polluting sites like oil refineries and chemical plants. A bombshell 2021 study from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that people of color are exposed to far higher levels of air pollution during their lifetimes than white people, regardless of income level. 

Again, people living in communities that have faced chronic disinvestment for decades are more likely to be poor, and as such consume far fewer of the goods and services that these polluting industries provide. Yet they’re still saddled with the impact, whether that’s long-term air pollution exposure that can lead to preventable illness, or catastrophic events like leaks and explosions

Impacted communities have sounded the alarm about environmental and climate justice for decades, but the issues are only more recently gaining attention on the global stage. A global loss and damage fund to help developing countries cope with the impacts of climate change was finally pushed across the finish line at the COP27 climate talks in 2022, although it will be years before it’s up and running. U.S. President Joe Biden has also made justice a central pillar of his climate plan, with billions in new investments going toward efforts to reduce emissions and pollution in underserved communities. 

Still, government investments have by no means reached the scale of the challenge — making private-sector interventions like Village Capital’s accelerator essential to creating the widespread changes needed to cut the problem down to size. 

young demonstrator shows her support for climate justice
A young demonstrator shows her support for climate justice. Image: Oxfam International/Flickr

Inside Village Capital’s climate justice accelerator 

Announced last month, Village Capital’s accelerator is seeking early-stage startups that support immigrants, refugees and communities of color on the front lines of climate change in the U.S. In partnership with the WES Mariam Assefa Fund, Village Capital will provide grants and coaching to 10 to 12 startups with promising solutions that help their communities prepare for and adapt to climate impacts. The accelerator is fairly industry-agnostic, with startups across the climate tech, financial tech and property tech spaces encouraged to apply. 

“We are looking for impact-driven startups that are solving critical challenges for people and communities who are disproportionately impacted by climate change,” Elizabeth Nguyen, economic opportunity practice lead for Village Capital, told TriplePundit. “We’ve been very intentional about identifying the solution types, which thematically fall into: disaster preparedness, public action and civic response, resilient housing and cities, and overall support for immigrants and refugees. Each one of these solution types prioritizes supporting people and communities and enables them the ability to respond to the impact of climate change.” 

Along with grant funding, the selected entrepreneurs will receive invaluable training on how to further scale their businesses and attract investors, including help with a development plan to chart the course for growth. Through Village Capital’s unique peer-selected investment model, the cohort of entrepreneurs will decide which two climate justice solutions will be eligible to receive an additional $100,000 in investments from WES Mariam Assefa, Nguyen said. 

“This investment, especially at an early stage, has the potential to change the trajectory of a company, considering many immigrant and refugee founders often don’t have strong social networks or support systems that founders who may have been born in the U.S. have,” she explained. “We also can’t stress enough how important social capital, mentorship, and connections are to early-stage companies. Village Capital provides not just training and financial support, but introductions to relevant mentors who are in the refugee and immigrant space and climate tech space. Our support enables our founders to walk away with tangible ways to speak to investors.” 

Championing locally-driven solutions to climate challenges

Importantly, Village Capital aims to support locally-led solutions driven by the people and organizations that experience climate impacts in their communities firsthand. 

“We’ve seen time and again that top-down solutions will not be sustainable or effective because they don’t have a full understanding of the needs in a community,” Nguyen said. “Locally-led startups also ensure that the solutions elevate the communities collectively so they are not left behind in the wave of innovation, a challenge that has unfortunately already been reflected in the history of climate tech solutions.” 

The company’s accelerator model is proven to work, with over 150 accelerators supporting more than 1,400 startups globally. Entrepreneurs graduating from Village Capital accelerators raised three times more capital and earned 2.3 times more revenue compared to a control group, according to an impact study commissioned by the company. 

The company’s separate venture capital fund, VilCap Investments, has invested in over 100 peer-selected startups from across these accelerators — again, with a focus on founders who are often overlooked. Nearly half (46 percent) of startups in the fund are led by women, and 30 percent are led by people of color. A stunning 80 percent are based in states outside New York, California and Massachusetts, which together receive about half of all global VC funding, according to Village Capital

“By catalyzing locally-led startups and strengthening the ecosystem for these entrepreneurs to succeed, we can create the biggest and most sustainable impact, one that improves and increases services and resources for the communities who need it the most,” Nguyen said.  

Applications for the accelerator close on May 25, 2023. Full details and eligibility criteria can be found here.

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Who Pays For Climate Change? Where Countries Falter, Corporations Fund

25 03 2023

Climate refugee Miriam, whose village was destroyed by flooding in 2022, walks to school in her new home in the Afar region of northern Ethiopia. Image: ©UNICEF Ethiopia/Raphael Pouget via Flickr

By Patrick McCarthy from triple • Reposted: March 25, 2023

At the COP27 climate talks in November, world leaders agreed to establish a loss and damage fund to help developing countries cope with the impacts of climate change. But it will be yearsuntil the fund is up and running — leaving many questions unanswered, chief among them: Who pays for the climate crisis?  

While the responses to this question often place the financial onus of climate change on the global superpowers (China, the U.S.) that have contributed the most environmental harm, those powerful nations have consistently failed to accept this charge. Nations in the Global South have, by and large, contributed little to climate change, yet face the most serious consequences — including more frequent and severe natural disasters like drought, intense heat, and extreme storms. As the leading contributors to climate change drag their feet, the window for action continues to shrink, and blameless millions pay the price of the Global North’s pollution.

Climate Neutral, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing this disparity, leverages corporate funding to finance sustainable projects in the world’s least developed countries. In this way, corporations can circumvent the global gridlock preventing true action on climate change. The nonprofit also provides corporations a chance to move beyond empty promises and truly begin to right their own environmental wrongs.

“The pressure that we’re trying to exert is pressure on companies because consumers, at least say, they care about climate change,” said Austin Whitman, CEO of Climate Neutral. “But they have very few ways to engage with companies directly and press companies to do more. So, if we can create the expectation that companies are doing their part to mitigate their emissions, there will be an increase in the flow of capital into projects.”

Climate Neutral challenges corporations to go beyond words and take aggressive action to reduce global emissions by 2030. To earn the nonprofit’s certification, a company must demonstrate that it is taking steps to reduce future emissions, while also paying the full price for current emissions.

Climate Neutral label on tag of Avocado Green Mattress bedding - climate change action from brands
The Climate Neutral Certified label on packaging at partner brand Avocado Green Mattress

Rich nations can “export low-carbon technologies” to decarbonize the developing world 

Rapid industrialization in an under-developed country can create intense environmental harm. But how can a country that already polluted the world through its own industrialization 200 years ago prohibit another nation from doing the same thing today? When it comes to polluting, rich nations are essentially telling poorer nations, “do as I say, not as I do,” and that isn’t very persuasive. 

“There is some transfer of wealth that’s necessary to account for the fact that the economic costs are being borne initially, largely, by countries that have not caused the problem,” Whitman said.

For decades, the Global South has called on the North to pay reparations for the crimes of colonialism, which prevented development and stole the natural resources that would have funded such development. If rich nations don’t want poorer nations to develop in an environmentally harmful way, they ought to invest in sustainable infrastructure and practices in these underdeveloped nations.

“All the major sectors, they can be used just as well in India as they can in the U.S.,”  Whitman said as an example. “I think it’s our job to export low-carbon technologies to really allow them to skip past that phase where the carbon intensity of the economy grows significantly before it starts to level off and then decline. We’ve got a pretty impressive system here in the U.S., and that knowledge can be exported, and is being exported.”

Climate Neutral understands that the urgency of the climate crisis demands action, not bureaucracy. Challenging corporations to pay for pollution and invest in the environment may not completely solve the climate crisis, but it is a fantastic way to get powerful players to put their money where their mouth is.

“This is one of the many, many dynamic aspects of the puzzle. We’re not starting necessarily in the perfect spot,” Whitman said, “but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t start.”

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Net Zero Goals: Moving from Why to How to Now

4 02 2023

Image credits: Nicholas Doherty/Unsplash and Meta

By Edward Palmieri via triple Reposted: February 4, 2023

In 2020, Meta achieved net zero greenhouse gas emissions for our global operations and today, we are supported by 100 percent renewable energy. These are good first steps, but we have so, so much work still to do to become a fully sustainable company.

That was my thought as I arrived in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, for the 27th annual U.N. climate conference, or COP27. Held in November 2022 and dubbed the Climate Implementation Summit, the event gathered leaders from the public, nonprofit and private sectors — the global sustainability community — to debate, celebrate and negotiate global climate action.

Going in, “implement” was the word top of mind as leaders were expected to follow up on ambitious goals set the year before in Glasgow, Scotland. By day eight, however, the word on my mind was “mired.” As in: Are we, collectively, moving fast enough?

This year’s event had its high points — President Joe Biden’s address to world leaders, in which he affirmed the United States’ commitment to a low-carbon future, was certainly one. But COP27 missed the mark in some key ways, such as creating financing for developing countriesstruggling under the financial burden of climate change and creating mechanisms to help more countries reduce emissions. It is also clear we can all do more to measure and report on yearly progress.

executives discuss net zero at cop27
Edward Palmieri, director of global sustainability at Meta, speaks on a panel with other business leaders at COP27.  Submitted Photo.

At Meta, we believe the private sector has a critical role to play in our global ambitions to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. During a challenging period for the company, focusing on the “true north” of measurable climate action and building climate resilience remains essential to our future and our bottom line.

Year-over-year, our net zero goal remains fixed even as we grow — both in terms of our users today and our plans for the metaverse tomorrow. And along with our net zero ambition, we are progressing related goals, including our aim to restore more water than we consume in our global operations.

Bringing all of this back to COP27, it’s clear that we can’t do it alone. No one can and, in fact, this is one of my favorite things about working in sustainability: collaboration. As we embark on a new year, Meta remains committed to collaborating with those committed to climate change and continues to expand our network of global partners. Most recently, we’ve:

  • Helped launch the Asian Clean Energy Coalition to advance renewable energy procurement in Asia with the World Resources Institute and other technology companies.
  • Joined with the U.S. State Department, USAID, and other companies in PREPARE Call to Action to the Private Sector on Adaptation.
  • Announced a new partnership with Stripe, Alphabet, Shopify and McKinsey Sustainability to launch Frontier, an advanced market commitment to help scale emerging carbon removal technologies that are crucial to tackling climate change.
  • Embraced an Emissions First accounting framework that moves beyond the current approach of megawatt-hour matching and focuses on emissions impact.
  • And during COP27 itself, were honored to support The Resilience Hub, an inclusively-built virtual and physical space that served as the home to the Race to Resilience campaign. Representing more than 1,500 non-state actors taking action on resilience around the world, the hub hosted more than 60 sessions each with incredible speakers offering their expertise and perspectives as well as live performances, art and culture.

Importantly, too, Meta is supporting and amplifying changemakers on the front lines of the climate fight. After our largest-ever global survey about climate change this past spring painted a picture of deep concern among respondents, we’re already seeing meaningful change happen when communities come together. More than 40 million people around the world are part of at least one of the 24,000 Facebook Groups dedicated to the discovery, protection, and appreciation of the earth and our environment.

In the meantime, Meta Sustainability continues to report on its work across our enterprise. As the U.N. High-Level Expert Group report clearly states, integrity matters, which is why our net zero commitments are not only public but are relentlessly tracked and reported each year.

But as the U.N. report notes, a net zero pledge “must contain steppingstone targets for every five years” in line with Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) or International Energy Agency (IEA) pathways as well as “prioritize urgent and deep reduction of emissions across their value chain.”

We agree. That’s why I look forward to sharing our own specific decarbonization plans in early 2023. And while I look forward to seeing my sustainability peers at COP28 next November as well, I encourage those in the private sector — companies big, small and every size in between— to join us in the climate fight.

Time is literally running out — and we need all of you, and all of your solutions, to make this work.

This article series is sponsored by Meta and produced by the TriplePundit editorial team.  To see the original post, follow this link: