Widely honored during this VivaTech 2022 Editionthe launches of the GreenTech Ecosystem occupy an increasingly important place in the French business scene: “From The clean technology revolutionan American book published in the 2000s on GreenTech and ClimateTech that have become a trend today, the acceleration has been very fast in the last five years”, analyzes Isabelle Albert, GreenTech expert at a European think tank and director of operations of Satgana, a venture capitalist, who invest in start-ups seeking solutions to these climatic and biodiversity problems. “The whole challenge of GreenTech today is to make an impact while offering sustainable services and products, accessible to as many people as possible.”
But, in fact, what is “making an impact”? According to Movement impact Francean impact company is one that is built on four pillars: initiate a real transition in terms of eco-consumption and eco-driving, defend a social impact, internally with its employees and externally with inclusive services and products, share power by demonstrating transparency in decision-making , ethical governance, gender parity and integration of the company in its territorial ecosystem, instilling values based on an ethical financial strategy, fair and transparent management methods
Also, when Catherine Ballard talks about her green nugget, Land, present at VivaTech, also immediately sets the tone: “It is a company with an impact, in the ecological transition”. This Breton start-up addresses the problem of land and water pollution, in particular as regards illegal dumping, and offers a participatory digital solution. Is then the commitment to the climate the main criterion to be part of GreenTech? To integrate the GreenTech sector, a low-carbon application is then sesame? “Our French GreenTech companies present at this edition are very committed to reducing their own environmental footprint and creating useful innovation”, says Julie Ranty, director of VivaTech this year.
Greener than technology on the French scene?
“Today, there is still a lot of funding for digital transformation, but we must not forget that digital is just a tool”, tempers Isabelle Albert, whose motto could be “for a more sustainable life and at the service of sustainable development”. “Technology has an acceleration function,” she adds. The GreenTech expert, also author of Tech it Green: Digital transformation and ecological transition. Building the double revolution of the 21st century (2020), takes the example of Ynsect, this food start-up, which creates, as its name suggests, food based on insects. When using the machine learning Y artificial intelligenceYnsect uses technology to facilitate the environmental approach.
This is also the case of Earthency, which adds a bit of technology to the good idea: “Our tool does not have great technological depth, admits Catherine Ballard, but combined with our innovative concept, it becomes a start-up that has its place in the GreenTech category.” “The difference today is in the impact analysis, and in particular that of the life cycle of the entire proposed solution. Above all, we must measure the weight of the technologies, their environmental impact to be sure that, in the long term, the uses are more virtuous”, Isabelle Albert reasons.
From associationism to sustainable economy and finance
After a retraining in climate planning, Earthency creator and founder Catherine Ballard worked on waste management and water quality. In 2014, when he came up with the idea, he saw no other way to carry out his project than under the aegis of “an association of general interest”: “it is thanks to a free HEC mook that I joined that I was able to actually create an impact company, with which they would undoubtedly understand me better than with a simple association”. And for good reason, the associative world has long been the first and the only one to engage in France, on environmental issues and green solutions.
“Some brands like Patagonia or Weleda took over very quickly, but they were the exception,” says Isabelle Albert. Then after partnerships and some start-ups green in the margins appeared in France, the social and solidarity economy, the SSE. And for the specialist, this is the starting point of this most virtuous economy: “today, companies called green, want to be conventional. They change the notion of desirability and marketing.” In short, having the latest SUV and the latest generation smartphone in your pocket is less fashionable than carpooling, consuming less, going vegan or buying a fairphone.
If the examples of Back Market, Vestiaire Collective or Rezlient, which proclaiming the message “optimizing your budget and the environment is much better than consuming in excess”, inspire French GreenTech entrepreneurs, the ecosystem can still be discouraging. “To dare and undertake today in GreenTech is worse than an obstacle course, breathes Catherine Ballard, who launched Earthency in 2020. Mentalities need time to change, it is not yet obvious that investors choose to inject their capital into meaningful work”.
What is French GreenTech today?
“We are talking here about 1,800 start-ups, a number that has doubled since 2020, 60,000 jobs and 3,000 million euros in turnover,” says Isabelle Albert. “At VivaTech, we particularly wanted to shed light on these issues, which are becoming increasingly important,” adds Julie Ranty. “It is the end of financial companies that only check the boxes of the ESG criteria, that distribute ratings without really questioning the impact and the model”, says Isabelle Albert. The Ehpad Orpea scandal or the war in Ukraine have helped to shuffle these cards: it is time for truly sustainable finances.
In the United States, the sector is increasingly thriving and listened to, but Europe also has assets to present. “Sweden and Germany hold the rope, France is also doing well”, analyzes Isabelle Albert. The European GreenTech is the second in the world behind the United States”.
technology and green Are they, therefore, irremediably linked?
The alliance of environmental protection with the digital is largely due to the agility of the technological world and its role as a facilitator. Potential geeks have a reputation for being particularly flexible and capable of creating almost anything from scratch. For the GreenTech expert, “(the technological community) has recently integrated its duty to lead by example. He first believed that he was not polluting by not printing more sheets and staying in the clouds. The only optimization was data centerbecause ventilation and energy were expensive.”
Today, because your adaptability is strong and because consciousness is equally faster, you operate your transition much more quickly. This makes technology an undeniable asset for impact companies. “GreenTech is a return to balance, to reverse the phenomenon of anthropization and act positively on the excesses of human activity”, emphasizes Catherine Ballard. We must never forget that “technology is only one of the means to respond to the climate emergency”, concludes Isabelle Albert. And I hope that, like Amsterdam and the Americas, Paris will soon have its show entirely dedicated to GreenTech.