From corporate commitments by the likes of Amazon and its $2 billion climate pledge, to Blackrock putting climate change at the center of their global fund’s investment strategy, to the stellar rise of ESG investments in the public markets, to the 5X growth of climate VC investing compared to average VC activity, the list goes on. It seems everywhere you look, people and companies are wanting in on a piece of the greentech and climate innovation pie.
But with so much activity in this growing—and increasingly competitive—market, how can companies carve out space for their climate innovations to be seen and heard in a meaningful way?
My first piece of advice is: don’t wait until Earth Day to do so. Climate change is a 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year issue. There is no time to waste bringing to light how you and your team are making an impact on one of the most significant challenges of our time.
While this may seem counterintuitive, unless you have partnered with a major brand (see companies above) or have scored a deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars, it is likely your story will get drowned out in the sea of Earth Day-themed news that countless other companies issue the one day of the year when Mother Earth shines brightest. Instead, meet the urgency of the issue head-on and engage in conversations around climate change year-round.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
In recent months, investment in climate tech has been surging. Just ask our Technology & Innovation PR client, climate innovation and city technology startup accelerator, URBAN-X. And while significant investment in these crucial technologies is long overdue, the boost in attention to the space means that it is also becoming increasingly competitive. So while your company may have a noble mission and a breakthrough solution, it is important to think about your core differentiators and how you can demonstrate these to your desired audience, giving you a leg up on the greentech competition.
One way to do this is through data. Does your innovation cut emissions caused by your industry in half? Have you saved thousands of trees in the rainforest? Are you enabling more energy-efficient processes while also saving customers money? If yes, tell these stories through numbers! It is much more compelling to say something along the lines of, “In just three months, customers can reduce carbon emissions by 20%, while saving $500 on average.” Compared to, say, “Our solution improves efficiencies while also saving on costs.” Unique data means something. Use it whenever you can to demonstrate the impact and value of your solution.
Similarly, developing case studies based on your work with current customers or partners puts your solution into a real-world context and brings more credibility to your company. By providing tangible examples of how your technology has been used—with whom and the end results— prospective customers and partners can more easily envision how your solution can be applied to their specific needs, investors can identify the market opportunities and media will likely be more interested in telling your story.
Climate innovation technology can be applied across a ton of industries from mobility, to real estate, to infrastructure, to industry, to food and water, to safety and more; no one, however, is an expert in all of them. As a result, it is important to speak simply in order to reach the broadest audience. This is true from both a technology and impact perspective.
Let’s start with technology. The goal to keep in mind when communicating about your technology is that anyone reading about you, whether they have industry expertise or not, can easily understand your company, your solution and how it works. This means avoiding industry jargon and technical, in-the-weeds language, and instead, bringing your solution down to its most basic level of whom it serves and how. A good frame of reference is if your grandma can understand what you do, then you’ve succeeded!
Now, impact. Something I regularly see climate-focused companies do when describing their impact is saying something like they are saving “250,000 metric tons of CO2” (or any other sort of pollutant). While this figure sounds big, it is also abstract and can get lost in translation to anyone who is not steeped in the industry or a mathematical wizard. Instead, think of a comparison with a common example, such as the size of a football field, U.S. states or countries. By transforming a massive number into something more familiar, you can more easily put your solution and its impact into a relatable context.
Unfortunately, the reality of climate change means that every year we are bound to see wildfires, hurricanes, record temperatures and other extreme weather events. On the more positive side, recently, we have also been seeing a plethora of new policies, from the city, state and federal levels, that aim to address climate change in some way.
Prepare for these moments. Think about how your technology addresses the underlying issue or who on your team has the background and expertise to bring a unique and trusted perspective to these important conversations.
For example, if your solution contributes to grid resilience or empowers disaster response, as we approach extreme weather events, tap your veteran industry expert to provide unique insights and context around an event. For instance, explain why a power blackout is happening, discuss how new climate-forward solutions can prevent future blackouts and identify what consumers can do immediately to stay safe. It is important to note, however, that there is a fine line between providing added expertise to a national conversation and unabashedly taking advantage of a disastrous moment. You can work with your PR partner on how to address these occasions.
Or, take President Biden’s recent infrastructure bill—and other policies set to come out of our nation’s capital—for example. If you are building a solution that addresses infrastructure, whether roads and bridges, clean energy, electrification, etc., prepare to provide expert media commentary that speaks to broader industry trends and demonstrates how new technologies, like yours, can advance the goals set forth in the bill.
As many greentech and climate innovation startups are continuing to evolve and scale—with more investor, corporate, public sector and media interest than ever before—thinking strategically about your brand, what you have to offer, and demonstrating this through tangible data, insights and thoughtful commentary, can set you up with the tools needed to excel.