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Converging over Coffee… Buying Cleantech

April 2022

Cleantech has grown over the years in its definition and in the types of industries that it touches.

It is often used to describe renewable energy technologies, water technologies and building performance solutions. But because clean energy and water are so pervasive, we also see solutions in many other industries that apply clean energy and water technologies start to slip into the category of cleantech, even if they are not meant to directly solve energy or water related challenges. Buildings are also a big category because so many live & work in them. There’s a growing pool of technologies targeting a variety of problems to transform its performance and provide positive impact to both environment & human needs.

For anyone trying to choose an entry point to start adopting or deploying “cleantech”, it can be quite confusing. Unless you are flushed with resources to take risky long term bets, the best approach for this is the most practical one.

In this series, we chat about a 4-layer framework that may help you chart a course that works for YOU.

  1. Choosing Right - Is cleantech all tech? How can we cut through the confusion?

  2. Making Money - Solving cost-side challenges is rough. How important is it to get past that?

  3. Growing Business - Chasing shiny objects never ends. What is a more winnable race?

  4. Delighting People - We still sell & pitch to people. Who is thinking about user experience & service delivery?

Choosing Right

Choosing Right is the first layer. And we start with 2 critical shifts in decision-making that will help ensure that the effort invested is commensurate with the impact achieved.

“Look for the macro.” Changing taps to water-saving types is fine. But understanding consumption patterns and focusing on optimizing or reusing water for large uses is better.

“Look for business fit.” Improving energy efficiency of the facilities used by a service-based company is fine. But integrating energy efficiency into services to offer enhanced value to customers is better.

Making Money

There’s something simple and raw about the idea of “making money”. It’s not ambiguous what the goal is, even though the “how” is up for debate.

Making money is a key business imperative, even though it alone cannot be the whole picture for a business that intends to prevail. But for businesses buying cleantech, the narrative tends to only revolve around becoming more sustainable and reducing costs. Nothing wrong with either, but businesses don’t exist just a be a good role model or to optimize costs.

Businesses exist to deliver a specific set of customer value. The simplest sign of success is when they are able “make money” from it. And if we substitute “make money” with “create end-user value”, this applies even to businesses not driven by commercial goals. Cleantech impact can and should contribute to making money and creating end-user value.

The real customer of cleantech is the customer of the business buying cleantech.

Growing Business

Sometimes, buying cleantech can seem like an exercise in chasing shiny objects. This isn’t the most helpful because those shiny objects will eventually be overtaken by newer, shinier ones… and the buying decisions eventually slide back into inevitable disappointment.

The third layer in this framework for buying cleantech is the idea of growing business.

If adopting cleantech results in business growth and progress, the decision making becomes clear.

If cleantech achieves business growth and progress, its role in contributing to progressive enhancement of a customer’s journey remains resilient when (not “if”) something bigger or better comes along.

Delighting People

At the end of the day, all of our discussions about choices, profitability and growth are going to be with people. People who will apply their individual filters & interests to the decision making process.

The fourth layer of the framework for buying cleantech brings things back to a more individual level.

People who buy & deploy cleantech need to be able to do their jobs better and deliver a better service through what they do. Beyond its inherent value, cleantech needs to own the responsibility of delivering a better user experience.

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