Most institutional investors have a financial thesis. They invest in what they know best. The verticals can change and they often do when certain industries start to amplify. Sustainability is definitely the in buzz word category these days. That is a very very good thing.

What inevitability takes place is that people try to build businesses with new verbiage. For instance, a few years ago many had added private internal currencies to their decks. It didn’t change the business but tried to grab some investment capital on the amplification of crypto-currencies.

We are seeing that again in the sustainability space. New consumer product companies who are working on products that are sustainable because overtime the container disintegrates does not constitute as anything but a smart consumer product company. Will that change the way they sell and market the product or get funded? Doubtfully. It is just a new lipstick color in a better casing.

It is almost impossible to change consumer behavior. When it comes to sustainability, it is about science. Creating back end products for the same price such as biodegradable plastic so every company changes their packaging because the consumer wants it and it makes financial sense.

I am quite interested in seeing what constitutes as sustainable as VC’s begin to spend a lot of time and capital in this space.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Erin

    Addenda Capital is a Canadian investment firm with what seems like a robust sustainability thesis. I don’t really understand their metrics, but they seem legit.

  2. awaldstein

    Sustainability is a strange word as it has no real definition that I get.Though of course in intent I get it.Salesforce has a fund just to capitalize for profit climate mitigation projects. Bill Tai’s Xtreme Neckar Island challenge something similar. I like this approach better as more direct and tied to measurability scales.

    1. Gotham Gal

      True true

  3. Mark Gavagan

    I suppose one opportunity might be situations where consumers and/or government begins forcing companies to take increased financial (and possibly physical) responsibility for what has been a negative externality, creating increased demand for related products & services.For example, Federal Bill Seeks to Make Companies Responsible for Plastic Waste, from yesterday’s NYT.

    1. Gotham Gal


    2. LE

      Summary: Force companies = ‘more costs for consumers and less economic activity as a result of higher prices’.Re; The federal bill – This is honestly feel good theater on the part of politicians. What is the viable replacement for plastic? If there was one someone would be producing it. The answer is not (as the article indicates as one example) re-usable bottles. Also ‘forcing companies to take increased financial responsibility’ is just another way to tax companies which then would simply pass that cost to consumers.Let’s hypothesize on a simple case of restaurant leftovers. What would happen with that? You bring your own takeout containers to the restaurant and haul away the food in that? Takeout food: The takeout restaurant delivers in a container that you have to return? I sometimes thing people who come up with these ideas have no clue about human nature and of course they are not the people earning a living off an industry. And no ‘every little bit helps’ does not move any needles it just makes people think they are doing their part (so in a sense it’s a negative because they then shift their focus and stop thinking of solutions).Note also that typically permanent containers weigh more and cost more to transport. Glass bottles vs. plastic. Take a look at that ‘tidy cat’ container in the pile. Imagine that as glass. Would it work as paper? Maybe but it would probably need some plastic to keep the contents fresh. Also as paper would be a higher fire risk potentially (stored in bulk). (I am saying this because a few weeks ago the fire inspector was in my office and made a comment that with all the paper files I have he was concerned about something to do with flammability given the amount of paper in a confined space (I was able to blow him off and pass the inspection I think he was ‘wet behind the ears’ so to speak).

      1. Mark Gavagan

        Respectfully LE, I think that your summary is sometimes correct, but not always.Let’s take the example of a company following the law and emitting X amount of chemical Y, used daily in their factory, into a river.Years later, it’s discovered that chemical X is much more harmful and long-lasting than was known earlier. New technology reveals that the cost of X amount of chemical Y going into the water every year is 10 times greater than previously thought (maybe it’s now known to cause cancer or a serious birth defect and there are unusual clusters of it downstream).The cost of that chemical is ALREADY being paid, just not by the company that owns the factory. It’s paid by people who happen to live downstream, and their health insurance companies, etc.If government forces the factory to reduce emissions of Y by 95%, and that costs $20 million, that is simply making the company ACCOUNTABLE for it’s own costs.Burying our heads in the sand and pretending these negative externalities don’t exist is a distortion of the market, because buyers and sellers aren’t shouldering the true cost.

    3. JLM

      .The flaw with that article is the wholesale ignorance of how the new and reclaimed plastic markets operate.I built several plastics reclaim and production facilities for a huge oil company back in the day.This company bought enormous amounts of plastic milk bottles — millions and millions of pounds — which they re-manufactured into plastic pellets. They crushed the milk containers, chopped them up, washed them, got rid of all rocks (detritus), melted them, extruded rope like strings under high pressure and heat, cooled the streams in chill baths, and cut them into pellets. The pellets were “air-veighed” around the plant — blown in tubes using air.These pellets (low/high density polyethylene) were then mixed with virgin poly with additives that inserted plastics properties that allowed the resultant mix to be blown into bubbles that were then cut into sections resulting in plastic lawn/leaf bags.Because of the different properties of the reclaimed plastic (valued at $0.10/lbs), the bags were dyed black/brown to hide the color mix issues. This is why lawn/leaf bags are not white and are always colored black/brown. The virgin poly cost $0.65/lbs.The reclaim and re-manufacturing process was not patented and kept secret for decades during which the company even made its direct competitors’ bags because they could make them so cheaply.Waste plastic has an identifiable value at every instant in time. We often would buy several million pounds of reclaim (milk bottles) because of an attractive price point.I doubt there is a single plastic today for which there is not an active reclaim market. It is so much cheaper than virgin plastic.You have to have the virgin plastic with which to blend the reclaim. That is why the article is unrealistic. It assumes that you can go with 100% reclaim v 100% virgin. You have to use some of both to be able to use it in standard manufacturing processes.Punch line: we used to use 85% reclaim with 15% virgin. This is how we made them so cheap. The plastics engineering required to do this, the additives injected were the secret sauce.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…