Widely honored during this 2022 edition of VivaTech, the start-ups of the GreenTech ecosystem are assuming an increasingly important place in the French entrepreneurial landscape: “From The CleanTech revolutionan American book published in the 2000s on GreenTech and ClimateTech that have become trends today, the acceleration has been very rapid in the last five years “, analyzes Isabelle Albert, a GreenTech expert in a European think tank and Chief operations officer of Satgana, a venture capital, which invests in start-ups seeking solutions to these climate and biodiversity problems. “GreenTech’s entire challenge today is to make an impact by offering sustainable services and products that are accessible to as many people as possible.”
But in fact, what is “making an impact”? According to the Impact France movement, an impact company is one that is built around four pillars: initiating a real transition in terms of eco-consumption and eco-driving, defending a social impact, internally towards its employees and externally with inclusive services and products, power sharing by demonstrating decision-making transparency, ethical governance, gender equality and integration of the company into its territorial ecosystem, instilling values by relying on an ethical financial strategy, fair and transparent management methods
Furthermore, when Catherine Ballard talks about her green nugget, Earthency, present at VivaTech, she too immediately sets the tone: “It’s an impactful company, in ecological transition.” This Breton start-up tackles the problem of soil and water pollution, particularly as regards illegal dumping, and offers a participatory digital solution. Is commitment to the climate therefore the main criterion for being part of GreenTech? To integrate the GreenTech sector, is a low-carbon app then sesame? “Our French GreenTech companies present for this edition are strongly committed to reducing their environmental footprint and creating useful innovations,” says Julie Ranty, director of VivaTech this year.
Is the French scene greener than technology?
“Today there is still a lot of funding for digital transformation, but we must not forget that digital is only a tool”, tempera Isabelle Albert, whose motto could be “for a more sustainable development and at the service of sustainable development”. “The technology has an acceleration function,” she adds. 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, insect-based food. Using the automatic learning and artificial intelligence, Ynsect uses technology to facilitate the environmental approach.
It is also the case of Earthency which, with a good idea, adds a bit of tech: “Our instrument does not have a great technological depth, admits Catherine Ballard, but combined with our innovative concept, it becomes a start-up that has its own place in the GreenTech category. “” The difference today lies in the impact analysis, and in particular in that of the life cycle of the entire proposed solution. Above all, it is necessary to measure the weight of technologies, their environmental impact to be sure that term the uses are more virtuous ”, Isabelle Albert reasons.
From associations to sustainable economics and finance
After a professional retraining in the climate plan, the creator and founder of Earthency, Catherine Ballard worked on waste management and water quality. In 2014, when the idea came to her, she saw no other way to complete her project except under the aegis of “an association of general interest”: “it is thanks to a free rein from HEC that I joined that I was in fact able to create an impactful company, with which I would undoubtedly make myself understood better than with a simple association “. And for good reason, the associative world has long been the first and only one in France to engage in environmental issues and green solutions.
“Some brands like Patagonia or Weleda took over very early, but they were the exception,” says Isabelle Albert. Then, after the associations and some start-ups green on the margins appeared in France, the social and solidarity economy, the ESS. And for the specialist, this is the starting point of this more virtuous economy: «companies are now called green, want to be mainstream. The concept of desirability and marketing are changing “. In short, having the latest SUV and the latest generation smartphone in your pocket is less trendy than carpooling, consuming less, becoming vegan or buying a fairphone.
If the examples of Back Market, Vestiaire Collective or Rezlient, which evangelizing the message “optimizing the budget and the environment is much better than consuming excessively”, inspire French GreenTech entrepreneurs, the ecosystem can still be daunting. “Dare and embark on GreenTech today is worse than an obstacle course, breathes Catherine Ballard, who launched Earthency in 2020. Mentalities need time to change, it is not yet assumed that investors choose to inject their capital into jobs. significant “.
What is French GreenTech today?
“These are 1,800 start-ups, a number that has doubled since 2020, 60,000 jobs and 3 billion euros in turnover,” says Isabelle Albert. “At VivaTech, we wanted to shed light on these issues in particular, which are becoming increasingly important,” adds Julie Ranty. “It is the end of financial companies that only tick the boxes of ESG criteria, which distribute ratings without really questioning the impact and the model”, assures Isabelle Albert. The Ehpad Orpea scandal or the war in Ukraine helped to shuffle these cards: it is time for truly sustainable finance.
In the United States, the sector is increasingly lively and listened to, but Europe also has resources to present. “Sweden and Germany hold the rope, with France doing well,” analyzes Isabelle Albert. The European GreenTech is the second in the world behind the American power ”.
Technology e green are they therefore irremediably linked?
The alliance between environmental and digital protection is largely due to the agility of the tech world and its role as a facilitator. Potential fanatics have a reputation for being exceptionally flexible and able to create just about anything from scratch. For the GreenTech expert, “it (the tech community) recently integrated its duty to lead by example. At the beginning he believed he would not pollute by not printing any more sheets and staying in clouds. The only optimization was that of databasebecause ventilation and energy were expensive ”.
Today, because his adaptability is strong and because awareness is faster anyway, he makes his transition much faster. This makes technology an undeniable resource for impactful companies. “GreenTech is a return to equilibrium, to reverse the phenomenon of anthropization and act positively on the overflows 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 we hope that, like Amsterdam and the American continent, Paris will soon have its show entirely dedicated to GreenTech.