Taking a private sector approach to achieve the UN's sustainable development goals
Unreasonable Impact, a collaboration between Barclays and Unreasonable, is the world’s first international network of accelerators dedicated to scaling growth-stage entrepreneurs whose ventures have the potential to employ thousands worldwide while solving some of our most pressing societal and environmental challenges.
Governments cannot do it alone
As nations around the world set out their roadmap to tackle the twin challenges of COVID-19 recovery and the climate crisis, the UK and US in particular are taking a fresh look at economic and environmental challenges, looking to design policies that lead to a more sustainable future. However, the private sector has a critical role to play in the transformation required to achieve global goals around climate change.
Daniel Epstein, Founder and CEO of Unreasonable – a company that builds community between entrepreneurs, institutions and investors to profitably solve pressing global problems — understands this responsibility: “Businesses don’t only have a moral imperative to become a part of the solution: it’s also an unprecedented financial opportunity.” Epstein goes on to explain his belief that “the companies positioned to succeed in the 21st century will be those operating at the intersection of advanced technologies, profit, and the health of our planet.” Lucky for him, Epstein isn’t alone in his beliefs.
In 2016, Unreasonable partnered with Barclays to create a multi-year and intercontinental partnership — Unreasonable Impact. “The goal of our partnership is to scale up the efforts of growth-stage entrepreneurs looking to scale businesses that are positioned to profitably create a greener tomorrow,” says Deborah Goldfarb, Global Head of Citizenship at Barclays.
Financial institutions are being called to lead the way
Now six years into the partnership, Unreasonable Impact is actively supporting more than 200 growth-stage ventures. The companies that are a part of the Unreasonable Impact fellowship have raised more than $5 billion USD, and are collectively supporting 125,000 jobs, have brought solar power to more than 100 million individuals, and are tackling challenges ranging from zero-waste supply chains to clean drinking water, cell-based meat production, regenerative farming, and carbon capture.
It’s an unlikely partnership, Barclays being a more than 300-year-old financial institution and Unreasonable, a decade-old boutique firm that champions the need for businesses to transform their operations towards a more sustainable future. But upon closer inspection, this unlikely collaboration may be the type of partnership that multinationals and major financial firms need to embrace to remain relevant and hit the societal and environmental targets as established by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The community of entrepreneurs supported by Unreasonable Impact is “achieving real business breakthroughs by tackling social and environmental challenges head-on” says Deborah Goldfarb.
As one example, the UN estimates that if the greenhouse gas emissions attributed to food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitting country in the world. KITRO, an Unreasonable Impact venture is using artificial intelligence to address the almost 10 percent of food suitable for consumption that’s thrown away in the hospitality sector. They estimate that they’ve helped customers avoid 300,000 kilograms of food waste through their technology.
But the initiative isn’t just about the impact individual companies can have on their own. Recognising the power and creativity that can result from entrepreneurs collaborating with each other, Barclays and Unreasonable recently teamed up to deploy millions of dollars in catalytic funding to spur new partnerships across the Unreasonable Impact fellows - funding that is further super-charging their growth.
For example, Twelve and LanzaTech, both Unreasonable Impact ventures, have joined forces to combine their carbon capture and transformation technologies to produce polypropylene materials from carbon dioxide and water instead of from fossil fuels. Replacing all of the world’s fossil polypropylene production with CO2-made polypropylene would reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 700 million tons or more per year.
Unreasonable Impact embraces a “community-driven” approach to supporting growth-stage CEOs. This stems from Epstein’s belief that “the most successful companies in this decade and the remainder of the century will need to not focus on their competitive advantage, but rather on a collaborative advantage.”
The investment landscape is changing
Entrepreneurs can reimagine the future, drive innovation and move at pace – but to do this well and at scale, their growth needs to be fuelled by the financial markets. In 2019, Barclays launched Wall Street's first Sustainable and Impact Banking Group. In 2020, Unreasonable launched a global syndicate — The Unreasonable Collective for individual investors looking to invest at the nexus of advanced technology, sustainability and profit.
“With over $5 billion in financing already raised by the portfolio of companies in the Unreasonable Impact fellowship, we believe this partnership is positioned to fuel global innovation and ensure a brighter tomorrow, and we invite all investors and financial institutions to join us,” says Epstein.
Join the journey
To learn more about Unreasonable Impact and hear directly from the entrepreneurs solving the future of energy, sustainable living, and the future of supply chains, sign up to attend the Unreasonable Impact World Forum. This virtual event kicks off on November 10 and showcases dozens of the most promising sustainability scale-ups that have graduated from Unreasonable Impact’s programmes in the past two years.