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The Role for the Entrepreneur in Climate Change Mitigation

The scale of work required by climate change mitigation seems almost unimaginable. The changing images of our world’s environment, whether its glaciers melting or temperature and weather maps, represent challenges of enormous scale. As we imagine human derived solutions, much attention is drawn to the large multinational corporations. The size of their market reach and their ability to implement globally has been unequivocally demonstrated in the last century. Yet, when we look at the local level and examine true business impacts, large corporations lag behind small businesses. Referring to the U.S. economy, President Bush said, " America's small business owners represent more than 99 percent of all employers and their businesses employ more than half of the private work force. These entrepreneurs who create more than 66 percent of the new jobs nationwide and generate more than 50 percent of the Nation's gross domestic product growth are critical to our country's prosperity and the well-being of our communities." As President Reagan noted in 1983, entrepreneurs do not horde their wealth. Instead "they invest it without assurance of a return." They are the risk takers in society and the primary drivers of innovation and economic growth.

The vast resource of our world’s small businesses is exceptionally diverse but when we look for a common thread, we find it in opportunity. Small businesses simply want a chance to earn from their efforts. The attributes of the entrepreneur are difficult to understand for some. Risk, change, failure, and uncertainty, are words that confer an uncomfortable state of being. Yet, we all support this lifestyle and the largest segment of our world’s economy whenever we buy product or services from a local merchant. The understanding that small entrepreneurial businesses represent a resource that can serve climate change mitigation is important. Schumpeter writes, "To act with confidence beyond the range of familiar beacons and to overcome the resistance...defines the entrepreneurial type." We need to engage that part of society that takes action to create value in the face of change. It should be stressed at every level of society that solutions will come from our innovators and be implemented on a local level. This viewpoint stresses opportunity and creates a reality where the entrepreneur will seek solutions and make investments that serve the common good.
As we move into a world where action is required at local levels, the role of the entrepreneur and innovator takes on a new role. The value created from a "relative benefit" is becoming a value created from "relative necessity". The industrial world experiences many choices in its fulfillment of the "relative necessities". (i.e. food, housing, etc.) Yet under climate change, the issues related to one relative need cannot be met by moving to another city. The "relative necessity" of a safe and sustainable world is a given. The pathways that may lead there could be many yet in every path there are risks. Are we moving to fast? or too slow? What are we missing in our analysis? What is an acceptable risk of escalating threshold events?

We cannot be sure of all the answers and cannot eliminate the risk of every action. The developments that will answer those questions require motivated action commensurate with the perceived risk of inaction. Society’s entrepreneurs constantly risk all that they own. It is the hallmark of the entrepreneur that they throw all their physical and mental assets behind an idea. That motivation is found as a driving force in every community. If given an opportunity and reasonable assurance of success, the spirit of innovation will attract both people and funding. Regardless of the amount of motivation, it is a quality of committed action that produces results. In the entrepreneurial world, committed motivation is natural and found in every society. The solutions to global issues will ultimately find millions of helping committed hands when entrepreneurs feel that they can play an active role.

Supporting the Growth of Entrepreneurs

We need to support programs that help develop entrepreneurs in climate change research and mitigation. Many cities and universities have business incubators, which have been successful in creating many jobs and businesses. A global incubator to facilitate climate change technologies can help with the many thousands of possible ways to achieve our end goal. It is likely that the suite of solutions will require thousands of new innovations and many thousands of new local businesses. It will require, directly or indirectly, billions of people. The ultimate implementation of any plan will likely depend on the actions of a majority of those who live today. The scenarios facing our planet mean that the current generation will continue to deal with risks that are world threatening and escalating in scope. Most of the world's population does not understand the technical implications of climate change however this large group of people cannot be ignored. Their constructive involvement and the supporting participation of a new generation will be essential for the success of a plan of global scope. The creation of community value, whether in the form of building homes or assisting in a much larger common good, will return benefits to the motivated action-oriented individual. These individuals represent a vast resource of economic and human capital. When opportunity is offered, entrepreneurs will assume risks and assist in the development of a common goal.

The most important support elements we can give to the entrepreneur are information and technical assistance. Capital may appear as a limiting factor but the risk associated with the unknown restricts access to resources needed for business success. Innovation and research require capital. The development of multi-national consortia and non-profits to facilitate research and deployment of new technologies should be increased. However, the rapid development and adoption of new ideas generally come from entrepreneurial involvement. Many of our largest corporations have developed their own incubator programs. Incubator and small business development programs can attract ideas that currently reside in the imaginations of our most talented and help facilitate implementation teams. Whether funding comes from corporations or venture capital, the end result is that more technologies get implemented. An international incubator program with technical participation from multi-national corporations can provide risk -reduction in ways that can also stimulate broad scale technology acceptance. The participatory model of business incubation brings the advantages of the largest corporations down to the level of the local community. The benefits are balanced by the sharing and support of economic opportunity. Additionally, this level of risk reduction will attract the portfolio or serial entrepreneur and can lead to a much greater level of successful business creation.

There is an understandable concern at the corporate board level that unknown expense could be created in the form of royalties or license fees by these types of development programs. The model of participatory development and incubation with broad base consortia support can remove these issues and offer much more rapid deployment solutions. A business model where shared resources from value-chain consortia are provided during start up phases can mitigate risks and costs. Additionally, the resources are only temporarily extended and are not lost to the larger supporting entities.

This website contains some solutions for climate change issues. These innovations were created by entrepreneurial activity. The ultimate implementation of these technologies will range from some of the world's largest corporations down to the smallest farmer. This page was written simply as a reminder for all of us that "value creation" mechanisms will attract the resources of the entrepreneur and small business. The outreach and education to this group could prove to be one of the best investments of any we make in developing a sustainable world. Ultimately, the success of any global program will depend on their active involvement.

 

 

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