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Beyond the rhetoric

Spotting and cleaning out greenwashing

Situation

An accelerator wanted to ensure they had high calibre people and ideas for their programme. One company was creating a new type of bottled water where a percentage of the revenues went towards water wells in Africa. A noble strategy, but was their execution in alignment?

Approach

Beyond vetting the founders, our due diligence included questions to measure the impact across the value chain:

  • Where are they getting the water from?
  • How sustainable is the water source?
  • What is the quality of the water?
  • Do people in the community where they’re extracting water have access to water?
  • Does their model increase the cost of water to the community?
  • What packaging are they using for the water?
  • Is there a better material, and if not, what are they doing to counteract this material’s environmental impact?
  • How are the bottles being shipped?
  • What are they doing to offset the environmental impact of transportation?
  • How are they allocating the funds for water projects?
  • How do they choose their partners?
  • What metrics are they using to measure success?

The founders’ reaction to the questions was, “wow, that’s a lot of work.”

Outcome

By digging deeper, we could assess:

  • The true impact the company was going to have.
  • The framework needed to address the gaps.
  • The founders’ commitment to proper execution.
  • The likelihood of actual value creation and impact.

We could provide the accelerator with insight and solid data points to make an informed decision on whether this company should join the programme.

Why it matters

With all the noise around ESG, sustainability, impact and purpose, it’s easy to get hoodwinked by sexy narratives. In our books, purpose matters but what you do in practice matters more.

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