The cleantech narrative in the first decade of the 21st century was visionary, exhilarating and overhyped by investors seeking a quick exit. Today, cleantech is maturing into an “industry” focused on execution. While the work of cleantech has become, in many geographies, mainstream – the global narrative is still challenged by lack of consistent proof points. Outdated perceptions and sheer invisibility present stiff headwinds for companies proving out their technologies.
In simplistic terms, the narrative used to be about vision, and then it was about jobs. Now it’s about scale.
Our view of the industry is inclusive. We use “cleantech” as a way to describe the wide variety of technologies that improve energy and resource efficiency and decrease pollutants and waste. But the category is not a proper category at all. These technologies are often part of mature, established businesses and operations – a natural result of an industry on the verge of joining – or already part of – the mainstream power, technology and resource mix. Companies and organizations served by Edelman Cleantech may not be called “cleantech”, but they share a common goal: they must convince and continuously prove to stakeholders that their technologies are better than the deeply entrenched incumbent method or mindset. Fortunately, this narrative enjoys several tailwinds in 2016 which will bring our clients newfound relevance: the outcomes of COP21; “100 percent renewable” commitments from Google and Apple; the U.S. Clean Power Plan and PTC/ITC extensions; India’s formidable renewable commitments under Prime Minister Modi; the cresting “IoT” and “sustainable design” trends; and a record-setting 2015 in terms of worldwide cleantech investment – even as oil prices continue to drop.
Effective cleantech storytelling is needed now more than ever to ensure this revolution is a robust, informed dialogue. This means creating audience-centric storytelling that reaches a diverse group of cleantech stakeholders where they are. It means seizing the mantle given to us by the transforming industry with more conviction, purpose and swagger, and helping large, traditional companies recognize how valuable these technologies can be in their own larger innovation narrative. It’s a great time to be a cleantech communicator.
Joey Marquart is the senior vice president and global cleantech lead at Edelman, Silicon Valley.
Photo Credit: iamme ubeyou, “Solar Panel 5” (Flickr: Favelas), via Flickr Creative Commons