‘Innovators to focus on sustainable development'
Mekorot vice president says because Israeli market is small, Israeli innovators must adopt an international perspective.
The Startup Nation Takes on the Sustainable Growth Photo: Sharon Udasin
Because the Israeli market is small, Israeli innovators must adopt an
international perspective, and some of their best opportunities may now be in
sustainable development around the world, experts agreed at a panel on
“Israel is designed to be global. Israel has no market,” said
Sophie Blum, founder and president of the Proctor and Gamble Israel House of
Innovation and vice president for marketing at Proctor and Gamble Eastern Europe
Middle East Africa. “Israeli entrepreneurs have understood that and they think
globally as of day one.”
Blum was speaking at a panel entitled “The
Startup Nation Takes on the Sustainable Growth Challenge” at the annual
convention of corporate responsibility organization Maala, held in Tel Aviv on
Tuesday and sponsored by a relatively new project called the Appropriate
About a year ago, the Appropriate Innovation
Initiative began in order to create an ecosystem in Israel devoted to providing
sustainable solutions for developing countries, according to information from
the project. The initiative is a joint venture of three partners, the first
being Maala, an umbrella organization of 130 of Israel's largest companies that
promotes corporate social and environmental responsibility (CSR). The second
partner is Praxis, a consultant agency specializing in creating cross-industry
cooperative ventures, and the third partner is the Heschel Center, a non-profit
thinktank that focuses on sustainability leadership. The Appropriate Initiative
aims to position Israel as a leading beta site for "appropriate, simple and
sustainable innovations," targeted to the needs of developing countries, the
“It’s very difficult to speak with Israeli companies about
doing well by doing good when you only think about a local market,” said Momo
Mahadev, CEO of Maala.
As people increasingly enter the lower rungs of
the middle class in developing nations, they continue to be underserved in basic
areas, such as energy, water, agriculture and education, explained Steve J.
Puig, vice president for the private sector and non-sovereign guaranteed
operations at the InterAmerican Development Bank. In all of these arenas “at the
base of the pyramid,” Israeli cleantech innovators would find ample
opportunities, he explained. Looking at Latin America, his own area of
expertise, Puig said that rather than looking at giant markets like those of
Mexico and Brazil, Israel should look to smaller countries where it “can be a
“Food is obviously the biggest portion of consumption that
people have at the base of the pyramid,” he said. “Agricultural supply chains
are very important.”
Likewise, many rural areas in India are also fertile
ground for Israeli cleantech innovators, according to Sachin Joshin, director of
the Center of Excellence for Sustainable Development (CII-ITC) in New Dehli.
Around the world there are still 2.6 billion people who lack sanitation
facilities and could benefit from waterless toilets that have the ability to
recycle human waste into useable energy, Joshin said.
“For me 2.6 billion
people around the world not having toilets – it’s not a market for a sanitary
manufacturer, it’s a market for an energy company because it gives an energy
source,” Joshin said.
Aside from such sanitation innovation, India could
benefit from increased collaborations with Israeli entrepreneurs on agriculture
and on water – particularly on managing water resources effectively, according
to Joshin. Equally ripe opportunities include decentralized solar energy
production modules, so that the so-called bottom of the pyramid, with no access
to electricity, can begin to receive power, he added.
water company, Mekorot, is aiming to make its mark in these sustainability
efforts abroad, and is already involved with many projects, including water
decontamination in Buenos Aires’s La Plata River and desalination plant
construction in Cyprus.
“I can say today that we solved the problem of
the water in Israel,” said Rafi Ifergan, vice president of engineering and
technology at Mekorot. “We solved it with a lot of know-how, a lot of knowledge,
a lot of technology that we have especially from the Israeli
Transferring that know-how abroad not only helps populations
in need but also is beneficial for Israeli “blue and white” promotion, according
To make sure that Israeli cleantech entrepreneurs are really
able to promote sustainable development both in the country and abroad, the
Environmental Protection Ministry is more and more working with the industry and
business sectors to stimulate green growth, added Alona Shefer-Karo,
director-general of the Environmental Protection Ministry.
realize that our ministry is considered to be one of the biggest barriers to
innovation,” she said, noting that industry members were exhausted from hearing
the ministry say “no” to permit requests. “The whole ministry is now thinking
how to make our regulation much more efficient, how to give to the industry long
distance insurance so that the industry can plan its actions and development for
Shefer-Karo stressed that the ministry is eager to learn
from industry stakeholders what areas of research are needed and what fields of
knowledge are lacking, so that the office can direct research funds