French Eco-Businesses Gain Momentum
Today, most, if not all businesses understand the importance of climate change. Our ever-increasing consumption of natural resources is widely accepted to be unsustainable, and businesses are having to adapt in order to meet changing customer demands and new governmental policy.
In the past year alone, sales of consumer goods from brands with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability have grown by more than 4% globally, while those without grew less than 1%. (Nielsen, The Sustainability Imperative).
The commitment to sustainability has become commonplace as a business strategy and “Going Green” is no longer a unique selling point but a necessity for many businesses and entrepreneurs. There are of course variations by region, demographics and category, but what’s clear is the opportunity for significant brand growth, on a global scale, for those willing to listen and respond to increasingly educated and socially conscious consumers.
Last year the French government committed to the protection of the environment and took a key step towards providing a more sustainable economy when a new bill called “The Energy Transition for Green Growth” was passed into legislation.
The energy law specified that 40% of French power production should come from renewables by 2030, while the share of nuclear should fall from to 50% by 2025.
In development for almost three years, the ecology minister Ségolène Royal described it as:
“the most advanced and ambitious piece of environmental legislation in Europe, and probably the world”
While an ambitious statement, the new law has no doubt created the right conditions for the emergence of “green” industries throughout France. The country already had a solid foundation and is home to 20 world-renowned companies in the recycling, waste management, water and sanitation sectors. With Green industries employing approximately 300,000 people in France and creating between 10,000 and 15,000 additional jobs every year, French eco-businesses are starting to gain momentum.
The new policies have undoubtedly played an active a role on both supply and demand, giving rise to a broad and array of entrepreneurs and eco-businesses whose innovative products have potential applications across the world. These new entrepreneurs are hitting the market with products and services that could radically alter how we think of, and consume power.
An exciting example is Glowee, a Parisian start-up who are harnessing the power of a bioluminescent bacteria to light up public spaces. Working on the principals of luminescent marine organisms, the non-toxic bacteria are encased in a transparent container made from the nutrients needed to keep the organisms alive. The end result is a lighting technology that requires no electricity to run.
Another French based business, Tidoo, won the 2015 “Best Eco Product Award” by offering a viable alternative to non-eco-friendly nappies. Sold in over 1,000 organic retailers throughout France, the company is now looking to expand to the UK thanks to its popularity and increasing sales.
Phytorem, a small French enterprise has plans to use a bamboo filtering system called ‘Briter Water’. The French business successfully applied for funding under the EU’s Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) to turn the idea into a viable industrial business. Since the launch, the company has set up two bamboo plantations in France and has started to develop business opportunities abroad.
While eco-businesses are typically small, what’s interesting is that both large and small organisation’s are finding most of their outlets abroad. According to a report in “Industries”, eco-industries generated more than half of their turnover through exports, with the major players operating alongside small and medium-sized enterprises in some highly specialised niche markets.
Bpifrance – France’s public investment bank – also has plans to inject €15 billion into the French manufacturing sector by 2018, by providing funding for environmentally friendly upgrades, digital technology and the Industry of the Future initiative.
There’s no doubt that environmental protection has become a major concern, and in the last ten years, eco-businesses have grown much faster than any other sector of the French economy. For business that have carefully considered their sustainable credentials, the future looks bright as changing trends in consumption, government policy and cost savings all point towards increasing opportunities in the years ahead.