The greening process
Greentech co-founder, Marco Voigt, looks to expand the green vision on a global scale.
With Audi as a partner, the Greentech Festival is now expanding with its first festival in London and another planed for New York in the new year, which co-founder Marco Voigt believes is the next logical step for the sustainable technologies platform.
Jelka von Langen and AUDI AG
17 November, 2021
There are many reasons to choose London, but to name just one that perhaps not everyone is aware of, the UK is a leader in renewable energy
Back in 2008, entrepreneur Marco Voigt founded the GreenTec Awards with Alexia Osswald and Sven Krüger. He subsequently set up Green Window, a creative and advertising agency dedicated to sustainability, before launching the Greentech Festival along with Nico Rosberg and Sven Krüger.
Fascinated by green technologies and their potential, Voigt wants to give such innovations a wider platform and in addition to taking the Greentech Festival ‘on the road’ and opening organic eats start-up Delisch Food, he is working on setting up his own green investment fund.
In addition to these plans, the Greentech Festival has taken its first steps to expanding globally, with the first festival held outside Germany which recently took place in London. Marco Voigt took time out to speak with Audi about eco-conscious lifestyles, the power of lucky breaks and sustainable tights.
You chose London for the first Greentech Festival outside of Germany. Why there?
Climate change is a global phenomenon and everyone around the world faces the same challenges in adopting more sustainable lifestyles. We can achieve a lot in Germany but not everything. There are many reasons [to choose London]. To name just one that perhaps not everyone is aware of, the UK is a leader in renewable energy. What’s more, we see our festival as an event that, admittedly on a small scale, tied in with the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), which was underway in Glasgow at the same time. In fact, we’ve always also had our sights set on North America and Asia – and that hasn’t changed.
Audi is your global partner in the festival but you have a different approach to sponsors and collaborators?
I would like to emphasise that we don’t work with sponsors in the traditional sense. Instead, we look for partners. That’s because we’re not interested in raising funds or featuring logos. In my eyes, Audi is a perfect match for us because the company has not only accepted transformation’s challenges and defined specific measures for change but also got the ball rolling. That comes across in our many meetings and our ongoing interactions with the Four Rings, where we strive to shape the future together. As it is, mobility always plays a central role at the Greentech Festival because it’s the confluence for many technologies and industries. Energy is, ultimately, instrumental to the mobility transition.
Was founding the Greentech Festival a logical step in your journey?
I teamed up with Alexia Osswald and Sven Krüger, who together with Nico Rosberg is still my partner in the Greentech Festival, to establish the GreenTec Awards in 2008. Back then, our aim was already to bring together the leading lights advancing sustainability in research, industry, politics and society. We wanted to train the spotlight on technological solutions that would help fight climate change and much more.
We wanted to train the spotlight on technological solutions that would help fight climate change and much more
At least the problems and challenges we face are now more plain to see. And, yes, so is the appetite for solutions
How has the attitude towards climate action changed over time?
At least the problems and challenges we face are now more plain to see. And, yes, so is the appetite for solutions. Electric cars are a good example of this. Remember all those years they were considered boring, impractical and unnecessary? At the same time, industries ranging from fashion through food to, naturally, mobility were looking for opportunities to present solutions. Shifting parameters and, in no small part, our collaboration with Nico Rosberg paved the way for us to get the festival off the ground in 2019.
Your Green Window Agency advises companies on how to treat sustainability as a market. Are there still many businesses that need help on that front?
It certainly seems that way. Before the agency came into being, Green Window was supposed to be an online marketplace for sustainable products. However, we soon discovered that it didn’t work. The range of offerings was simply too small. If, for instance, there’s just a single sustainably manufactured and hence higher priced pair of white trainers in competition with the myriad conventional models, most people will be drawn to the variety of options rather than the sustainable choice.
But Green Window sparked something else.
By sheer accident, yes. It was the manufacturers who contacted us. Many of them told us that they would like to offer more variety but didn’t quite know how to go about it. In a way, we underwent a transformation ourselves and became a consultancy serving banks, breweries, coffee brands, car makers and even a tights manufacturer, among others.
How did you help them?
That was another one of those lucky breaks. We had an environmentally friendly ‘green carpet’ at one of our award events. It was made from Econyl, which is a plastic fibre derived from recycled fishing nets and other waste. A German musician stepped onto the carpet and addressed the TV cameras, declaring loudly that right now she was ‘taking a stand on waste’ and that recycling was a truly ingenious idea. Suddenly, there was a huge media buzz around the whole thing. I told the fashion company’s management this exact same story and we brainstormed whether it would be possible to produce tights from this material. And that’s what they did.
That same fibre can be found in the Audi RS e-tron GT. Is finding solutions sometimes about recognising the potential already hiding in plain sight?
It’s about connecting the dots in an interdisciplinary and open-ended way. As I said, that’s also the approach we take with the Greentech Festival. And, of course, you also need a little luck, the power of the moment, so to speak, to give coincidence another name.
What about the change the event is supposed to drive and celebrate?
In my view, there are two key levers for change – the growing pressure humanity faces to tackle climate change and public dialogue. Above all in the western world, our societies are consumerist. While it might seem like a logical move to clamp down on consumption, that would tip public dialogue into dangerous territory. I think encouraging more conscious consumption is the preferable solution. By providing people with better options, they can try things out and see for themselves. Then maybe we’ll have more success with bringing about change.
And, of course, you also need a little luck, the power of the moment, so to speak, to give coincidence another name
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