Innovation Zero: Learnings from the 2024 sustainability event

9 May 2024, Category: All insights, News, Tags: , , , ,

innovation zero

In early May of 2024, we were able to attend Innovation Zero – London’s largest sustainability event. With a focus on sustainability and innovation, this gathering brought together visionaries, entrepreneurs, and experts to explore groundbreaking solutions to combat climate change and foster a more sustainable future.

The following round-up of learnings and reflections were taken from the second and last day of the event, so if you’re curious about what occurred on day one, check out the Innovation Zero website for more information.

So what did we learn? Explore this blog to find out.

The key themes at Innovation Zero 2024

Throughout the event, a myriad of captivating discussions and workshops unfolded, covering a wide range of topics:

Clean energy

Experts delved into the latest advancements in clean energy technologies, from solar and wind power to innovative battery storage solutions.

Circular Economy initiatives 

Embracing the principles of a circular economy, participants explored strategies to minimise waste, maximise resource efficiency, and promote sustainable consumption. 

Smart cities and sustainable urban development

With the world rapidly urbanising, the concept of smart cities took centre stage. Discussions revolved around leveraging technology to create more liveable, resilient, and sustainable urban environments, with a focus on efficient transportation, green spaces, and intelligent infrastructure.

Climate-tech startups showcase

The event provided a platform for climate-tech startups to showcase their pioneering solutions. From carbon capture technologies to sustainable agriculture innovations, these startups demonstrated the power of entrepreneurship in driving positive environmental impact.

Corporate sustainability strategies 

Leading corporations shared their sustainability journeys, highlighting the integration of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles into their business strategies. Panel discussions explored the role of corporations in driving systemic change and the importance of transparency and accountability.

Climate communication

One of the key calls-to-action being advocated for was the position of communication and its importance for furthering the cause of climate resilience, mitigation, and adaptation. Many of the talks held were about what all stakeholders, regardless of background, could do to support the myriad of initiatives being spearheaded by other stakeholders at Innovation Zero. 

Climate risks and human security

– David Shukman, Former Science Editor and Independent Consultant – BBC News


  • Lea Berrang Ford, Deputy Director and Head, Centre for Climate and Health Security (CCHS) – UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)
  • Professor Penny Endersby CBE, Chief Executive – Met Office
  • Dr Chavonda Jacobs-Young, Under Secretary, Research, Education and Economics & Chief Scientist -United States Department of Agriculture
  • Richard Nugee, Chair – Uplift360

What security challenges arise from climate change? This talk dove into the impacts of climate risk on national defence, public health, and the security of food and water resources. 

“Human beings live within a particular climate niche,” stated Professor Penny Endersby, speaking on the risk that climate change poses to the climate-reliant systems we’ve developed as a global society. On the subject, the four panellists were strongly invested in stating that the headline issue of climate impacts on human security revolves around the intersection of agriculture, health, and resource scarcity, covering the following points in their lively presentation:

  • Agriculture and food security: Climate change poses significant threats to food production, with extreme weather events exacerbating challenges. Ensuring food security is essential for national security.
  • Health impacts: Climate change introduces new disease vectors, exacerbates existing health risks, and threatens food imports, potentially leading to nutritional deficiencies and increased vulnerability to heatwaves and diseases.
  • Resource scarcity and conflict: Scarce resources, such as water and food, can escalate tensions and conflicts, allowing non-state actors to exploit vulnerabilities.
  • Cascading risks: Climate impacts, like wildfires, can have cascading effects, including damage to infrastructure, air quality deterioration, and health risks, amplifying the complexity of climate-related challenges.
  • Collective action and innovation: Addressing these challenges requires collective action and innovative solutions, such as climate missions and pragmatic approaches to climate adaptation and health security.

Overall, the intertwined nature of climate impacts on agriculture, health, and resource availability underscores the urgency of proactive measures to mitigate risks and build resilience in the face of a changing climate.

Litigation, risk, and action

– David Shukman, Former Science Editor and Independent Consultant – BBC News


  • Julie Baddeley, Chair – Chapter Zero
  • Clover Hogan, Founder – Force of Nature
  • Catherine Howarth OBE, Chief Executive – ShareAction
  • Farhana Yamin – Lawyer, Climate Justice Funder & Activist

To ensure that climate goals resonate across all sectors and yield concrete results, what key strategies can be employed at the policy, shareholder, and executive levels to propel our institutions toward a sustainable, net-zero economy? How can we inspire and empower leaders to champion climate-positive initiatives?

This session explored the utilisation of litigation, risk assessment, and regulatory frameworks to advance the cause of climate action, promoting constructive dialogue, and impactful outcomes.

The panel’s discussion on litigation and climate-positive action highlights several key points:

  • Pressure on institutional investors: Efforts are being made to apply pressure on institutional investors, particularly pension funds, to prioritise climate-conscious investments. There is a growing interest in climate change within the investment community, but corporate climate transitions are perceived as too slow.
  • Challenges and backlash: Some companies are seen as pausing or reversing their commitments to climate action, and there’s concern about subsidies for oil and gas industries hindering progress. Critics argue that profit motives often override environmental considerations, sacrificing the future for short-term gain.
  • Policy and legal frameworks: Discussions revolve around the need for legal and policy frameworks that incentivise and enforce climate-positive actions. There’s recognition that shareholders wield significant voting power to influence corporate behaviour, but there are challenges in aligning institutional investors’ legal duties with sustainable growth objectives.
  • Call for divestment and direct action: Calls for divestment from fossil fuels are emphasised, with scepticism toward traditional methods of influencing change. Direct action is seen as essential, particularly targeting the financial backing of corporate and government inaction.
  • Accountability and consequences: The conversation touches on the importance of holding both corporations and individuals accountable for their roles in climate inaction. This includes exploring legal avenues to punish wrongdoing and ensuring that powerful financial institutions are held accountable for their actions.

Overall, the discussion underscores the complex interplay between financial interests, legal frameworks, and grassroots activism in driving climate-positive action and addressing climate change.

Derisking finance and innovation

– David Shukman, Former Science Editor and Independent Consultant – BBC News


  • Heba Bevan OBE, Founder & CEO – UtterBerry 
  • Maria Carvalho, Head of Climate Economics and Data – NatWest Group
  • Shaun Kingsbury CBE, Chief Investment Officer – Just Climate
  • Rhian-Mari Thomas OBE, CEO – Green Finance Institute

“The business case needs to be there. If the current fossil fuel methods are cheaper than new climate innovations, you won’t get anything done. You need a very strong demand signal, from customers, to show that there should be investment,” argued Maria Carvalho at this intriguing talk on day two of Innovation Zero. 

The realisation of a low-carbon future hinges on pioneering, breakthrough technologies. However, the advancement of these ventures is hindered by investor reluctance to take risks and the existence of funding shortfalls.

This talk spoke on how governments can foster investment in nascent technology fields and address the risk associated with pioneering endeavours for investors with long-term perspectives, asking the question – What adjustments are necessary in the financial sector to facilitate British innovation’s acceleration and rapid scaling, meeting the urgency demanded by our climate objectives?

The discussion on de-risking and financing climate innovation revolved around these messages:

  • Matching risk with finance solutions: There’s a recognition of the need to align the risk profile of climate innovation projects with appropriate financing solutions. This includes leveraging a mix of equity and debt instruments and exploring new forms of capital to bridge existing gaps.
  • Role of private capital: There’s a consensus on the necessity of private capital playing a larger role in financing climate innovation. This entails attracting institutional investors and pension funds to redirect their investments towards climate-friendly ventures.
  • Creating strong business cases: To attract investment, there must be a compelling business case for climate innovation. This includes demonstrating strong demand signals from customers and potentially penalising non-green lending to incentivise investment in sustainable projects.
  • Flexible capital and philanthropy: Flexible capital is needed to accommodate the unique challenges and opportunities presented by new climate technologies. Philanthropic support can play a crucial role in unlocking innovative projects and attracting further investment.
  • Government support and infrastructure banks: Government initiatives, such as the UK Infrastructure Bank, can help in de-risking climate projects and providing a vision for a net-zero future. Additionally, high-risk, high-reward investors are needed to support ambitious climate innovation ventures.

Overall, the conversation emphasised the importance of aligning financial incentives with climate goals, leveraging diverse sources of capital, and fostering collaboration between public and private sectors to drive climate innovation and achieve a sustainable future.

Communicating climate change

– Rachael Orr, Chief Executive Officer – Climate Outreach


  • Tony Burdon, CEO – Make My Money Matter
  • Nick Oldridge, Co-Founder – Climate Science Breakthrough
  • Claire Poole, Founder and CEO – Sport Positive
  • Alex Robinson, CEO – Hubbub

What makes great climate communication? This was the key question at Innovation Zero. The discussion on effective climate communication emphasises the importance of conveying scientific facts through compelling storytelling that resonates with audiences. Creativity is highlighted as essential for crafting narratives that capture attention and create focus, especially in a landscape that is highly competitive when it comes to attractive attention, such as we exist in today.

Community engagement is seen as crucial, with initiatives such as Make My Money Matter emphasising the role of collective action in driving change. There’s a growing demand for leadership on climate issues, with investment in climate solutions offering hope for the future. Communicators strive to convey how individual actions contribute to collective efforts, making climate change relevant to people’s lives.

One crucial point raised was this – addressing misinformation is paramount, with communicators advocating for countering populist narratives and soft cultural misinformation with positive stories that reveal the truth. Actionable steps include divesting from companies that are not serious about renewable investments and replacing the types of leaders that hinder progress.

Finally, effective communication requires emotional engagement and constructive messaging to move people from indifference to engagement. Communicators aim to meet people where they are and balance messages of doom with constructive solutions. The approach seeks to empower audiences to take action and foster dialogue on climate change.

Our final thoughts on Innovation Zero

Events like Innovation Zero are a useful way of bringing an incredibly large number of knowledgeable, motivated people together under one roof. Having the space to network, share ideas, and reveal new insights that may have been previously unknown to some is invaluable.

However, events like these should not be seen as a silver bullet. They’re useful, but not the be-all and end-all of climate change conversation and action. Many attendants felt dissuaded due to the event’s sponsors – including BP – being organisations known for their hugely negative climate impacts. 

As an organisation deeply dedicated to our vision of a world sustainably transformed, we hope, as what we learned in the talks – that action should be pursued through the communication of innovation solutions, truth, divestment, flexible finance, and collaborative effort – that useful climate events can be even greener going forward…

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