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Web Summit 2019: Google accelerates sustainability startups

Kate Brandt, CSO at Google, unveils fresh accelerator programme to drive the development of social impact startups

At Web Summit 2019, Google CSO Kate Brandt unveiled the company’s latest initiative aimed at driving the realisation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): the Google for Startups Accelerator.

The UN’s SDG’s, established in 2015 alongside the Paris Climate Agreement, are 17 ambitious but urgent targets for UN member states to accelerate the realisation of peace, prosperity and environmental stewardship by 2030.

Google’s new initiative is aimed at social impact startups focused on addressing social challenges around the globe, and will provide training, products and technical support to foster business growth and strategic success. 

With the first six-month accelerator due to begin in early 2020, applications will soon open for eight to 10 startups to take part. A second six-month phase for further applicants will begin later in 2020.

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“While investors are increasingly seeing the value in social impact startups, there are unique challenges in attracting the right investors, and competing with traditional startups who are focused primarily on growth or acquisition,” said Brandt in a 5 November blog post. “This accelerator will help participants connect and work with a wider base of potential investors.”

As reported by edie on 6 November, Google itself is facing renewed pressure from its employees to adopt more aggressive sustainability plans, such as the achievement of net-zero emissions by 2030, and the scrapping of contracts with fossil fuel companies.

With regard to the demand for net-zero emissions by 2030, CEO Sundar Pichai told the Financial Times: “It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. We want to be ambitious in how we think about it. It definitely seems the kind of timeline by which we want to accomplish those things.”