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Some of Europe’s top tech investors are adding a ‘sustainability clause’ to start-up deal terms

Some of Europe’s top tech investors are adding a ‘sustainability clause’ to start-up deal terms

UPDATED FRI, OCT 30 2020 5:32 AM EDT

LONDON — Socially-conscious investing has gathered a lot of momentum this year, with billions of dollars flowing into funds that use environmental, social and governance criteria to screen the companies they back.

Venture capitalists are taking note, with some of the largest start-up investors in Europe pushing for accountability in their own portfolios with regard to investing in climate-friendly firms.

Northzone, Earlybird and HV Holtzbrinck Ventures are among the most notable backers of Berlin-based non-profit Leaders for Climate Action. A network of European entrepreneurs and investors, LFCA aims to marry “ecological success with economic success” in the tech industry, its founder Philippe Singer told CNBC.

Start-ups signed up to the initiative — whose members include the CEOs of German food delivery app Delivery Hero and French car-sharing service BlaBlaCar — must commit to a “green pledge” that sets them on a path of reducing their carbon footprint, he added.

But a key component of the scheme is a “sustainability clause” that its VC backers are required to include in the term sheets they sign with start-ups during funding negotiations to ensure they commit to meeting their climate goals.

A standard version of the agreement seen by CNBC calls on firms to regularly measure their carbon footprints, implement carbon offset schemes and promote environmental responsibility when engaging with customers and suppliers.

“We kind of liked that idea that it’s not just talk but real action,” Pär-Jörgen Pärson, a general partner at Northzone, told CNBC. “When it comes to the entrepreneurial community, that is their modus operandi.”

“If you only talk about it, then it doesn’t happen. But if you do something about it, then it can make a difference. That’s how we separate the real entrepreneurs from the wannabes.”

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Harvey Yan


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