Sally Gold oversees a program called Shell Springboard – part of the Shell oil company. Since its launch in 2005, it has awarded over 1.6 million British pounds to 43 small businesses across the U.K. – to help them to implement ideas to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Sally Gold: They can be businesses that are looking at building solutions, or construction solutions, businesses that are looking at engine re-design, different behavioral changes that people can make in the way that they transport goods or the way that they use energy systems in their homes. So it’s a complete range of ideas and some really creative thinking as well.
Gold gave an example – an energy startup company called Scottish Bioenergy.
Sally Gold: They were using one of the resources that Scotland has a lot of, which are whiskey distilleries. This guy was a one-man-band, and he was building algae bioreactors.
The algae bioreactors move exhaust gas from the distillery into containers that grow algae, which feed on the gas. The algae are ultimately harvested for proteins and oils that make fuel used to run the distillery. This process was developed by distillery owner David Van Alstyne and his daughter Layla over their kitchen table and ultimately used in the Glenturret distillery in Perthshire, Scotland.
Sally Gold: It was saving the distillery all of its energy costs, its electricity bills. They used the award of 40 thousand pounds they got from us to build their very first pilot project, at Glenturret distillery. And they’re now looking to expand across a number of other distilleries in Scotland.
Gold said she’s confident other businesses will figure out innovative ways to lower their carbon footprint.
Sally Gold: I think what is valuable to people’s bottom lines, and what is good for the environment, are going to go hand in hand.
Sally Gold spoke more about the Shell Springboard program.
Sally Gold: Shell’s Springboard was started by Shell here in the UK six years ago. The idea behind the program is that we can all see that climate change is obviously a massive challenge that faces everybody. But it’s also quite a big business opportunity as well. And so big companies like Shell, we’re obviously working away on the various parts of that opportunity that we think we can get some benefit from. But what we’re trying to do through this social investment program is to try and help small companies also make the most of that opportunity.
Gold said that the program has reviewed 900 entries over the last six years, and awarded money to 43 businesses. She said similarities that are revealed when the businesses describe their challenges.
Sally Gold: One of them, an area will try to fill, is funding. There is funding available if you need half a million pounds or dollars, or two million. If you need money on a very large scale, it’s there. And it can take you a number of years to jump through all the hoops to get that level of funding. What’s missing is the funding at the very, very beginning, the small scale funding where banks don’t want to take a risk on you, investors don’t want to take a risk on you. And that’s where Shell Springboard comes in. It’s giving these guys no-strings funding. And if their idea thrives, fantastic. And if it doesn’t, we’ve taken that risk and given these guys a chance.
A second thing, Gold said, is the credibility.
Sally Gold: Winning an award from us or another organization can give these guys a really big boost in their confidence and also in their credibility, which can help them attract further investments, and also their first customers, in some cases.
Another example of a Springboard award is the website Shiply.com, said Gold.
Sally Gold: A young chap, at the age of 24, won our final last year. He started a website called Shiply.com. This guy had a pool table delivered to him as a student. And he was amazed to find that the truck that was delivering the pool table was traveling all the way back, 200 miles across the UK, with an empty load. So he set up a website called Shiply.com, which is sort of like an eBay, but for trucks. Trucks and consumers go on to Shiply, and they look to station trucks and they bid for space. If you want to ship a present to your grandmother 200 miles away, you can go onto the website and find the transport company that haulage space and bid for it. And on average, you’re saving consumers 75 percent of the cost. But you’re also saving a huge amount of road miles. He estimates he’s saved already 10 million unnecessary road miles in the space of two years. So some pretty good results there from a pretty young entrepreneur.
Gold said that the program is seeing a variety of exciting ideas.
Sally Gold: As the years have gone on, with Shell Springboard we’ve seen not only the quantity of businesses increase. But we’ve also seen the number of behavioral projects coming through increasing. So we’re not just getting very technical ideas around wind turbines and different designs for car engines and truck engines, but we’re seeing a lot of use of the Internet coming through and other advancing technologies.
Sally Gold – head of social investment and sponsorship at Shell in the U.K. – participated in the July 2010 webchat, Big ideas for the future of energy. Gold and others examined ways of thinking that have the potential to change the energy industry.
Our thanks today to Shell – encouraging dialogue on the energy challenge.
Jorge Salazar has conducted thousands of in-depth interviews with scientists in the process of creating science content for EarthSky. He also helps host the 90-second EarthSky podcasts. Jorge has a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Texas at Austin. He knows a lot about a lot of different things. For EarthSky, he has explored subjects as diverse as nanotechnology, ecosystem-based management, climate change, global health, international environmental treaties, astrophysics and cosmology, and environmental security. His penetrating research style, poetic writing, and ability to track down and speak with Nobel prize-winning laureates, all make him a huge asset to EarthSky.