The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced that it will provide A$41.5 million funding to 13 research projects.

This is part of ARENA’s efforts to significantly reduce the cost of solar power and drive down the cost of solar even further and support the country’s transition to renewable electricity. 

The funding has been awarded to researchers from three Australian universities; The University of New South Wales (UNSW), The Australian National University (ANU) and The University of Sydney (USYD).  

The funding will support research and development activities, as well as commercialisation efforts, and is in line with ARENA’s “Solar 30 30 30” target of achieving 30 per cent module efficiency and 30 cents per installed watt at utility scale by 2030.

In addition to supporting R&D efforts, the funding will also be used to help bring new technologies to market after each project’s core R&D phase. 

ARENA initially opened for applications in February this year and increased the funding allocated by a further $1.5 million due to the strength of the applications that have the potential to reduce the levelised cost of solar PV and improve cell and module efficiency across two streams: 

  • Stream 1 – Cells and Modules: Building on Australia’s leading track record of R&D and innovation in solar cells and modules ($27.5 million in funding) 
  • Stream 2 – Balance of System, operations and maintenance: Seeking to broaden the approach to accelerate innovation that can drive down the upfront and ongoing costs of utility-scale solar PV in the field ($14 million in funding). 

This announcement marks a continuation of ARENA’s investment in solar PV as the organisation looks to promote the adoption of renewable energy sources in Australia.

Australia’s solar energy R&D

Australia has a long history of solar energy research and development, with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) playing an important role in funding this work.

Ultra-low-cost solar will be a key input into ARENA’s strategic priorities for scaling up low-cost renewable hydrogen production and unlocking decarbonisation pathways for heavy industry, including low-emission materials such as green steel and aluminium. 

ARENA has funded several research projects and institutions, including universities, that are working to develop ultra-low-cost solar technologies. It has already committed AUD 118.5 million in grant funding to 145 solar PV projects with 17 institutions since 2012 and has also supported the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics with AUD 128.99 million in funding until 2030.

Aside from ARENA, several other organisations and initiatives in Australia are working on ultra-low-cost solar research. The Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP) is one of these. It is a national research centre that combines academia, industry, and government researchers to work on advanced photovoltaic technologies. 

In addition, several private companies and start-ups in Australia are actively involved in solar research and development. 

Overall, the landscape for ultra-low-cost solar research in Australia is vibrant and diverse, with various organisations and initiatives working together to reduce the cost of solar energy.

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The stage is set for 2023 to be an impactful year for the tech industry. Despite the continued uphill battle of navigating through volatile economic conditions, I’m a big believer that tech is still well-positioned for solid growth.

A few key trends have begun to shape tech conversations in 2022, and I expect they’ll continue to dominate headlines in 2023.

From adapting to new realities in emerging industries such as artificial intelligence, the need for multilateral crypto regulation, an emphasis on cyber security, and thoughtful commitment to environmental regeneration, the coming year will mark the start of a new cycle of change. 

For business leaders, staying informed with trends as they evolve can help identify new risks and valuable opportunities for improvements in your business strategy. 

After another year of telling the stories of forward-thinkers, I asked them to share their insights on the tech trends that will shape their field in 2023:

Acceleration of AI

Artificial intelligence has allowed us to work alongside ‘robots’ and smart machines designed to help us do our jobs better. AI-powered virtual assistants will also become more prevalent in the workplace, offering more efficient methods of accomplishing objectives.

To close off the year, we saw the release of both OpenAI’s ChatGPT-3 and Lensa’s AI-selfie app, both massive leaps forward in this space that businesses should watch closely. Developing the ability to effectively utilise intelligently, smart machines will become an increasingly indispensable professional skill. 

According to Marco Zande, Head of Marketing at digital lender WLTH, “AI, machine learning, and automation are trendy buzzwords that have been dominating the past year, especially post-pandemic. While they are crucial to digital marketing strategy, we cannot ignore the critical human element that enhances the experience”.

“The pandemic introduced us to a more digital world, but we have learned that consumers still respond well to that personal interaction.”

Climate / Environmental sustainability 

In the last five years, 85 per cent of consumers have shifted their purchase behaviour towards being more sustainable, supporting businesses that care about the environment and their carbon emissions.

Businesses now need to be vehicles of change and can no longer ignore sustainability when making key business decisions. The interests of employees, customers, and local communities are now front and centre. 

Entrepreneurs like Brodie Haupt, CEO, and co-founder at WLTH, are challenging businesses to think more sustainably after launching Australia’s first recycled Ocean Plastic® Visa Card in collaboration with Parley for the Oceans earlier this year. 

“In 2023, sustainability will be hard to ignore. Consumers are looking for new ways to reduce their environmental footprint, and I think it’s up to us as business leaders to take charge and take control of the issue. Our customers are becoming more socially conscious, and we must empower them to be more involved in protecting the environment.”

“Transparency in communicating efforts and progress toward being a responsible company will be a top priority for all businesses, particularly within the fintech space. With more Australian banks committing to the United Nations’ Net-Zero Banking Alliance, smaller fintech innovators will need to make more tangible efforts to make a positive impact on the planet to keep up.

In addition, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is actively clamping down on misleading environmental claims, a proper ESG strategy is needed to report their progress and avoid greenwashing backlash legitimately,” added Haupt. 

Improvement of payments systems and fraud prevention

Fraud prevention has been brought into the spotlight over the past few years. At the AusPayNet’s annual summit in December 2022, Reserve Bank Governor Dr Philip Lowe outlined the intent of the RBA to support innovation that will help Australia be well-placed for the digital future.

“2022 was a big year of developments for the payments industry, and with new developments, increased concern about fraud became. Fraud on payment card transactions totalled a whopping $499.5 million in the 12 months to 30 June 2022, according to AusPayNet,” says Luke Fossett, Director, Australia and New Zealand of GoCardless.

“A significant change on the horizon for SMEs is the integration of PayTo by Australian banks and financial institutions. Essentially, PayTo is a new digital payment experience offering Australians better visibility and control over their payments within the safety and security of their chosen banking app.

By the end of Q1 2023, it’s expected that most – if not all – banks will be ‘PayTo ready’ and prepared to offer this new approach to bank-to-bank payments to all their clients. 

Fossett notes the introduction of PayTo could save millions of dollars worth of fraudulent and unauthorised transactions from the Australian financial system due to its instant account verification and payment notifications. 

“In our recent State of Pay report, 51 per cent of medium-to-large businesses stated they’d experienced credit card fraud in the last two years, which interestingly, occurs at a similar rate for businesses with less than 20 people.

Medium to large businesses cited they experienced at least double the amount of credit card fraud compared with all other sized businesses surveyed. Because PayTo payment agreements are authorised by the customer through secure banking platforms, adopting the platform will reduce the likelihood of payment fraud,” he said. 

Crypto regulation 

Cryptocurrency is perhaps the most volatile industry with the most uncertainty going into 2023. Market crashes left the digital currency in a fragile state, which may bring challenges in the new year. Industry expert Josh Gilbert, Analyst at eToro Australia, predicts greater regulation across the crypto asset marketplace from consumers, companies and government, globally and in Australia. 

“Both in Australia and abroad, the call for greater regulation across the crypto asset marketplace is growing from consumers, companies, and government. I anticipate that in the new year, we’ll see some significant movement on a Federal level – at the very least, both here and in the US.”

“The potential benefit in Australia, broadly speaking, is that more stringent regulation will assist in removing bad actors from the industry, helping to solidify the reputation of functional crypto markets and already-compliant exchanges while insulating retail investors against unnecessary risk.”

“We’ll also likely see the commencement of the RBA’s Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) pilot program, estimated to take approximately a year to complete.

Over the course of the year, we should expect to see some indicators of whether this trial is likely to see the currency evolve into mainstream integration, which could be a huge boon for innovators within this space,” Mr Gilbert added. 

After a tumultuous 2022, which saw the rise and fall of markets, the collapse of some of the industry’s largest companies, and the birth of new transformative technologies, it’s clear that a new year will present opportunities and challenges that we’ve never dealt with before. Every business leader should have these trends on their radar to stay relevant as we approach a new era in tech advancement. 

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Although rising cost of living continues to impact Australian shoppers, many continue to prioritise brands that are environmentally and socially responsible, regardless of tightened spending.

According to a recent consumer survey by Toluna, over two thirds of Australians remain committed to shopping ethically, citing the importance of brand values that align with their own.

Around 80 per cent of shoppers said they cared about the brand’s environmental and social impact while 56 per cent look into the brand’s commitment into reducing their use of plastic and paper packaging.

Even as inflation in Australia has surged to a 21-year high, Australian shoppers are putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to ethical purchasing.  Toluna’s Global Consumer Barometer Study found that a third of respondents would go out of their way to engage with sustainable brands, although 39 per cent admitted they could not afford to do so.

“Our findings show that the rising cost-of-living and energy crisis is causing consumers to become increasingly concerned, to the point where it’s impacting their health,” explained Sej Patel, Country Director, Toluna, Australia & New Zealand.

“Yet, even as Aussies are preparing to forego some of their lifestyle choices in the face of price hikes – like cutting back on eating out, taking fewer holidays, and trading down for more generic supermarket brands – they are not prepared to sacrifice their values. Even in the midst of an economic crisis, Australian consumers remain staunch when it comes to holding brands accountable and proactively seeking out the ones that are most socially and environmentally responsible.”  

Green investments seem to be at the top of the average Australian consumer’s priorities as well. Almost half of respondents said they wanted their investments and savings to align with their values.

If cost wasn’t an issue, 48 per cent of Australians would purchase an electric or hybrid vehicle as their next vehicle, the survey found. Unfortunately, factors like maintenance costs and charging times remain barriers in making the switch.   

This importance of ESG initiatives among consumers remains crucial when the current economic situation is impacting Australians more than just financially. Over 30 per cent said they are more stressed, with one in ten Australians reportedly smoking more than usual, and a similar amount drinking more alcohol.

Almost half (47%) of respondent said they were worse off financially compared to before the pandemic.

“It’s clear that consumers are unwavering when it comes to their values, and businesses would do well to ensure they’re making every effort to understand what makes their customers tick in order to remain relevant,” Mr Patel added.

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ALSO READ: New report reveals Australia’s most (and least) ethical fashion brands

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For today’s consumer with even the best of intentions, it can be daunting to evaluate how sustainable their choices really are. What are the unintended consequences of their recent spends? How environmentally friendly is their super fund? Is their bank lending to fossil fuel companies?

This dilemma is only made more complicated by corporate greenwashing, when companies purport to be environmentally conscious for marketing purposes without tangible actions to back it up.

A Sydney-based start-up, however, is cutting through the fat by providing a consolidated view of users’ finances to empower them towards smart, sustainable choices.

“I suppose we’re creating a bit of a new category that doesn’t really exist in the market,” observed Anil Sagaram, founder and CEO of Acacia Money.

“You’ve got climate tech companies that are really focused on driving climate and environmental outcomes. Then you’ve got fintech companies that are helping people manage their money. Acacia’s really bridging the two.”

Funded by a mix of staff, angel investors and working partners, including an investment from Impact Ventures as part of EnergyLab’s 2022 Climate Solutions Accelerator, the platform is making it easy and rewarding for consumers to turn the dial on climate change.

“There’s growing awareness of how interconnected our world is and what we’re trying to do with Acacia is empower people to have an impact on the future through the choices they make. It’s quite exciting in terms of both the role of technology and the awareness,” Anil added.

Expanding the scope of financial services

As a business leader with over two decades of experience developing financial platforms, including the Panorama wealth platform for BT Financial Group, part of Westpac, Anil witnessed firsthand how “the financial system could either make or break the climate transition.”

“Superannuation and banking choices can actually drive the bulk of your environmental impact. Consumers could drive up to some say 70 per cent, but certainly north of a 50 per cent, reduction through the choices they make and that’s a huge number,” he said.

This knowledge, combined with a strong connection to nature from growing up in the far north of Western Australia, ultimately drove him towards creating something with a positive impact. In 2020, he stepped away from the corporate world to launch Acacia Money, alongside technology leader and solutions architect Chris Markey.

Anil added, “For the first 18 months or so, we were focused on getting the core operating system and foundation in place. We’ve had the Acacia app up and running over the last 12 months, testing it with users. We’re making sure we’ve got a solution that really delivers the desired outcome.”

Through Acacia’s open architecture platform, a user’s various accounts like their super, investments, even energy providers, are brought together to paint a comprehensive view of their individual carbon impact. Their accounts performance is measured against competition by Acacia’s analytics engineers through transparent data systems, leaning on independent research, industry averages, and other ESG assessments to cut through the greenwashing.

If there are better financially and environmentally friendly alternatives, users are provided with tools to make an easy switch. They’re also able to access financial advice partners to ensure they’re building wealth while making meaningful changes.

In another ‘green’ move, Acacia also pledges to plant a tree every time users make a more sustainable switch, partnering with Greenfleet for their first Green Rewards initiative.

ALSO READ: Founder Friday with Jacinta Timmins: the secrets of launching a sustainable apparel brand

acacia money app
Source: supplied

Not just for younger consumers

One wouldn’t be remiss to assume Acacia’s model might largely appeal to younger demographics. Just last year, millennials (ages 23 to 32) lead the pack in a PwC survey of generational differences in eco-friendly consumerism.

However, Anil notes, Acacia’s users come from across the age spectrum.

“We often think of climate engagement as the ‘millennial mindset’ but it’s increasingly become a broad phenomenon. Look at the floods, the bush fires […] There’s growing engagement with environmental issues,” he explained.

“We’re really noticing success with people comfortable with digital tools. If you think about digitization, you think of Netflix, Uber, Airbnb – all these platforms using data to provide insights you need while removing friction from the end-to-end process. Ultimately, that’s what Acacia is designed to do.”

acacia money app
Source: supplied

Tips for aspiring entrepreneurs

With Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Morgan Stanley, and GBST among the other impressive names on his resume, Anil certainly has some business advice to spare. The most important, perhaps, is the importance of building connections.

“Since I spent my career in large banks and large corporations, before moving into the startup community, I think the number one lesson is the power of network and the power of your connections. You don’t need to have all the answers. It’s about surrounding yourself with people and partners that can help you achieve your goals,” he said.

“We’ve found a lot of great partners that have allowed us to build the platform out, rather than trying to solve everything ourselves. And I think that’s probably a big distinction in leaving a corporation where it’s all about what’s in the building to a start-up where it’s all about the network out in the world.

“So I encourage people just to connect and have those conversations and learn through them. See how you can solve things collectively rather than individually.”

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ALSO READ: Founder Friday with Paul Tory: creating smarter ordering solutions for the hospitality industry

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For thousands of residents across Australia’s east coast, there’s a growing reason to ditch their petrol cars and pivot towards more sustainable transportation – a fleet of electric vehicles is being made exclusively available to them, to rent on demand, as part of their building’s amenities.

“We basically say it’s like a pool, but useful,” laughed Kyle Bolto, founder and CEO of Ohmie GO, the first sustainable shared e-Mobility company in Australia.

“You’re seeing these beautiful modern buildings coming to the market with luxury dining rooms, wonderful entertaining areas, great gyms and health clubs, and all these sorts of amenities. At Ohmie GO, we think that e-mobility as an amenity is a valuable proposition for both the building and the residents within it.”

First launched in 2018 and now operating in sites across Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, Ohmie GO’s fleet of cars (specifically Tesla Model 3s), e-bikes, and e-scooters to rent on-demand aim to “change the way we move around cities.”

Some of their property partners include Knight Frank, Aria Property Group, Sekisui House, Mosaic Property Group, and Bolton Clarke.

Kyle elaborated, “We’ve been in the technology space with IoT devices and smart homes for a little while now and it became very apparent to us that one of the big problems to be solved in the next four to five years is, how can we make the transition from petrol vehicles into electric vehicles? How does that meld into the way we plan and operate buildings?”

READ MORE: Founder Friday with Jacinta Timmins: the secrets of launching a sustainable apparel brand

ohmie go founder kyle bolto
Source: supplied

Bringing EVs to the general public

With a corporate background in technology and telecom, playing a key role in building the infrastructure for the internet and mobile networks in Australia with Vodafone and NBN, Kyle’s passionate about “looking at what’s coming in the future, how these technologies can help us, and making sure the infrastructure is in place.”

He left the corporate world in 2015 down the path of entrepreneurship, seeking avenues to make a difference.

“I got a great front row seat to observe how these industries grew with pretty rapid pace,” he noted. “It’s interesting to see what’s happening in the electric vehicle and mobility space now, as it has a lot of similarities to what happened in the early days of the internet.”

So far, Ohmie GO has raised around $1.5 million from a small number of supporters so far, with plans to raise another round soon.

The mission, as Kyle explains, is “to challenge car ownership as a concept, to create a future of shared e-mobility across smart cities and regional communities.” (The name, too, is a subtle nod to ohm, the unit of electrical resistance.)

“Look, the world of car share or bike share is not new,” Kyle admitted. “The big difference here is that we’re making these privately available to the tenants of a building. By bringing this inside, it creates a really wonderful dynamic that it’s a private amenity and interestingly, it creates a different social dynamic as well. People treat them really well because they know the next person coming in could be their neighbor or co-worker.”

Notably, it also marks the first time in the driver’s seat of an EV for many Ohmie GO users, who can now rent a Tesla for just $15 an hour.

“We have vehicles in retirement villages of all places, with users in their 70s and 80s! They’re able to book it through the Ohmie GO app, use the car for errands and do everything they need to do, and come right back. For us, it’s a really great endorsement that electric vehicles can be easy to use, even for people who might find the technology daunting or challenging,” Kyle grinned.

READ MORE: Founder Friday: This father-daughter duo is on a quest to improve global health, one person at a time

The EV market in Australia

Electric cars accounted for less than two per cent of sales in Australia in 2021 compared to the global average of nine per cent, per recent reports. Many sceptics point to the price barrier as well as the current infrastructure in place to charge, and maintain, an EV in the country.

According to Kyle, Ohmie GO’s success lies in its model, which takes care of the installation, cleaning, insurance, sustainability reporting, and maintenance of the electric vehicles for the residents.

“I think the infrastructure for EVs is there, like the Tesla charger network and companies like ChargeFox. I’ve personally driven from Sydney to Brisbane in a Tesla maybe five times, even Sydney to Melbourne in a Tesla around eight times, and I would argue it’s a lovelier experience than driving a conventional petrol car,” he said.

“That said, there’s certainly more infrastructure that needs to be made available, but it’s coming. And it’s already a lot better than it was just a couple of years ago when we first began.”

kyle bolto and max millett
With Max Millett, Ohmie GO’s Head of Growth. Source: supplied

Best advice received

Through Kyle’s twenty years experience across technology and executive leadership, there’s one important lesson that’s stood out: “the devil’s in the details.”

“It’s relatively easy to get from zero to 90 per cent and a lot of people can do that. What’s very difficult in business to get to 100 per cent, whether that’s delivering a quality product or user experience,” he observed.

“Certainly early in my career, that attention to detail wasn’t where it should’ve been, and I learned some crucial lessons along the way. For me, value lies in the details, and the rest will come.”

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READ MORE: How this young entrepreneur is bringing youthful energy back to the disability support space

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Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) is shaping up to be the corporate mantra of the 2020s, with the majority (83 per cent) of Australians concerned about climate change, according to the annual Ipsos Climate Change Report 2022. 

In Europe, we have seen the introduction of supply chain legislation that will make companies accountable for the behaviour and performance of their suppliers in a way never seen. As is the way of these things, we will no doubt be seeing a similar legislative effort on our own shores in the near future. 

The way we view our responsibilities as corporations, from the board down, is shifting. But this change has been slow. Current measures are not enough, on their own, to push corporate Australia down the necessary path to Net Zero.

Board buy-in is necessary  

Only 18 per cent of businesses have set a Net Zero goal, and of those businesses that have set a goal, only 21 per cent are taking steps to achieve it, according to research at Energy Action. That’s a fraction of the buy-in that we need.

At present, it can seem complicated and expensive for companies to get on board with Net Zero, which we know from just going through the journey ourselves.

There’s a growing demand for not only the cheapest power but the cleanest power. Before anything else, you need board buy-in. Currently, only around three in 10 Australian boards consider the Net Zero strategy a priority. To lift this number, a board-level commitment is non-negotiable.

Sometimes getting to that place can require a cultural shift, but it can be easier to achieve once you realise that solid environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) credentials aren’t just a feel-good box to tick off. Done right, ESG can be profitable and drive positive social and financial outcomes.

Steps toward Net Zero 

Net Zero certification doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult; it just requires an organised approach. In many cases, you can distribute the initial costs over time. The key steps to Net Zero energy are simple: measure, reduce, buy green, and offset. 

First, comprehensively measure your emissions. If you don’t measure what you’re currently consuming, you can’t bring that number down, and you won’t know what your offset burden will be. We thoroughly audited our last two financial years to find that number and identify several ways to reduce our energy usage.

Then, you convert your power to as many green sources as possible. Different companies will have different capacities to switch to green sources. Some might be able to install solar panels, upgrade to electric vehicles, and so forth, but everyone can change their purchasing decisions to make greener choices.

In our case, energy consumption was our biggest emissions contributor, so we were able to change our buying to mitigate that. We also switched to make the greenest possible purchasing decisions for all items we might need to run our business.

In some cases, these products may be slightly more expensive, but this is a cost distributed throughout the year, so it doesn’t have to be painful. Long-term, we hope to continue to transition to more and more Net Zero suppliers as those options come to market.

Carbon credits are the last piece of the puzzle. A range of certified credits – both nationally and internationally created – can be purchased to suit different needs and budgets.

But it all starts with board direction and the belief from the board level that Net Zero is important to the future of your business. If you aren’t there yet, you may want to consider it sooner rather than later. With investor mandates becoming more routine and consumers are increasingly interested in the ESG credentials of the products and services they buy.

The future; reporting, strategies, and commitment 

Current mandatory reporting, including National Greenhouse Emissions Reporting (NGERs), has been in place since 2007, but realistically this is a regulatory reporting doorstop with limited ability to change behaviour.

On the other hand, voluntary reporting through the government’s Climate Active program produces quantifiable and auditable emissions reporting but is just that – voluntary – and not without cost.

At a policy level, the challenges are that emissions reductions or, more broadly, ESG outcomes are driven by standards rather than a mandate to “achieve Net Zero”. Those standards have complicated implementations that take years to achieve and will be frustrated by paid lobby groups.

Instead, a strategy that leverages what we have already seen with domestic photovoltaic solar uptake around the country is needed. Incentives introduced in the late 2000s resulted in a vibrant and sustainable PV installation industry to this day, effecting meaningful long-term impacts on improving Australia’s energy security.

Targeted Net Zero could have the same effect. Properly supporting Climate Active certification could result in many more businesses finding innovative and cost-effective ways to reduce emissions and accelerate Australia’s Net Zero economy.

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Last week, Australia passed its first significant climate legislation in more than ten years, establishing legally binding targets to reduce emissions further.

The Climate Change Bill mandates a 43 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 2005 levels by 2030, up from the previous administration’s target of 26 to 28 per cent.

Australia will have mandatory climate targets under the legislation, which the Senate approved with a vote of 37 to 30, and Climate Minister Chris Bowen will be required to report annually to parliament on the government’s progress on emissions. 

Experts believe that many details remain hidden about Australia’s plans to reduce carbon pollution. For instance, in mining and resources companies, the uncertainty in policy and regulation is high and increasing. 

As of November 2021, the Australia Institute identified 44 new gas and oil projects and 72 new coal projects in the planning stages. It predicted that if fully utilised, these would produce 200 coal power plants’ worth of CO2 emissions annually or 1.7 billion tonnes.

Australia’s carbon credit programme is now being reviewed, and the Climate Change Authority just published a study on how Australia’s carbon markets ought to connect with international systems.

Rob Fowler, a Partner in the Energy Transition practice at Partners in Performance, believes that the real work in transitioning to renewable sources of energy has just begun.

“Australia is waking up to the challenges and the opportunities of rapidly reducing carbon emissions across the economy. And once again, Australia’s high-carbon companies are dancing with the policy wonks and bureaucrats to chart a path forward. Many of us have been here before.”

“Australia would remain on track to reach net zero emissions by 2050 because of the enhanced pace of carbon reductions. The faster rate of decarbonisation will present several difficulties in a country where fossil fuels produced 67 per cent of the electricity in 2021 and renewable sources made up 32.5 per cent. Rob adds that a few crucial components are different this time as Australia attempts to end the long-running carbon warfare. 

The first difference is that investors will actually care in 2022. They put significant pressure on boards and management to explain and implement their decarbonisation strategies.

Technology is the second significant distinction. It really has a positive net present value (NPV) to replace diesel or fuel generators on a mining site with a sizable hybrid wind-solar-storage solution. Thirdly, Australia possesses the knowledge to accelerate the transition at a lower cost than we initially anticipated.

“A critical aspect of the decarbonisation challenge includes what is known as basic chemicals — ammonia, fertilisers, and explosives, all of which are crucial inputs to our economies and food systems. Key producers of these basic chemicals are exploring how the enormous investments already made in these value chains can be leveraged in a decarbonised world,” Rob says. 

“They are asking how their feedstocks and carbon emissions can be changed and transitioned while demand for these important chemicals increases rapidly.

“While these fundamental changes roll through capital expenditure programs of the chemicals sector, there is a growing demand for ‘carbon neutral’ cargoes,” Rob adds. 

“Everything from LNG, to ethylene, to metallurgical coal has been delivered to customers in East Asia with carbon offsets stapled to the physical products. If this trend continues, there will be massive demand for carbon offsets to meet the needs of traders, and customers, in these new types of commodity trades.”

New opportunities

Earlier, in order to remedy the “broken” environmental regulations in the country, the Greens have proposed a climate trigger. The proposal would prohibit new fossil fuel developments emitting more than 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from receiving environmental approval. 

It also establishes a cut-off point for projects that emit between 25,000 and 100,000 tonnes of carbon annually to be subject to environmental reviews. While the party would support the government’s emissions measure in the legislature, according to Greens leader Adam Bandt, more needed to be done, like its climate trigger legislation.

“As the world comes together in Glasgow to fight climate change, Australia is putting its foot on the accelerator and doubling down on fossil fuel expansion,” Richie Merzian, Climate & Energy Program Director at the Australia Institute, said in a statement last year.

“The Australian Government is aggressively pursuing a huge expansion of coal and gas projects, equivalent to over 200 new coal power stations. To point to China is disingenuous; Australia’s planned gas and coal expansion would be four times the amount of new coal power stations planned by China and almost double the carbon footprint of global aviation.

“This scorched earth policy has exposed Australia’s net zero 2050 plan as a fraud. Australia cannot claim to be acting on climate change while simultaneously expanding fossil fuel projects.”

Meanwhile, Rob notes that reusing and repurposing existing power grid infrastructure will be critical to meeting Australia’s ambitious target. This includes retaining and leveraging the existing electricity infrastructure in coal-fired power complexes across the Latrobe Valley, Hunter, Illawarra and Collie regions.

“With just 87 months until 2030 begins, Australia has an enormous amount of work to do and a huge dose of uncertainty to digest,” added Rob.

“The sooner we combine and deploy the finance, technology and smarts at our disposal, the sooner we will truly see the green mining, green metals and green basic chemicals that our ‘Net Zero future’ undoubtedly demands.”

For more information on Partners in Performance’s solutions, visit pip.global.

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The English translation of the Sanskrit word “Bhumi” is “Mother Earth.” In an industry rife with child labour and disastrous health effects from grower to consumer, Bhumi products take pride in being ethically made using organically grown cotton with no harmful pesticides, toxic dyes, child labour, and net zero carbon emissions.

“Seed to Shelf” refers to Bhumi’s ability to track the entire ethical and ecologically sound supply chain, from farmers sowing the organic cotton crop to the dyes used to colour the cotton fabric to the finished goods shelf. 

But Bhumi, like many eCommerce brands, struggled to maintain inventory levels that kept up with its rapid growth and allowed them to meet its true sales potential. 

This is the story of Bhumi, which began five years ago for Vinita and Dushyant Baravkar, and how Bhumi was able to triple its sales revenue in just one year.

The inspiration

When Dushyant and Vinita Baravkar moved from New York to Australia in 2010, they were passionate about living sustainably and being ethical consumers.

“The inspiration for Bhumi comes from my time in New York. I used to live very close to the Wholefoods flagship store, and I used to wonder why people would go there and purchase products at twice the price,” Dushyant Baravkar says.

“That led to my curiosity about the products sold, how they were made and if they were sustainable. I met Vinita there while she was working with the United Nations on the ground with WHO, and she was experiencing first-hand the negative impacts of textiles and conventional cotton.”

Vinita has been fortunate to travel to many exciting destinations and experience the beauty of nature and world cultures. With a background in Health and a Masters’ in International Public Health, Vinita saw first-hand the disastrous health and environmental impacts of traditional cotton growing with farmer suicides, child labour, pesticide poisoning, congenital disabilities, harmful dyes and toxic waterways.

Initial days

In 2017, Dushyant and Vinita founded Bhumi to pursue their passion. With Bhumi, they have created a range of premium products made from organically grown and ethically produced cotton.

Dushyant says, “the inspiration if I had to summarise everything in one word would be – curiosity. I’m your stereotypical corporate financial services person. I spent much time in the United States, primarily in management consulting, before moving to Australia, where I have been with ANZ on the institutional side and then Australia Post, among other roles. 

One thing led to another; Dushyant and Vinita came to Australia, and Dushyant decided to leave ANZ because of his curiosity to start a socially conscious business. 

After they launched, they started visiting small markets and stores where they found a huge demand from local customers. Neither Dushyant nor Vinita had experience in eCommerce, but after a few years of success selling their products through physical stores, they eventually opened their first online store with Shopify.

Getting suitable product material has proved a big challenge for Bhumi as it requires much capital. They considered bringing on investors to provide this capital but were worried it might impact their ability to deliver social impact.

Dushyant came from a career in finance, so he was well aware of the challenges he would face when trying to scale Bhumi. 

“This is a very capital-intensive business,” said Dushyant. Bhumi’s suppliers required a 30 per cent upfront payment for all stock, and at the pace, they were growing, they always needed to purchase more inventory than they had the cash for; “we often missed out on potential sales as we didn’t have the stock to sell to customers who were ready to buy” says Dushyant.

Managing cash for both inventory and marketing is a tricky balance to strike: “the two biggest issues for cash flow are related to inventory and spending on marketing. You have to have both of these hummings in parallel”, says Dushyant.

Dushyant and Vinita explored the option of bringing on investors. Still, they were worried that giving up control of their company would hold them back from delivering on their social impact mission. 

“We wanted to grow organically, not taking on investors who would dilute the value of our brand and challenge our ethos”, says Dushyant. However, their need for capital did not go away “if we don’t get the funding we need, at the right time, it would be a big issue,” tells Dushyant.

The Bhumi team approached Wayflyer to discuss how they could find a solution to this problem. What appealed to them about Wayflyer’s offering was the ability to get the funds they needed to grow without giving up any control or ownership. Bhumi decided to take capital from Wayflyer to fund their inventory purchases and have gone on to take multiple rounds of funding for each order they make.

“We tripled our sales last year; we simply could not have done this without access to the right capital”, says Dushyant. This growth has also significantly boosted the social impact they deliver. Every Bhumi sale has a positive environmental and social impact, helping to fix many of the current problems in the textile industry. More sales for Bhumi means more social impact for people and the planet.

The vision

Dushyant has long had a passion for socially conscious enterprises and textiles. Dushyant’s vision for all businesses today is to have a purpose beyond profits. He firmly believes that companies should be financially sustainable and at the same time provide economic, social and environmental benefits to local and global communities.

Vinita and Dushyant knew it was time for positive change. Vinita’s background in Health and years in the field meeting with amazing NGOs, combined with Dushyant’s finance and technology background, has seen Bhumi grow into a global platform.

Making a difference with its efforts

According to the company, since Bhumi chose to use certified organic cotton over conventional (non-organic) cotton, 1,361,464k of driving emissions have been avoided, and 7,1910,375 days of drinking water have been saved, and 645,500m2 of land have been farmed without pesticides.

After the United States of America, Australia has the second-highest global textile consumption rate per person. Each Australian uses 27 kilogrammes of new clothing annually, and 23 kilogrammes of that clothing are discarded in landfills, making up 93 per cent of the textile waste produced, according to the Department of Climate change, Energy, the Environment and water.

Fast fashion, which refers to clothing retailers selling inexpensive, primarily synthetic garments inspired by the newest trends and intended to be worn for a brief period of time before being discarded and replaced by new garments once trends change, is a significant factor in this situation.

Second-hand clothing stores contribute to lowering landfill waste from textiles. There are 10,000 charity collection bins, 33,000 volunteers, and 5,000 jobs supported by Australia’s 3,000 charity and social enterprise retailers. However, more must be done to lessen fast fashion’s adverse effects and landfill waste from clothing.

More about Bhumi here; more on Wayflyer here.

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In what might sound like an unlikely source of inspiration, it was Freya Tasci’s studies in literature and philosophy that would go on to inspire her successful business idea.

Coming across references to oilskin used to wrap items in transit, the entrepreneur decided to test it out herself.

“I was buying expensive organic veggies for my small children who had allergies and they’d wilt in the fridge after a few days – I needed better wrapping to keep them safe,” she recalled. “I also wanted to avoid introducing harmful chemicals like plastics into the house.”

When she couldn’t find anything like this in the market, trials into creating her own oilskin (cotton soaked in beeswax) ensued. Eventually, she landed on her hit product: Apiwraps, named after the Latin word for ‘bee’.

She elaborated, “They’re waterproof but also breathable, making it the perfect item to wrap veggies and other food items like that. And since its beeswax soaked in cotton, it can be washed and used again.

“Beeswax is the most incredible material. It’s beautifully versatile and natural. It’s something that you can even eat and there’s no chemicals or anything in it.”

Freyja’s practical, eco-friendly product can be used around the kitchen and with proper care and attention, one Apiwrap will last around a year. Significantly, due to its sustainable impact, it’s estimated that Apiwraps has replaced the need for more than 10 million metres of single-use plastic wrap over its last ten years of business.

an image of beeswax kitchen wrapping used to cover a salad
Source: supplied

Supporting small businesses

She started the business in November 2012, selling Apiwraps in Byron Bay markets.

“People would walk past and say to me ‘you’ve got to build this business, you’ve got to scale it, this is amazing’,” Freyja grinned.

Today Apiwraps are available across Australia through their website, local vendors, and major retailers like Aldi and Woolworths.

The production of Apiwraps combines the efforts of numerous small Australian businesses: a family beekeeping business for the wax, one of Australia’s last standing textile manufacturers for the cotton, and local artists who create the unique designs.

Freyja elaborated, “My mother was a fine artist, so I love having the opportunity to support the arts and other small businesses with this commercial product. That’s the beauty of being in business and keeping business in Australia, we get to meet and work with these amazing people.”

COVID as a ‘reset’

Like many other entrepreneurs, she suddenly found herself “on pause” for two years when the pandemic hit. Having to scale back expenses, they had to cut the team down to the bare minimum, move out of their warehouse at the end of the lease, and find a way to continue orders.

“It’s a reset in a way of everything. And now I’m launching any product at the gift fairs in Melbourne, at the end of the month, and I’m doing a product launch from scratch for the first time in 10 years!” she laughed.

“To do that, I followed my own advice. I reached out to our retailers to pick their brains. What was working? Do you think the customers might like this? What about if we did so-and-so? It was invaluable to get that information, to inform me on the product I’ve got.

“It’s now an exciting time to go into a product launch and this all came from taking that step back during the pandemic.”

Source: supplied

Entrepreneurship and motherhood

With her children’s allergies playing a pivotal role in inspiring Apiwraps, it’s no wonder than Freyja continues to find inspiration and drive from them, now 13 and nine.

“When you’re in the thick of running a business and it lives or dies with your effort, you have this temptation – ‘what if I sold this and got a job?’ It could be so easy to do that, to get a more reliable income,” she observed.

“The fact that I am juggling motherhood and the responsibilities with my business, I know that I would never have that flexibility anywhere else. I really want to work for myself so I’ll make this effort.”

The best advice received

Freyja still remembers the valuable advice one of her uncles provided in the early days of the business.

“I felt like I was in an endless cycle of investment, and we were inching, painfully slowly, forward. That’s when he said to look at it as a series of experiments in order to find the solutions.

“It’s a subtle shift, but realising the world isn’t against you is a really empowering mindset change.  You’re creating something from nothing and this is simply the process. I’ve since applied it to everything I do in business, whether it’s a new product launch or a new advertising strategy – it’s just a series of experiments that will reveal the best way forward.

“Business is hard and it’s not always going to be easy. But just because something’s not easy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing it or that it’s not a worthy idea.”

READ MORE: Founder Friday with Jacinta Timmins: the secrets of launching a sustainable apparel brand

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“Plastic is not created equally,” says Heidi Kujawa, CEO of ByFusion. “It’s super complex, which is why this problem is really broken.”

Amy Lombard

The very short version of the problem goes like this: Despite all those triangle-arrow symbols on the bottom of your bottles, most plastic is not recyclable. And the stuff that is often isn’t recycled anyway, because the process is dirty and cumbersome. Which means your recycling bin may be emptied into a landfill.

Kujawa wants to fix this. She had a successful career in entertainment and tech, but was looking to do something more meaningful. Around 2015, she heard about a company that had developed an interesting concept: It smushed old plastic into blocks, which could be used as construction material instead of concrete or bricks. “They had a prototype and it kind of worked, but not really,” Kujawa says. The company had since closed, and the patent had lapsed. “I said, ‘I know I can make that better.’”

Related: How to Make Sustainability More Than a Buzzword

Now she has. Her company, ByFusion, builds machines that literally fuse up to 30 pounds of plastic — no matter the type or how dirty it is — into blocks that can be used to make walls, furniture, small structures, and more. Its work is starting to appear around the country: A park bench was installed in Boise in February, followed by projects in Tucson and .

Below, you can follow the process of a block — as well as Kujawa’s journey to reviving a once-failed idea, and putting old plastic to real use.


As Kujawa looked to fund her company, she knew she was in a bind: She’d innovated inside the waste and construction industries, both of which are in need of new ideas — but “waste management and construction are two massive industries that VCs typically never invest in,” Kujawa says. How can entrepreneurs get funding in an overlooked space? First, prove the idea: Following the sale of her last company, she bootstrapped the first few phases of ByFusion herself — establishing the market and tech before going to investors. Second, seize the moment: As the culture shifted, with the talking more about climate solutions, “VCs started to say, okay, I guess we have to start focusing on this,” she says. She’s raised a $1.5 million seed round.

Related: What You Can Learn From the Rise of Sustainability-Focused Entrepreneurship


“I grew up with a hammer in my hand, not necessarily a Barbie doll,” Kujawa says. She always loved construction–“but I realized early on that it’s probably not a good career path back in the ’70s and ’80s for a girl.” That’s why she went into tech and entertainment. “But I never dropped the hammer.”


ByFusion’s plan isn’t just to sell blocks of plastic. It sells the machines that make the blocks, and has designed them modularly so that a broad range of clients, from waste management companies to municipalities, can utilize them to fit their needs and then produce the blocks themselves. Kujawa pitches it as a financial, logistical, and landfill diversion solution: Instead of transporting worthless plastic and dealing with associated compliance issues, cities and companies (and even universities) could create these blocks. ByFusion will buy back any surplus and sell to market on their behalf. “As we saw with the pandemic, there’s been a shortage of building materials. So let’s give them the ability to create their own material.”

Image Credit: All Photographs by Amy Lombard

Related: The Business of Sustainability

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