Although sustainability has invariably moved to the top of the corporate agenda across various sectors, businesses still face challenges in effectively implementing these transformative changes. Photo via Getty Images

Amid remarkable fund allocation towards tackling environmental, social, and corporate governance issues, investors deeply concerned about climate change exert substantial leverage on firms and regulators to make reforms.

Furthermore, the Securities and Exchange Commission has proposed new rules requiring all publicly listed corporations to disclose climate change risks in their regular filings with clear reporting obligations, such as information on direct greenhouse gas emissions (Scope 1), indirect emissions from purchased electricity or other forms of energy (Scope 2), as well as GHG emissions from upstream and downstream activities in the value chain (Scope 3).

Although sustainability has invariably moved to the top of the corporate agenda across various sectors, businesses still face challenges in effectively implementing these transformative changes. Many companies are still dealing with questions like:

  • What problems and possibilities should they prioritize?
  • Where should they devote time, effort, and money to have the most long term effect via business processes?
  • What principles, policies, and internal standards should be implemented to initiate the process and get good ESG ratings?
  • When do corporate sustainability challenges necessitate collaborations with other businesses to meet commitments and achieve goals?
  • What organizational behavior and change management measures should be incorporated to induce sustainability into the corporate culture?

One-fifth of businesses still need a sustainability plan in place, and fewer than 30 percent feel the effect of that strategy is evident to all employees.

Introducing climate-related practices across businesses and corporations takes time and effort. Since sustainability transformation initiatives span multiple business functions and units, whether they are helping or hurting the bottom line is often a fuzzy picture. It is not easy to quantify near-term profitable impacts directly emanating from sustainable strategies, disincentivizing many businesses from setting ambitious carbon reduction targets.

Businesses often struggle with what they intend to assess and what "good enough" performance looks like for the firm. Furthermore, sustainability performance reporting is infested with the inherent stakes of the legitimacy of data collection, defining the metrics and materiality, accountability to the stakeholders, the dynamism of the business environment, the complexity of reporting standards, and the risk of obsolescence of the tool.

For context, there are approximately 600 sustainability reporting standards, industry efforts, frameworks, and recommendations worldwide. Additionally, the one-directional data collection method used by the carbon market trading systems for scoring analyses often leads to intentional or unintentional greenwashing.

So then, what is the path forward?

An effective strategy would involve adopting a synergistic approach, just like the yin and the yang elements that embody balance and harmony on two distinct yet interconnected levels. The yin aspect, prevailing at the government level, would require a robust standardization of reporting frameworks via policymaking and regulations that can effectively implement suitable transformation engines for businesses. It will entail developing adaptable market mechanisms to successfully guide businesses and consumers to identify, plan, navigate, strategize, and execute greenhouse gas reduction initiatives. It will require answers to foundational questions like:

  • What tools and resources can help businesses improve their financial performance by reducing energy waste and energy costs?
  • How do manufacturers engage their suppliers in low-cost technical reviews to improve process lines, use materials more efficiently, and reduce waste?
  • How can waste management and recycling help a business by saving money, energy, and natural resources?

There is a dire need to standardize and consolidate the industry benchmarks and reporting frameworks against which businesses can assess their performance for climate action and potentially improve their bottom line by investing in appropriate carbon mitigation activities. This will create a fundamental shift in the mindset of corporates and raise the level of conversation from "Should we implement sustainable business frameworks?" to "How we could best implement sustainable frameworks for better ROI and an impactful bottom line?"

On the other hand, the yang element operates at the business or corporation level. Successful execution of sustainability strategies entails interweaving the sustainability thread into the business core across strategies and processes, operations and personnel, and products and services.

What is the business case for sustainability efforts? From operational cost savings to expansion in new markets, from enhanced brand equity to investor interest and share expansion, companies that incorporate robust and scalable sustainable practices have opportunities to unlock new sources of value capture and new markets that can deliver immediate financial rewards. Such measures will demonstrate the overall sustainability transformation's power and potentially provide money or cost savings to fund other components.

One way to do it is by introducing circular business models to reshape the whole product usage cycle: re-engineering product designs with more sustainable materials, redesigning the manufacturing lifecycle, recycling products, packaging, and waste, and reducing emissions in transportation, water, and energy consumption activities. By leveraging technology and AI in the extended system of interactions within and outside the business, companies can monitor, predict, and reduce the carbon emissions in their supply chains and yield immediate financial results.

Designing, implementing, and managing the foundational governance of sustainable business practices, strategies, structure, and tactics will require robust governance of sustainability efforts in all key business areas, including marketing, sales, product development, and finance. Additionally, organizational values, leadership initiative from the CEO and board level to the employees, and stakeholder interest are necessary to drive value for business policy. Involving employees in decision-making will help induce better commitment and accountability to implementing economic, social, environmental, and technologically sustainable interventions and initiatives.

Finally, businesses need to understand that they could truly develop long-term business success and shareholder value when they stop viewing sustainability from a compliance or ESG reporting lens. Long-term business success cannot be achieved solely by maximizing short-term profits but through market-oriented yet responsible behavior that automatically drives enhanced business bottom lines. This demands a collaborative partnership between policymakers, the private sector, nonprofit organizations, academia, and civic society to usher in economic growth, competitiveness, and consumer interest. This partnership is essential for environmental protection and social responsibility to ensure a sustainable future.

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Ruchi Gupta is a certified mentor and vice chair at SCORE Houston. This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

Here's your one-stop shop for innovation events in Houston for July. Photo via Getty Images

10+ can't-miss Houston business and innovation events for July

where to be

From networking meetups to educational symposiums, July is chock-full of happenings for Houston innovators.

Here's a roundup of events you won't want want to miss out on so mark your calendars and register accordingly.

Note: This post might be updated to add more events.


July 6 — City of Houston Panel Discussion: Sales

Join the City of Houston’s Office of Business Opportunity and SCORE Houston for a panel discussion designed for City of Houston vendors. This is the perfect opportunity to learn more about doing business with the City of Houston and how SCORE Houston can support you while running your business. During each monthly meeting get your business questions answered by industry and Office of Business Opportunity experts and SCORE Mentors. Gain the information and support you need to provide your products and services as a City of Houston vendor.

This event is Thursday, July 6, from 1 to 2 pm at Houston Community College. Click here to register.

July 7 — UH-DGH Center for Hydrocarbon Exploration Symposium

This informative open house event showcasing the new UH Seismic Data Center will focus heavily on presentations centered around hydrocarbon basin analysis as well as relevant policy shifts within India and the opportunities that have emerged as a result. The UH Seismic Data Center arose from a collaboration between the University of Houston and the DGH, the technical arm of the Indian Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.

The event is Friday, July 7, from 9 am to 12 pm at the University of Houston Technology Bridge (Building 9, Room 135). Click here to register.

July 10 — Ion Open Accelerator: Monopolizing Your Industry Channel

In this workshop, Jared Nielsen who has participated in several startups that now dominate their respective industries, will provide insight into how small startups have grown to become global monopolies in a very short period of time. Seeing a global domination market strategy executed from the inside may give your own startup insights and techniques that you can use within your own supply chain for a truly dominant market position.

The event is Monday, July 10, from 10 am to 12 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.


July 11 — Leaders Who Lunch

Connect with influential community organizers, leaders, change makers, and likeminded C-suite executives during a 3-course family style lunch. Admission and cost of the meal is $75.

The event is Tuesday, July 11, from 11 am to 12 pm at Weights and Measures. Click here to register.

July 13 — Texas Medical Center Veterans Committee Hiring Event

TMC is hosting a career workshop for veterans interested in breaking into the healthcare field. Attendees will have the chance to network with recruiters, learn about job openings, and potentially even secure an interview on the spot so be sure to bring copies of your resume and dress to impress.

The agenda:

10:00 - 11:00 am - Registration/ Networking

11:00 - 11:30 am - Career Readiness: Resume & Interview Preparation

11:30 am - 12:00 pm - Career Branding: Social Media & Networking

12:00 pm - 12:20 pm - Lunch (provided)

12:20 pm - 1:00 pm - ERG Panel Discussion: Connecting with our Veteran Communities

1:00 pm - 2:00 pm - Networking/ Closing Hour

This event is Thursday, July 13, from 10 am to 2 pm at TMC Innovation Factory (2450 Holcombe Blvd Suite X). Click here to register.

July 13 — GROW Community Meeting

Discuss green economy resources & opportunities for disadvantaged groups to engage in the energy transition and climate action.

The agenda:

11 - 11:15 am - Welcome and Introductions

11:15 - 11:30 am - GROW Overview

11: 30 - 11:45 am - GROW Updates

11:45 am - 12 pm - Funding & Contract Opportunities

12 - 12:30 pm - Lunch

12:30 - 12:45 pm - Next steps: Community Benefits Survey, Cooperative Agreement, Letters of Support

12:45 - 1 pm - Attendee Announcements

1 PM - Closing

The event is Thursday, July 13, from 11 am to 1 pm at Hiram Clarke Multi-Service Center. Click here to register.

July 17 — Mingle Mondays Med & Health Tech

Head to this monthly mixer and get to know fellow members of Houston’s Med & Health Tech community. All who are interested in Med & Health Tech, including Med & HealthTech entrepreneurs, thought leaders, investors, healthcare professionals, and community members wanting to share their Med & Health Tech knowledge are welcome.

This event is Monday, July 17, from 6 to 7 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

July 17 — The State of Latino Entrepreneurship Reception/Networking

The Latino Business Action Network presents “The State of Latino Entrepreneurship Reception.” Network with Latino professionals, business owners, and supporters. This is a welcoming environment for connecting with your peers, LBAN, local chambers, and other organizations. At the same time, you will learn the latest on Latino entrepreneurship from LBAN, a nationally recognized expert in the field. LBAN is a Silicon Valley-based nonprofit that partners with Stanford to research and empower Latino entrepreneurship across the U.S.

This event is Monday, July 17, from 4 to 7 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

July 18 — Heated Dialogues Unleashed: Navigating Difficult Conversations

In this discussion, leadership veterans Debbie Danon and Michele Price will unravel the secrets of mastering difficult conversations for start-ups. For new founders looking to gain practical insights to navigate these challenges this conference will provide you with communication tools to approach these obstacles.

This event is Tuesday, July 18, from 11:30 am to 12:15 pm, virtually . Click here to register.

July 19 — Industrial Security Roadshow: Learn, Empower, & Connect

At the Industrial Security Roadshow attendees will gain insights into emerging threats, learn innovative defense techniques, and discover cutting-edge technologies to bolster your security procedures. A curated lineup of speakers will share their expertise, providing practical guidance and actionable steps to fortify your systems against cyber threats.

This event is Wednesday, July 19, from 10:30 am to 1 pm at 24285 Katy Fwy suite 300. Click here to register.

July 20 — Female Founders and Funders Meetup

Sponsored by Softeq Venture Studio and Sesh Coworking, this monthly meetup occurs every third Thursday and is ideal for female founders and funders in the Houston area who are looking to network and empower each other.

This event is Thursday, July 20, from 9 to 10 am at Sesh Coworking. Click here to register.

July 24 — Ion Open Accelerator: Getting the Highest ROI from Conferences and Events

In this workshop speaker Staccey Wright-Turner, a Houston based ROI strategist, will discuss how to maximize your time at and investment in conferences and events for a well-rounded marketing campaign.

These are the topics you can expect to be covered:

  • Whether you should do events, and which ones you should do
  • How best to invest your marketing dollars
  • Setting your objectives for events and conferences - yes, there is more than just "getting leads" - don't miss out on important revenue
  • Preparing in advance to get the most out of your event
  • Knowing how to approach attendees and get meetings booked
  • Follow through and evaluate the ROI on the events
  • Training sales staff for event-and-conference best practices
This event is Monday, July 24, from 10 am to 12 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

July 27 —  Summer Sizzle Happy Hour with Dell for Startups

Kick off the end of a warm summer in The Cannon West Houston Kitchen with a Happy Hour, sponsored by Dell for Startups and take advantage of an opportunity to learn more about the upcoming Houston Innovation Summit in October.

This event is Thursday, July 27, from 4:30 to 6:30 pm at The Cannon. Click here to register.

July 28 - July 30 — Melanin Minds Mental Health Conference

Melanin Minds is taking over Big Brothers Big Sisters for a three day weekend of workshops, panels, & family-friendly wellness. All workshops will be centering BIPOC communities & featuring therapists, counselors, and practitioners of color. Admission prices vary depending on the level of access you want to the conference and when you register, discounted tickets for students are available up to year six of grad school ($20).

The agenda:

Friday 7/28 — Healthy Eating On The Go • Thriving Through Stigmas & Adversity • Perfectionism • Boundaries • Finances • Work-Life Harmony • 7 Types of Rest • Mindful Leadership

Saturday 7/29 — Building Mental Wealth • Finding Your Way to YOU • Nutrition As A Foundation for Healing • Yoga & Meditation • Community Talk Circle • Humor & Laughter • Reading the Cues • Relationships & Social Media • Wellness Practices & Routines

Sunday 7/30 — Advocating For Your Child • Goals Through Resilience & Stress • The Art of Self Expression • Financial Mental Health • Yoga For Youth • Big Brother Big Sister Matches Panel • Complimentary Self Care Services

This event starts Friday, July 28, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Big Brothers Big Sisters. Click here to register.

Anu Pansare has joined the local gBETA team. Photo via gbetastartups.com

Early-stage accelerator names new Houston leader, opens applications for next cohort

now open

Houston's gBETA accelerator announced new leadership in conjunction with opening enrollment for its latest cohort this week.

The early-stage program, which is a part of Wisconsin-based gener8tor, has named Anu Pansare as its new director.

Pansare has spent the last 20 years at Sugar Land-based consulting firm Volyx and has also worked with big names like Chevron, Schlumberger, and Accenture, as well as smaller startups. She's also been involved with the Houston Angel Network. She will be replacing the accelerator's inaugural director Eléonore Cluzel in the position.

As the main liaison between Houston and gener8tor's national network, Pansare will lead gBETA's third cohort of early stage startups through its free 7-week program, which is designed to help participating companies gain early customer traction and develop key metrics that will make them more marketable for future investment.

"Downtown Launchpad is an inclusive ecosystem of tools, resources, and opportunities that help founders accelerate and scale their businesses to solve humankind's boldest challenges," says Robert Pieroni, director of economic development at Central Houston, in a press release. "The addition of Anu Pansare as gener8tor's new Houston director will strengthen our commitment to entrepreneurs in Houston and will help us evolve our strategy to better serve our founders, startups, partners, and our community."

Applications for the new cohort are open online until March 13.The zero-equity, no-fee program looks for locally based startups still in the early stage of business. Five companies will be selected.

The program is hosting a virtual webinar in partnership with SCORE Houston on March 1 to discuss the program and opportunities for interested startups. Event registration is free.

Houston's gBETA presence was launched thanks to a $1.25 million grant approved by the Downtown Redevelopment Authority in 2019 with support from Central Houston, the City of Houston, and Amegy Bank. The local team has an office at the Downtown Launchpad coworking space in the Amegy Bank Building on Main.

About a year into operations, gBETA has worked with 10 local startups in two cohorts across industries — from food tourism to sports technology, artificial intelligence for home buying to skincare and prescription solutions.

Pansare will be

holding virtual office hours for local entrepreneurs to provide insight and information about gBETA's Houston Spring 2021 program. More information on the program can be found at gBETA Houston's website or email Pansare directly at anu@gener8tor.com.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston business leaders make donation to rising innovation hub, establish economic inclusivity initiative

supporting students

Two University of Houston alumni have made a donation supporting a project that will create a central campus hub for innovation activity.

Ali and Emad Lakhany, along with their family, have reportedly donated to their alma mater to support the University’s planned Innovation Hub. The amount of the donation was not disclosed but also contributed to economic inclusivity research at the C. T. Bauer College of Business, according to a UH news release, by establishing the Musa and Khaleda Dakri Center for Economic Inclusion.

With the gift, UH will name the second floor of the building the Salma and Hashim Yousuf Lakhany Entrepreneurship Floor, in honor of the brothers' parents who emigrated from Pakistan in the 1960s.

"My brother Emad, sister Lina, and I are thrilled to make this generous gift to the Bauer College of Business and the University of Houston’s innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives,” says CSM Group CEO Ali Lakhany, a 2007 UH graduate, in the release.

The CSM Group is a Houston company that works in restaurant franchising, telecommunications, hospitality, and real estate development.

“Our parents, immigrants to this country, have always instilled in us a profound belief in the power of entrepreneurship and the importance of giving back. With this contribution towards the Innovation Hub, we are honored to have a floor named after our parents within this remarkable building,” he continues. “We are excited about the boundless opportunities this space will offer to students, entrepreneurs and innovators. Together, we look forward to a future of endless possibilities and positive impact."

Originally reported about by InnovationMap, the UH Innovation Hub is a 75,000 square-foot building to rise on the site of the current Technology Annex building and open in 2026. In it will reside the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, the Musa and Khaleda Dakri Center for Economic Inclusion, the Energy Transition Institute, a large makerspace, and more.

Ali Lakhany and Emad Lakhany are UH alumni. Photo via uh.edu

Houston energy tech startup incubator secures federal support to accelerate tech entrepreneurship

seeing green

Sixty organizations across the country have received a grant from the United States Department of Commerce — and one recipient is based in Houston.

Greentown Labs, dual located in Houston and Somerville, Massachusetts, has received a grant from the 10th cohort of the Economic Development Administration's “Build to Scale” program for its Houston location. The $53 million of funding was awarded to 60 organizations across 36 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. All of the programs support technology entrepreneurs across industries.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is Investing in America to help create entrepreneurial ecosystems across the country and put quality, 21st century job opportunities in people’s backyards,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo says in the press release. “The ‘Build to Scale’ program will unlock innovation potential in regions all over the nation, improving our economic competitiveness now, and for decades to come.”

According to the EDA, Greentown, located in a growing innovation district, will receive $400,000 with a $400,000 local match confirmed. The project, named Houston Ion District Investor Activation, is described as a way to create economic opportunity through equitable capital access.

"This project capitalizes on the need for jobs and economic development, especially in communities most vulnerable to the impacts of natural disasters," reads the project abstract. "EDA funding will enable the expansion of Greentown’s Investor Program into EDIJ, in partnership with the Ion, to further climate equity and resilience in Houston and empower underrepresented entrepreneurs as the city transitions from fossil fuels to a clean energy economy."

Greentown receives of of the 2023 Capital Challenge Grant Recipients. The other competition, the Venture Challenge, also awarded funding to another Houston organization. The Urban Partnerships Community Development Corporation received $741,925 to support the BioWell Start Accelerator Program, which is committed to scaling of bio-industrial startups.

“EDA is proud to partner with this year’s ‘Build to Scale’ grantees as they fuel regional innovation hubs and technology-based economic development strategies throughout the U.S.,” Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo says in the release. “Investing in scalable startups and expanding access entrepreneurial capital will yield good-paying jobs, economic resiliency, and equitable growth in communities throughout America.”

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.