CINCINNATI – When you think of tech and startups, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t likely to be the environment or climate change. But a new event in Cincinnati focuses on just that.

What You Need To Know

  • The GreenCharge mini-conference will take place Wednesday at Union Hall

  • In honor of Earth Day, the event will focus on helping Cincinnati become a leader in green business practices

  • The event will feature three panels comprised of business leaders and sustainability experts

  • The co-founder of MadTree Brewing Company will discuss how going green has helped with business

World Earth Day is Friday. To commemorate it, the organization Startup Cincy will host a mini-conference at Union Hall in Over-the-Rhine on Wednesday centered on building a local ecosystem for green leadership and innovation.

The event, titled GreenCharge, will bring together tech entrepreneurs, business leaders, elected officials and sustainability experts for an afternoon of discussion about climate change and Cincinnati’s response to it.

There will be three panels focused on the business aspects of going green – from startups to massive corporations. Topics include attracting talent to corporate responsibility.

A major focus is climate tech, or technologies explicitly focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing the affects of global warming. Climate tech represents “$2.5 trillion opportunity” for greater Cincinnati, according to Pete Blackshaw, CEO of the startup accelerator Cintrifuse.

The event starts at 3:30 p.m.

“We’ve assembled a stellar panel of speakers to debate the leadership and talent requirements for winning in this space,” Blackshaw said. “We’ll also go deep on important questions around the convergence of sustainability and equity.”

Greater Cincinnati tops national scorecards in green rankings, and corporate leaders recently pledged to host first-ever “zero waste” World Cup, Blackshaw said. He praised City Hall for recent environmental efforts, including committing to have an entirely electric fleet, including public safety vehicles, by 2035.

“Startups like 80 Acres Farms are reshaping the global landscape of sustainable, healthy food, and our Mayor (Aftab Pureval) and City Council literally rode bikes together to their swearing-in ceremony,” he added.

Pureval and City Council recently announced funding to update the Green Cincinnati Plan, the city’s guidebook for creating environmentally conscious policies. The city updates the plan every five years.

A key player in the Green Cincinnati Plan process is Green Umbrella, a nonprofit that brings together a regional cohort of governments, corporations and nonprofits to tackle environmental and sustainability issues.

They’ll help host the GreenCharge event along with Cintrifuse, FlyWheel Social Accelerator and Alloy Development Co., formerly known as HCDC.

Ryan Mooney-Bullock, executive director of Green Umbrella, described the event as an opportunity to hear from employers like MadTree Brewing and Ingage Partners about how they’ve created a “highly engaged workforce through a variety of ESG and employee engagement strategies.”

ESG stands for environmental, social and governance, and it’s used to describe company goals beyond profits and revenue.

Mooney-Bullock will moderate a panel on attracting and keeping talent through “green goals” and employee engagement.

“When a company takes action to improve its sustainability—whether that is by decreasing energy or water use, improving fuel efficiency or decreasing waste to landfill—they are most often also decreasing costs because they are using less of a resource,” she said.

The benefits aren’t just financial, Mooney-Bullock said. Seeing their employer committed to a positive impact on the planet can be “hugely motivating for employees,” she added. She cited a 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey that showed 62% of millennials wanted to work for a company that makes a positive impact and 84% considered it their duty to make a positive impact through their lifestyle.

A study published in Harvard Business Review (“The Comprehensive Business Case for Sustainability”) showed a company’s engagement in sustainability creates a culture that employees want to be in.

“Turnover is extremely expensive for companies,” Mooney-Bullock said, so investing in sustainable practices can both attract and keep top talent.

One company that’s seen those benefits firsthand is MadTree Brewing Company. MadTree's co-founder, Kenny McNutt, will wrap up the day with an on-stage interview about the brewery's environmental efforts.

Sustainability and innovation are core elements of MadTree’s business model, according to Rhiannon Hoeweler, the Cincinnati-based brewery’s director of strategic impact. They believe in that mission so much that the company’s name and logo feature a tree.

“We couldn’t be more excited to share why sustainability and impact are important to the core of our business and also reflect on how it’s beginning to pay dividends in our recruiting and staffing efforts,” Hoeweler said.

MadTree is striving for B Corporation (or B-Corp) status, which is a certification of for-profit companies related to their social and environmental performance.

The brewery posts an annual impact report on their website. The most recent year on file is 2020. During that year, they planted 2,193 trees and recycled 36,400 plastic handles.

Inside the MadTree taproom, customers can toss a buck to go to nonprofits they partner with via 1% for the Planet.

All spent grain from the brewing process gets fed to cows at a farm about 29 miles away from MadTree's Oakley facility.

The brewery is also part of Cincinnati’s 2030 District, a collection of property owners, developers and commercial tenants who’ve committed to reduce their carbon footprint by 50% by the year 2030. They’ll do so by finding innovative ways to cut down on energy use, water consumption and transportation emissions.

The District recently added a member and now up to 44 partners. As a group, the District currently includes 319 buildings and 28.1 million square feet of space that aim to reach that goal.

“Sustainability and impact have always been part of the MadTree story, and we now have a position and programming in place that allow us to amplify our voice in the community around the work,” Hoeweler said.