INSIDE THE EARTHRISE SUMMIT, HUCKLETREE 1ST VIRTUAL SUSTAINABILITY FESTIVAL
8 hours. 60 speakers. 4 stages. 1 high-impact Sustainability Summit.
You’d be forgiven for mistaking tomorrow’s inaugural Earthrise Summit for a pre-pandemic event. It’s being hosted virtually by Huckletree, a company that builds co-working spaces favoured by burgeoning tech start-ups around the UK and Ireland. But they’re not your average co-working company that charges through the roof for a desk and a free pint. Huckletree has baked community, education and connection into the business since opening its first space in Clerkenwell, London, in 2014.
They’re also one of the most eco-friendly players in their field, and the first of their kind in the world to achieve a silver SKA rating for their sustainably-minded interior fit-outs. Considering these credentials, it makes sense that their next move would be an ambitious one-day summit tackling everything from green venture capital to food waste. “We’ve always had sustainability as a core part of our DNA,” says Gabriela Hersham, CEO and co-founder of Huckletree. “But what we realised over the past 24 months, is that the world is coming together to fight climate change in a really exciting way, and we want to be a part of it.”
The company’s USP is their impressive network, with over 3,000 members from 300 companies, which laid the foundations for the summit. “The best impact we can have is by leveraging our network intelligence and bringing the best possible minds together to host an event that can be exciting for as many people as possible,” says Hersham. “So we looked at our network and figured out who were the most influential authorities in the sustainability space, then we grouped 5-6 of them around a specific topic.” The result is a 75 speaker strong line-up that includes model-cum-climate activist Arizona Muse, social activist and author Nimco Ali OBE, food waste campaigner Tristram Stuart, filmmaker and photographer Jimmy Chin, Fashion Revolution’s Orsola De Castro, as well as representatives from Tony Chocolonely, Pangaia, Nestlé, the UN and more.
They’ll be spread across four virtual stages that are grouped into themes: Profit With Purpose, Eco-Entrepreneurship, Earthrise, and Society and Impact. “We’re interested in the fundamentals, so we have talks on rewilding and saving the oceans, but we’re also interested in more futuristic tech,” explains Hersham. “We are passionate about discussing bitcoin, as well as the digital future of fashion, so we’re always thinking about the more avant garde, futuristic elements as well.”
Opening the event will be a conversation with Lily Cole, the former model turned author, activist and entrepreneur, who released her book Who Cares Wins last year. “I’m really looking forward to a conversation with her, discussing the book and how uses her platform to fight this cause very publicly, and I’m curious to hear whether she feels that is a responsibility of people in the public eye,” says Hersham.
Earthrise isn’t just an opportunity to chat shop – Hersham and her team have set a specific mandate to focus on actionable takeaways that guests can implement in both their personal lives and businesses. “We have always said that we want it to be a very solution-focused event,” she says. “They could be solutions that we can implement on an individual basis as consumers, and they can be big choices you make around the businesses you work for, or the way you drive your business forward.” Huckletree has taken a considered, multi-pronged approach to curating a summit that gives equal importance to the little and big picture solutions.
Even within each panel, the emphasis on small and large scale solutions is by the companies involved. On the mainstage, a discussion on Climate Neutral Mobility and Transport brings together experts from Transport for London, electric scooter company Dott, electric motorsport championship Formula E, and electric bike makers VanMoof. “They’re all brilliant people coming together from different perspectives, and I love that we’re not just talking about electric bikes and scooters, but you have the TFL angle to understand what they’re doing to make sure we’re thinking on a city-wide basis,” says Hersham. “Formula One is such an institution that’s followed around the world, and although it doesn’t relate to how we get around town, there’s a responsibility to make sure these huge events that generate so much press and revenue aren’t negatively impacting the environment. It’s an interesting angle from a public spectacle perspective.”
Over on the Eco-Entrepreneurship stage, the Fixing Fashion panel will bring together industry disruptors to discuss reimagining the future of fashion. “That will be really interesting because fashion is such an old industry, but there are so many ways that it can change,” says Hersham. “I’m looking forward to hearing what we can do as consumers, but also how the fashion industry as a whole needs to change.”
Planning for the Earthrise Summit began earlier this year, so it was always going to be an online event, says Hersham. That brings challenges, but also surprising benefits. “The best thing about doing it digitally is that you can bring in speakers from around the world to contribute,” she says. “In a physical setting, you’d rely on who is in the UK or who you can bring to the UK. The main barrier is the time difference, but we have a full day to work with, so we’ve built the event around the time differences.”
For a company that prides itself on it’s network, making connections is a challenge that has been harder to overcome virtually. “There is a part of the event where you can network digitally, but I’m a big believer in the analog when it comes to meeting people and forming bonds,” says Hersham. “I don’t believe that happens as genuinely online as it does when you’re introduced by someone who knows both parties really well and feels that there’s a mutual benefit for you to meet.” For now, the Huckletree team will help facilitate connections between guests and speakers to encourage collaboration and conversation beyond the event.
In a post-pandemic world, what does the future of the Earthrise Summit look like? “We’re asking ourselves: what are our long-term goals within the sustainability space in general?” says Hersham. “The summit is part of that, we want to do it in 2022 and beyond, but we don’t know if that’s going to be digital, physical or a hybrid. What I do know is that there is a massive need for the tech space to jump on board and fight climate change, and we want to support that.”
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