Sustainability Program

The Sustainability Program strives to highlight the relevance and promote the philosophy of sustainability throughout all Cleantech Open activities. The primary goal is to give all the teams in the competition the tools and motivation to embed sustainability into every aspect of their companies. We are equally committed to embedding environmental and social best practices into our own organization and promoting best practices to the broader cleantech community.

Our mission reflects a tailored approach to each of our stakeholders. Our aims are:

  • To deepen the Cleantech Open's commitment to sustainability as an organization
  • To embed sustainability into all contestant and alumni businesses
  • To award the contestants who are exemplary in sustainability
  • To educate and leverage the broader community on the business case for sustainability

Sustainability and cleantech are not synonyms. The Cleantech Open sees cleantech as the end product or service, and sustainability as a key driver in determining the process to get to that end point. Through the training offered and support given, the program helps ensure that each semifinalist and alumnus company has a positive impact on the environment and the broader community, and to strives to make this part of every phase of development.

The sustainability program emphasizes systems thinking by providing frameworks, metrics for success, and awareness of external regulatory and policy issues. The program focuses on the three P's throughout the competition:


    The team must deliver products or services that have a net positive environmental and social impact and be able to articulate the impact of their solution.

    The method by which the team's product or service is produced must have a net positive environmental and social impact. Teams must be able to address problematic environmental issues in operations and proposed mitigations.

    Gaining stakeholder approval and building sustainable workforces in small business environments is crucial for social sustainability. Teams must effectively communicate the value proposition for sustainability to its different stakeholders.

Our initiatives are truly diverse and focus on bringing sustainability expertise to the judging and mentoring process, providing the latest sustainability resources and education to our contestants, and running a highly carbon efficient organization.

Sustainability Judging and Awards
Regional Sustainability Awards

    Each region awards one team across all categories with a Sustainability Award package of consulting services and products.
Sustainability Judging
    Sustainability Judges have a Judging seat at final pitching and judging sessions as the Sustainability Judging Panel representative.

Sustainability Mentoring
Sustainability Mentors Program

    Launched 2009 and matched each semifinalist team with a dedicated Sustainability professional (recruits from Net Impact, Stanford, Presidio, etc)

Train the Trainers Series
    For Sustainability Mentors and Fellows, Judging Leads, Team Mentors, we provide qualitative and quantitative sustainability education to our mentor community and speaking opportunity for our Sustainability partners.

Senior Sustainability Consultant Coaching Session
    For every contestant team during Business Clinics to further guide teams and Fellows.

Sustainable Organizational Operations
Cleantech Open Carbon Footprint Initiative

    Our organization is working with partner Climate Earth to set up an infrastructure that links our financial and events data to our organization's carbon footprint.
    Opportunity to measure, mitigate and offset carbon, and provide best practices to our contestant companies.

Carpooling Online Network
    All our events are supported by an online carpooling network to reduce carbon emissions from transportation.

Green Events
    Our events are largely paperless and heavily web-based, catered by environmentally responsible vendors. We promote green businesses such as green restaurants and hotels.

Sustainability Resources
Sustainability Resource Kit

    A CD of compiled white papers and resource guides to running a sustainable cleantech startup, calculator and website resources, and a sustainability curriculum toolkit to help business planning.

Sustainability Corner
    An exhibition table at each Symposium and other events featuring our Sustainability Partners and Sponsors, plus an interactive activity

Sustainability Program Website
    A comprehensive section of the Cleantech Open website with resources, program info, and partnership info.

Sustainability Education
    Academy Weekend: A series of lectures, workshops, and keynotes focusing on sustainability and embedded into different business modules

Executive Summary Workshops
    Includes a lecture on the principles of sustainability

Sustainability Alumni Webinar
    1-2 webinars reaching our Alumni audience