The commercial opportunities for green tech

There are some famous faces gracing the stage at InstallerSHOW, with lots of useful insights to share, but for those in the green tech space who are keen to grow their own audience and reap the rewards of digital marketing, there’s one name they should really pay attention to, says Siobhan O’Neill.

Ben Askins graduated a little over ten years ago and almost immediately stepped into entrepreneur territory as the co-founder of Verb, a digital marketing agency working with luxury brands.

“It was a lot of fun,” says Askins. I did that from the age of 22 to 29 ish and basically we were a digital marketing agency specialising in luxury brands. So, social campaigns, paid ads etc, working with brands like Aston Martin, the Ritz, Bugatti, Omega and Bloomingdales and others at the very high end of things.”

The company became so successful that Askins and his partners sold Verb in 2021 to Croud Group, allowing him to progress to his latest project, Gaia.

A strong believer in the need for environmental action, Askins’ newest venture aims to help companies achieve both governmental and internal environmental targets in a quicker and more cost-effective way. Currently working in the Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) space, Gaia aims to support developers who need effective ways of increasing biodiversity to support their development aims, partnering them with green spaces which can be boosted through investment and management.

Looking ahead Askins hopes Gaia will provide online solutions to help companies achieve a variety of goals set by stakeholders or the government.

But it’s Askins’ skill in digital marketing that is bringing him to the panel to discuss how influencers and marketing trends especially online and on social platforms could help drive uptake of net zero tech and low carbon, energy efficient products.

Being louder about the value of their products and solutions, and being confident about marketing them is something that Askins feels is incredibly important for companies to embrace. But he thinks some companies are reluctant to do so.

“I find the space within which green tech operates a really fascinating area because it’s such an exciting industry that has so much commercial opportunity,” he says. “There will be a country where an economy is going to do very well out of green tech, that’s just a fact. And so we need to make a decision where we want the UK to be at the forefront or be left out in the cold.”

Polarised opinions

But Askins recognises a dichotomy at the heart of the issue.

“Inevitably it gets dragged into the politics of it all,” he says. “ULEZ, net zero and all of that is a highly charged political area. People have an opinion before they’ve even heard what they’re talking about, because their default setting is either ‘I’m really anti this’ or ‘really pro this’ without actually thinking about it. So I think people are backing away from [marketing opportunities] because everyone’s fearful to put this into the public discourse.”

Askins is recognised as one of the fastest growing content creators in the UK, amassing an impressive platform of over a million followers across various social channels in just 12 months. He has accounts on TikTok, YouTube, LinkedIn and more, with strong engagement where he often kicks off debates around toxic businesses, corporate responsibility and growing companies. He writes a popular weekly newsletter called Benchmark.

So he has some tips for green tech companies looking to grow their channels for engagement and marketing. “You can’t build [a platform] on politics because immediately you’ve got the set of people who just don’t like it,” he says. “So you’ve got to put that aside and focus on the commercial opportunities. Take the politics out of it and just assess it from a real commercial element. I really dislike this ‘net zero is so expensive’ approach. It’s not. It’s only expensive if we’re not involved in the first place. That’s the bit that really frustrates me.”

Askins thinks companies – and the UK government – need to be a lot more vocal about the initiatives and solutions they’re pioneering. “They’re doing a lot of stuff and no one seems to have a clue about it,” he says. “The BNG scheme is genuinely groundbreaking, you know, the EU are looking to copy it. But no one’s got a clue. I went to the launch and it was this sad little thing in the middle of nowhere, I was like, ‘this is crazy!’ What you’ve done here and the legislation and the effort, it’s a really brilliant scheme. We need to start [promoting these initiatives].”

Getting in at the ground floor and not being afraid to spotlight their products is Askins’ key advice as he thinks now is the time for companies to get on board. “Green technology is going to become an absolutely enormous sector and I do believe some countries are going to do very well off of it,” he says. “It all depends on how forward thinking you want to be as a company, whether you believe in the climate mission or not – and I think they’re crazy if they don’t – there is a commercial opportunity here and I want the UK to be at the forefront of upcoming tech, but we’re miles behind. We’re so far behind the EU. We’re so far behind the US and I’m keen to try and get us back up there.”

He admits he and the green tech sector are facing a big challenge to create those opportunities. “We’ve got quite a big mission,” he laughs, “But I think that I have a little bit of expertise there.”

See Ben Askins share more of his insights on the panel discussion Driving the adoption of net zero tech at InstallerSHOW, which runs 25-27 June at the NEC. Free tickets: installer-2024-splash.reg.buzz