Israel is a nation that has a muddled relationship with sustainability, but emerging ‘cleantech’ and pioneering innovations may be set to put the record straight on the environment.
June 2021 saw Israeli businesses warned that they need to wake up to the world’s increasing emphasis on climate change if they’re hoping to remain competitive on a global scale at a conference on sustainable investing.
Anat Levine, CEO of Black Rock Israel, claimed that “companies that meet international standards will attract international investors like ourselves,” in a bid to spark newfound initiative among Israeli startups.
With the European Union set to issue green regulations in which companies dealing with the bloc need to adhere to, Israel’s government and business community have been relatively slow in adopting the same sustainable investment principles – with little in the way of carbon credit schemes or environmental considerations.
However, the country appears to be developing a brand new sustainability infrastructure that will encourage businesses to consider their environmental impact. An Environmental Protection Ministry official claimed that negotiations are underway to establish a climate law and regulations that would see polluters pay for their emissions.
Despite Israel’s lack of formal regulation regarding climate and sustainability at present, the nation’s already positioned itself as a pioneering force for sustainable solutions.
Innovative Environmental Solutions
Israel’s sustainability efforts were commended in the UN’s High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in a voluntary national review which claimed that the nation’s “dynamic entrepreneurial spirit, robust technological infrastructure and a highly-skilled human workforce” has fuelled Israel to produce solutions in all three pillars of sustainability.
“Innovation is one of Israel’s most valuable resources and its breakthrough solutions in fields such as communication, internet, medical systems, agriculture, biotechnology, security, water desalination, wastewater treatment and recycling, water management, digital printing and more, have long facilitated sustainable development in Israel and globally,” the review notes. “Israel’s vision is to continue to nurture its culture of innovation and expand it to all people in need on our planet and to give practical expression to the noble value of leaving no one behind.”
The review portrays Israel as a nation that’s environmentally conscious, which indicates that the imposition of a sustainability regulatory framework may be all that’s needed to add a comprehensive level of adherence across Israel’s burgeoning startup landscape.
Despite clear concerns surrounding the country’s sustainability efforts, it’s worth taking stock of the facts and figures surrounding environmental innovation in Israel.
According to data from a 2016 Haaretz report, Israel recycles some 87% of its wastewater. For context, Spain ranks second worldwide with a total of 20% — showing that Israel is more than three times as efficient in this regard as its nearest competitor.
Israel also developed drip irrigation technology, reducing a plant’s water needs by as much as 90% and reputedly helps to feed as many as one billion people. Furthermore, the $2.2 billion that Israeli companies export in related technology on a yearly basis has helped to leverage developing countries with clean water access.
The Development of Israeli Cleantech
With over 600 companies and startups in cleantech (otherwise known as clean technology, a term that signifies any process, product or service that mitigates negative environmental impacts) and multiple entries in the 2021 Global Cleantech 100 list, Israel has developed the status of a key international player in the realms of eco-friendliness, agriculture, waste management, clean energy and water treatment.
Israel’s cleantech landscape is littered with growing companies that continue to export novel technologies across the world, having excelled despite a significant lack of natural resources and a prohibitive climate.
One example of a progressive organization in operation is the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, and its collaborative research centers that work alongside the country’s surrounding areas in developing solutions for sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, water management and desert ecology.
Growing Environmental Consciousness
We’ve also seen plenty of evidence of domestic environmental consciousness across Israeli startups. For instance, we can see the work of Re-Fresh, an open platform for researchers and designers in developing sustainable fashion startups, as a shining example of Israel’s efforts to change the environment for the better.
Re-Fresh supports fashion companies as they transition into sustainable design, manufacturing and business practices — paving the way for the creation of recycled fashion from environmentally friendly materials like apparel made from ocean plastics to eyewear crafted from sustainable materials. Considering that over 75% of adults need some form of vision correction, it’s safe to assume that there are millions of plastic frames that get thrown away.
“Sustainability in the fashion industry can create new revenues while doing good by working in a completely different way,” explains Viktoria Kanar, head of GeekChicTLV, a Tel-Aviv production company specializing in conceptual fashion events and sustainable innovation.
Despite a perceived lack of regulation on sustainable practices, many Israeli companies are already taking it upon themselves to consider the environment in their internal processes as well as their external ones.
For instance, Israel’s Technion has announced that it is to ban most disposable plastic from October 1st in a bid to boost its overall sustainability. “This is a comprehensive move that encompasses the Technion as a whole, and its implications are far-reaching. In the past few years, the Technion has shifted into high gear in all aspects touching upon sustainability,” said Professor Boaz Golani, Vice President and CEO of Technion.
Although there may still be some work to do to improve the regulatory relationship between Israel and its sustainability commitments, there’s plenty of evidence that the country’s innovation hubs are already hard at work generating positive impacts across the nation and the world as a whole.
With a more comprehensive cleantech infrastructure driven by governmental incentives, Israel has the potential to become a global pioneer in harnessing emerging technology to improve the environment – a cause that can bring significant financial and ecological benefits.