Big Vision, Small Plans: How CrossBoundary is Shaping a New Narrative of Power

When outsiders come with a top-down, really detailed plan about how to turn Afghanistan into Denmark, they fail. They fail because their plan is too distant from reality; it doesn’t respond to the nuances of local context.

We’ve been watching with awe as CrossBoundary continues to grow into a global success. You’re now in 17 cities worldwide! Is this something you expected when you founded the company?

What excites you about the new regions you’re reaching and how you’re expanding your global footprint?

Invest in people with purpose, not those prioritizing profits. Often the people chasing purpose end up making the most profits in the end.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome to get the company to this level of achievement?

What’s been the highlight for you?

There’s a huge reservoir of capital and a vast need and opportunity to have that capital deployed to useful things. What’s missing is the pipe to connect capital and opportunity.

It’s notoriously difficult to attract investment in developing countries, particularly on the African continent. How have you managed to tackle this?

As one of the largest distributors of affordable green energy in Africa, what impact has your work had on the over 600m underserved people on the continent?

While solar power is a renowned clean energy source, there are some who claim that it’s not as environmentally-friendly as it’s presented to be. What are your views on this? Why are you convinced that solar is the green solution of the future?

When you look at the numbers, solar produced and deployed responsibly is a net environmental bonanza!

  1. The first would be carbon. Obviously, in the manufacture of anything, carbon is released. But it’s a pretty circular argument — that we shouldn’t manufacture solar using coal, so we should just keep using coal? I find it hard to take that one seriously. Solar does produce carbon in manufacture, but the evidence is clear; the lifecycle emissions per unit of electricity produced are dramatically lower for solar than they are for fossil fuels.
  2. Another critique is around the other forms of environmental harm — the sourcing of the materials and the manufacture of panels. This is a better critique. I do think we need to build a responsible industry. Just because we’re having a positive environmental impact, particularly on greenhouse gas emissions, doesn’t give us a free pass on everything else. And it’s not just environmental harm, it’s also the social consequences of the manufacturing process. Are manufacturing facilities being run to international health and safety standards, for instance? I do believe that’s something we need to take seriously and demand from suppliers.
  3. The last point, which I think is a subset of the second point, is around recycling. There isn’t a good recycling supply chain facility yet, but it’s very hard to build a recycling industry until there are a substantial number of things to recycle, and solar hasn’t quite reached that scale yet in terms of panels reaching the end of their 25 year plus lifespan. I’m not too concerned that we won’t be able to build that when the time comes to actually recycle a lot of panels.

In the next 30–50 years, we have a really interesting opportunity to restore ecosystems and protect habitats - urbanization.

The theme for World Environment Day this year is “Ecosystem Restoration”. If you were to suggest one action we could take to restore damaged ecosystems and habitats, what would that be?

Do you have a close connection to nature? Where do you feel most connected to the natural world?

10 or 15 years ago, climate change was a problem that could only be solved by politicians. Today, the ‘owner’ of the answer has shifted to individuals, activists, entrepreneurs and other doers.

With the dismal reality of climate change, do you have hope that we’ll be able to create a greener planet?




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