Q&A With Marieke van Schaijk, Director of Postcode Lottery Green Challenge

Ed note: This is a sponsored post on behalf of the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge


By now you should be familiar with the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge, among the largest and longest running sustainable business plan competitions in the world. The goal of the contest is to bring smart and innovative green products and services to the mass market and thereby help combat climate change.  If you have a written business plan for a product or service that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and a way to bring it to market within two years, then you’re an ideal candidate for the €500,000 grand prize (that’s $680,000).

I’ve been curious about the history and details behind the challenge and got in touch with Marieke van Schaijk who co-initiated, conceptualized and organized the first Postcode Lottery Green Challenge competition in 2007.  If you’re thinking about entering the challenge, or are just curious, the Q&A below should answer most of your basic questions.

TriplePundit: For those of us who are not familiar with the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge, what’s it all about? Where did it come from?

Marieke van Schaijk: The Postcode Lottery Green Challenge is the largest annual worldwide competition for sustainable entrepreneurs who can instigate change. It is an initiative by the Dutch Postcode Lottery to bring smart and innovative green products and services to market with the ambition to help combat climate change. The competition aims to identify a product or service that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and can be brought to market within two years. This year the Dutch Postcode Lottery is organizing the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge for the eighth time.

3p: What does this have to do with a lottery? 

MvS: The Dutch Postcode Lottery is not just a lottery, it was founded in 1989 to support charitable causes. By playing the lottery you can win prizes and support good causes at the same time: 50 per cent of all proceeds are distributed among 90 charitable organizations. Since its founding the Dutch Postcode Lottery has donated more than 4 billion euros to organizations working for People & Planet.

The Green Challenge is part of our drive to help combat climate change. Climate change represents a pressing challenge for us all. The world needs to embrace a more sustainable way of living and one idea can make a big difference. People are not going to stop consuming. Instead, we must offer the consumer a green alternative. The Green Challenge is about stimulating the development of these alternatives. It promotes the invention of disruptive new sustainable products and services. Plans that are ready to speed up the transition towards a low carbon economy. Many solutions to the most pressing issues of our time are already in front of us. But it takes entrepreneurs like our finalists to profile these solutions and get them out into the world.

3p: What kind of impact is expected of the winning entry? How will their potential impact be measured?

MvS: Over the past seven years the Green Challenge has helped to advance several valuable, innovative sustainable businesses. Ginger Dosier won the competition in 2013. Her company bioMASON “grows” bricks for use in building construction. Molly Morse won the 2012 grand prize for Mango Materials, a company that uses bacteria to turn methane into biodegradable plastic. In 2011 Nick Christy won with his Water Recycling Shower. The shower system cuts water and energy use and costs by 70 per cent without compromising on comfort. In 2010, Scott Frank won with his low-priced, multi-purpose portable solar collector Solsource. In 2009, Dean Gregory took the prize with The Power Collective’s near-invisible rooftop wind turbines. In 2008, Eben Bayer won with his natural insulation ‘mushroom’ material. And Igor Kluin’s Qbox, a device that  enables decentralised energy distribution, took the prize at the first Green Challenge in 2007.

So you can see we are definitely looking for business plans that are disruptive and very innovative, that can have an impact on the world and the transition towards a low carbon economy.

3p: Greenhouse gas emissions are an important topic, but can a plan focus on other sustainability issues?

MvS: Yes, the challenge looks at innovative business plans in the broad sustainability field. After all, this will always have an effect on our emissions. The challenge is looking for products and services that are a combination of sustainability, entrepreneurship and creativity.

3p: What is expected of the winner? Are there stipulations on how the prize money can be used?

MvS: To be eligible for the competition a product or a service must reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and should be brought to market within two years. Every entrant sends in a detailed business plan which will be assessed by an expert jury. The prize money can be used for the further development of the product or service, to expand the team, to move to a larger facility, to continue to work on additional fundraising, networking, getting valuable input from multiple business incubators and ultimately bring the product or service to market. We will support the winners after the contest and will make sure the money is spent correctly. Together with the winner, we will set up a clear plan with milestones.

3p: Any advice for folks on how to present their entries to be most effective?

MvS: For driven social entrepreneurs, their goal is to make their dream come true. To make that happen, they will need backup but they all have to share the same, common drive to make this world a greener and better place. So we would like to encourage all of these entrepreneurs to really go for it and make sure that they convince and inspire the jury with a brilliant and creative business plan.

Learn more details about the competition here.  You can also follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.

3 responses

  1. I was under the impression that you required a 90 second video from me, as my entry, on or before the 3rd June 2014. There was no mention of a Business Plan with my entry. Is this correct?

      1. My idea cannot reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. But it can afford the poor the opportunity to cook and boil water at a fraction of the cost of gas or electricity, both of which they do not have. Good luck to all entrants, I was hoping to be amongst you this year, where your butt was going to be kicked, quite hard…

Leave a Reply