Jorge Richardson is a triple threat: entrepreneur, visionary and revolutionary. “We’ve seen businesses start and grow throughout history, each solving the largest problems humanity faced at the time,” he told me when we chatted. “We went through The Industrial Revolution and The Technological Revolution. I believe The Climate Revolution is going to unfold in the next ten years or so, and those who create the innovations that address key climate problems are going to be the next Amazons and Googles of the world.”
And Jorge is the right guy to be a leader of The Climate Revolution. He went straight from college to a highly coveted job at J.P. Morgan, but he soon realized that corporate banking wasn’t the right path for him. Armed with all he learned about business and a passion for social change, he set out to find it. Lucky enough to do some world travel, he went to Indonesia where he was caught in a terrifying earthquake and saw firsthand the devastation that nature can bring. Shaken up by the experience, he then went on to Nepal. It was at a Nepalese monastery that Jorge had a chance meeting that lead him to his passion—water.
“My generation is the first to be born in the world where its existence for the duration of our lives isn’t guaranteed,” Jorge said during our chat.
Through a startup, Richardson set out on a mission to secure a safe future for his generation and those to come – through a thoughtful, data-driven social enterprise solutions aimed at water sustainability.
“Water is fascinating. Oceans produce 50% of our oxygen and absorb 50% of our carbon. By caring for our oceans, and working towards sustainability with drinking water, we can help nourish people around the world. And on the business end, it’s remarkable how little innovation there’s been in the space over the past 40 years. It’s a $160B industry, that’s projected to grow to around $250B by 2025.”
With a background in finance and a focus on social change inherited from both parents, who held careers at the World Bank – an organization that provides financial and technical assistance to developing countries globally – it makes a lot of sense Jorge has ended up where he is in his professional career. He respects the hard truths of numbers and data, and as a generationally younger global citizen he clearly has a great personal stake in combatting climate change. In water sustainability – including but not limited to reducing the amount of plastics used to deliver and contain water – he’s found the perfect combination of these two perspectives.
Balancing smaller wins as an innovator with widespread systematic change hasn’t been easy, and Jorge doesn’t expect that to change overnight, with so many entrenched interests represented by older and larger companies seeking to protect their position in the status quo. Still, he’s seen reason for optimism in recent years, based on tactile results from partnerships with companies like Apple, Google and Twitter.
He had a big win developing an app to lead the estimated 1.5 billion iPhone users to safe, clean water. Just say, “Hey, Siri. I’m thirsty,” and the phone will populate with a list of the nearest geolocated sources to refill a water bottle. Jorge was a big part of making this happen, and he believes it’s this readiness to embrace change, on the part of some of the world’s biggest corporations – that’s cause for hope.
“Maybe 30 years ago this sort of ‘business for good’ was more of a challenge, but things are different now. It’s not only possible but imperative to source out models where a business can thrive at the same time that it remains dedicated to solving a specific issue like water.”
He points to companies like Tesla and Solar City, in the automotive and solar spaces respectively, as examples. Where Tesla seeks to both allow for a future where cars still reign, while combatting the impact of fossil fuels on climate, with water the major issue the world faces remains those plastic bottles.
“We can’t just have that 5% of the world’s eco-warriors refilling their bottles and expect that to lead to systemic change. There needs to be a more convenient and cheaper solution at scale.”
Though he’s already accomplished so much at this point in his career in social entrepreneurship, now that Jorge has found his mission he remains intensely focused on what he sees as the many opportunities to create high-impact change, through this intersection of technology and cause.
To Jorge, making a difference means collaborating rather than competing. While he has remained on the ground, among smaller startup entities coming up with creative solutions, more and more Fortune 500 companies are showing a willingness to listen and engage in partnerships, at the same time that governments have also shown an increased interest in sustainability. Bringing those three together is how he plans to make real change.
Talking to this Climate Revolution leader, you can’t help but get excited about it. If anyone can move the needle on providing sustainable, clean drinking water, its Jorge Richardson.