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Van Jones and Tom Steyer on the business opportunity of including all

November 9, 2015

The majority of the country now agrees that climate change is a problem and we've got to address it. Two champions of the movement — philanthropist business leader Tom Steyer, who founded NexGen Climate, and Van Jones, founder of the Dream Corps, Green For All and a former White House advisor — talked together about the huge opportunity to not only stem climate change through renewable energy innovation, but also address income inequality.

There is a huge business opportunity for companies that address all people interested in renewable energy. In many cities low-income people reside in the "flat lands" where the sun easily reaches rooftops, each of their homes "could be a mini-power plant," said Jones. Many solar companies are overlooking this market opportunity.

Similarly, innovating companies that overlook at the talent available in low-income communities or inner-city schools are missing out on finding the next Steve Jobs or Malala Yousafzai. 

Steyer, widely believed to be a billionaire from a successful career as a financier and fund manager, said that income inequailty in America is the worst that is has been in a century — and that it is not good for the country. Rising U.S. productivity had been in lock-step with rising wages through much of U.S. history until 1970 when the two started to become unhinged. And the gap between productivity gains and wage gains accelerated in the 1990s and 2000s.

However "If we do this right," in shaping the innovations roling out to create a less carbon intensive economy, that economy could also be one in which more people benefit, he said.