Hub In Focus: Suhas Apte

Aug 25, 2023

An Interview with Suhas Apte, Co-Founder of the Georgia Cleantech Innovation Hub.

Suhas has been working in and around sustainability for over a decade. Author of the book The Sustainability Edge, he leverages the experiences he had through a long career at Scott Paper/Kimberly Clark to advise entrepreneurs broadly and in the cleantech space. Suhas emphasizes the need to demonstrate value and engage stakeholders when developing solutions.

What is your background and your current role?

I worked most of my career for Scott Paper/Kimberly Clark. Over a 38-year career, I had the opportunity to run several different brands (Viva Towels and Scotties Facials) and manage a few global businesses including Greater China Business, Personal Care for Asia-Pacific, Baby & Child Care for the Emerging Markets, and the European Tissue business. I thoroughly enjoyed my last role as the Chief Sustainability Officer as I was able to bring the business lens to everything the group does. I had an opportunity to shape Kimberly Clark’s five-year sustainability goals for 2010-2015 on three pillars – People, Planet, and Products.

Throughout my work, I challenged my team to connect the dots to make this a better world for the next generation, and did so by emphasizing the need to drive business value, whether through revenue increase, expense savings, risk management, or brand image. As an example, we launched a program called “Every Little Bottom Counts” that encouraged donations of leftover diapers to Diaper Banks throughout the country, which enhanced the Huggies brand image.

I had an opportunity to write a book ‘The Sustainability Edge’ with Dr. Jag Sheth to share my sustainability experience and learnings. The book highlights examples of what the businesses could do to deliver the top-line growth with triple-bottom-line thinking by engaging and energizing key stakeholders {Direct – Consumers, Customers, and Employees; Indirect – Media, Government, and NGO’s; and Enablers – Communities, Investors, and Suppliers}.

Currently I am helping early-stage startups (Cybersecurity, Healthcare, and Sustainability Analytics), engaged in TiE Youth (high school & college) entrepreneurship programs, and working with a few passionate leaders to seed GACIH.

Why are you engaged in the Cleantech Innovation Hub?

Because I believe in it. My 15-year association with Greenhouse Accelerator started with mentoring the local startups by sharing my experience, connections, and learnings. I am one of the founding members involved in shaping the GACIH and firmly believe that by applying curiosity and creativity one would be able to find solutions to decarbonize the world.

What potential do you see for the Cleantech Innovation Hub and for cleantech more generally in Georgia?

Among the many accelerators and incubators in the greater Atlanta area, none are focused on sustainability. The time is right as there is a need for an urgent call to action. The greater Atlanta ecosystem of universities, corporations, and nonprofits are ready and pushing for action, and unlike the past, there are significant tailwinds made possible by investments at the local, state, and national level (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) to drive demand for and deployment of solutions.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

It’s very simple: work on things which you are passionate about; find purpose in what you do; apply curiosity (Five whys); engage broader stakeholders; and stay humble. This would help you deliver value, make a difference and build a sustainable business.