Where to invest green money

Former EPA leader talks about where sustainable technology is going, especially in O.C.

May 22, 2010|By Mike Reicher |

More and more Orange County entrepreneurs are starting clean-tech ventures, and F. Henry Habicht II, or Hank, is the man they all want to meet.

Habicht, 57, is a managing partner at Costa Mesa-based Sail, the leading clean-tech investment firm in the county. He moved here from the Washington, D.C., area in August. Habicht combines experience in the highest levels of government environmental regulation with a long history in clean-tech investment.

Habicht's resume is sterling: He was the chief operating officer of the Environmental Protection Agency during the first Bush administration and was President Reagan's assistant attorney general in charge of the environment and natural resources at the U.S. Department of Justice. In the 1980s, he was the vice president of the firm that managed the Environmental Venture Fund, one of the first successful green funds. Since then, he has led both for-profit and nonprofit environmental consultancy and investment groups.


At Sail, Habicht decides which fledgling companies are worthy of venture capital. His firm specializes in three sectors: energy, water and green innovation (one that might make alternatives to oil spill cleanup chemicals, for example).

Habicht spoke with OCLNN's Mike Reicher to discuss the future of the clean-tech industry.

OCLNN: There's this so-called double or triple bottom line for clean-tech companies. When you're looking at an investment, how do you balance the social and ecological benefits, versus the profitability of a company? Hank Habicht: The really over-arching priority is that a company has a strong business model and looks like it will be profitable.

The idea of triple bottom line is kind of (a) chicken-or-egg issue: If you act sustainably — meaning that you pay attention to profits, people and the environment — then will you be a more successful company? Or is a company that successfully runs on a sustainable basis — meaning it manages resources effectively and is law-abiding and ethical — going to have a positive impact on the environment and people?

It's an evolving science to understand what about sustainability is really sustainable.

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