Journalist Max Christern was chief of the Economic Desk of Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad and editor-in-chief of The Optimist (formerly Ode). Since 2011 he runs his own company, MOC Media. He writes, presents and is board challenger, primarily in the fields of leadership, sustainability and innovation. Max has been hosting the final of the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge for several years. We talked to him about his role as presenter and trends in sustainable entrepreneurship.

Can you tell us about how you got involved in the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge?
“It was originally through my job as editor-in-chief of magazine Ode, now The Optimist. My former chef at newspaper NRC was the founder. Just like the participants of the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge, the magazine was a frontrunner in its field. It was way ahead of its time. The general idea at the time was: good news is no news. The magazine was a pioneer in bringing stories about sustainability, leadership, innovation, and purpose. Stories about people and their ideas that were going to change the world. The Dutch Postcode Lottery was a key media partner of the magazine, so I got in touch with them early on.

About 5 years ago, when I had just started my own company, the Dutch Postcode Lottery asked me to host the Green Challenge final. I have great admiration for young people that come to present their innovative and sustainable ideas to the world. I look at them from a journalistic point of view. My challenge is to get the ideas through to the audience, make the connection. Of course, a large part of the crowd rides the green wave. But there are also people there who have never seen a pitch of a sustainable business before. They can’t see, for example, why a certain idea could be scaled and successful by tomorrow. Or why another plan faces a long trial period of testing and developing. I see it as my role to make the ideas accessible and to enable people to retell the stories in an inspiring way the next day. Eventually, the success of sustainability has to do with the power of storytelling.”

Where does your passion for sustainability come from?
“Actually, my main passion lies in the search for beautiful stories. I’m inspired to reach a bigger audience with good news. I want to highlight the people behind the ideas that really make a difference. I want to show the solutions, and not only the problems. And I always look for a way to use the story to make a business plan a success.”

What kind of trend do you see in sustainable entrepreneurship at the moment?
“There are many interesting trends happening at the moment. For example, not too long ago a business had to explain itself if it had sustainability on its agenda. Now, you have to explain yourself if you don’t. Businesses are much more sustainability-oriented and incorporate it in their mission and strategy.

Another trend is the rise of a business culture in which failure is more accepted. It is implemented earlier on in the process. There is a growing notion that people can learn from each other’s mistakes. We mostly see the successes in TED talks etcetera. But there are also many businesses and start-ups that fail or are forced to change their plans along the way. That’s also the reality.

Sharing these experiences can avoid others making the same mistakes. Actually, often these mistakes are quite common, like costs are higher than the benefits, insufficient knowledge of the market, hiring the wrong people. The pioneers have done a massive amount of work and paved the way for many to follow. The next phase needs a new kind of entrepreneur to move things forward. There is less idealism and more professionalism.”

Max Christern