ֿDomain: Environment, sustainability
Status reached: Validation
When: Dec 2021, for 3 months
Team skillset: Two founders with R&D background
- Sustainability has become increasingly important to companies looking to appeal to Gen Z employees.
- We set out with the thesis that creating sustainable activities for employees could be a tool to attract and retain talent, along with cost savings for the employer.
- We started with sustainability and got to ESG and tried to understand how it works in ‘white collar’ startups.
- It was hard to get a sense of the size of the ESG market, so we decided to focus on the E (environmental) aspects.
- We analyzed the market – size of the problem, who really cares etc. and tried to understand if the organizations that are interested are themselves polluting/not sustainable and looking to make a change.
- We researched local and international emissions regulation and tried to understand what companies are doing about it.
- We learned that organizations are focused on going green in their specific areas of work and not in other areas. For example, HP is working on making ‘greener’ ink vs. on using electricity more efficiently. The motivation is also cost savings that go along with sustainability.
- In the world of manufacturing companies there is more regulation and it’s a world of carbon credits and carbon emission limitations.
- That’s how we got to the idea of trading in carbon credits between manufacturers.
- For startups, the relevant areas are electricity, commuting to work, waste and recycling. The carbon footprint of an office is significant and cutting down can make a significant impact.
The idea: Create a way for employees to initiate sustainability-related projects. We wanted to build a few initiatives that would be measurable and have a clear impact. To that end, we focused on electricity use, commuting, and recycling and creating a platform for the person responsible for sustainability in the company.
- It was challenging to understand who that person was. Sometimes there’s a designated person (like at HP) but sometimes it’s HR or the Inclusion people.
- This made it challenging to understand who the customer is.
- We decided to create a campaign/competition between employees who earn points that are then translated into vouchers at local stores. The types of initiatives: one week where people bring food from home, a carpooling campaign, etc.
- We thought of tech solutions to measure impact – the length of the drive, the kind of car etc, in order to measure carbon emissions.
- We read research on US universities where there is a lot of electricity wasted because of the many rooms where lights and AC are left on. They did things like manually closing windows and saw an impact.
- As a result, we thought of focusing on academic institutions and doing sustainability work related to electricity, waste, commuting, and water use. We found ways of connecting to electricity and water measurements.
Why it didn’t progress
- Hard to measure consistently because of differences between buildings, trash/recycling receptacles etc. Focusing on academic institutions could help, but it wasn’t clear that they would want to buy the system.
- Validation: HP Indigo, a few startups
- We realized the platform was much more about employee engagement than about sustainability. When we spoke to sustainability people at companies, it became clear that it wasn’t in their realm. We also understood that companies outside of heavy manufacturing do sustainability mostly for PR reasons. It will take time until regulation truly impacts the kinds of companies that were good targets for us. We were in the EE category, but fell under the HR budget, which resulted in a significantly smaller market than we had initially thought (about $1B)