Mitigating climate change by activating the corporate world to change their behaviour
Carbon+Alt+Delete started out in 2017 as a small project to help households measure and offset carbon emissions. Kenneth Van den Bergh is one of the four co-founders who all share an ambition to tackle what they believe is the defining challenge of our time: climate change. “Our mission is to mitigate climate change by informing and activating people to change their behavior.” Three years on, climate change is rising on the corporate agenda, and more and more companies are requesting their help. Supported by the 2020 Ashoka Impact Programme, the team is creating a business plan for a software tool they are developing, and the first pilot project will be launched this year.
Inspiring households to take climate action is one thing. How can this be adapted to the corporate world? This is the challenge the Carbon+Alt+Delete team has set itself. The tool they are developing will enable companies to calculate their annual CO2 emissions, from heating their buildings to company cars and business travel. Although they are excited about this new target group, Kenneth acknowledges there are challenges: “It’s still rather early in our journey. The most defining moment was deciding to dedicate time to launching this project. That decision created momentum, moving from just an idea we discussed in meetings to something that could really have an impact on reducing the carbon footprint of companies. Applying to the Impact Programme and being accepted was a big accelerator.”
Finding solutions to reduce the waste and overconsumption of energy is what motivates Kenneth on a daily basis. “You can probably imagine a world without cars, but a world without energy or without a viable climate – that’s hard to imagine. Working on topics that address the basic needs of humans has always been appealing to me, and from there the step to climate change isn’t that far.” This motivation highlights the qualities of a social entrepreneur: someone who goes deeper into the systemic problems of a social/environmental problem in order to find solutions that change behaviors and shift mindsets.
“Companies now realize that there is a price attached to carbon emissions,” Kenneth adds. “They are including carbon scenarios in their business strategy. This makes us optimistic that systemic change is possible, as business dynamics push organizations to include environmental impact in their core activities.”
Although the Impact Programme seminars and the weekly coaching have been moved online due to the coronavirus, Kenneth still enjoys receiving an outside perspective during his weekly discussions with senior Ashoka, Accenture and ABN AMRO coaches. In addition, Carbon+Alt+Delete is given access to the networks of these three partners, which is an opportunity to test and validate hypotheses. This includes talking to companies to better understand their motivation for carbon accounting and managing carbon emissions.
“I think the main takeaway is simply talk to other people! You can have a lot of great ideas within your team, but that’s where it stops. We have very similar engineering backgrounds and we all think in a similar way. Talking to other people helps to bring an outside perspective and improve the idea.”
For Kenneth, the upside of the corona crisis is the opportunity it offers to reflect on habits that many people previously took for granted in their daily working lives. They range from appreciating how remote working can boost efficiency and avoid wasted hours of commuting, to questioning the necessity of business travel. The impact on global supply chains has also been enormous and this is making people think more locally, which could have a positive impact on the climate. “It’s still too early to know exactly what the long-term impact will be because everyone is still in a crisis management mindset. However, maybe in a couple of months, some of these habits that are good for the climate will stick and we will move towards a more sustainable lifestyle.” Carbon+Alt+Delete certainly hopes to be at the forefront of this change, by actively helping households and companies contribute to a more environmentally sustainable future.