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Around a dozen Google engineers are helping Swedish start-up Normative to build a new carbon emissions tracker.
The emission counting software is designed to help businesses calculate their environmental footprint. It does this by analyzing all the transactions in a company’s accounting systems, including energy bills, business travel, raw material purchases and many other small items that businesses would often ignore.
“Essentially what gets measured gets managed,” Kristian Ronn, Normative CEO and co-founder, told CNBC. “The reason we’re doing it is because we’re facing a climate crisis and two thirds of all emissions come from companies.”
Normative, which announced it had raised an additional 10 million euros ($11.5 million) from investors Wednesday, claims that it can help businesses on their path to net zero emissions. “We can give them the full picture by analyzing all of their data,” Ronn said.
The start-up, founded seven years ago and previously backed by billionaire investor Chris Sacca, charges hundreds of firms including French bank BNP Paribas for access to its software, with rates depending on the size of the customer.
Ronn declined to say how much the company charges but he said, “it’s a lot cheaper than hiring sustainability consultants with Excel spreadsheets to do the work.”
Google engineers are helping Normative to build a free “starter version” of the product, Ronn said, adding that is being launched with the United Nations in time for the COP26 climate conference in early November.
“They’re sending us around a dozen of their brightest engineers,” Ronn said.
The Google staff joined Normative full-time, pro bono for six months from Oct. 1. “Our team right now is just over 50 people, so to have just over 10 extra makes all of the difference,” he said.
The search giant’s engineering support comes after Google backed the company with 1 million euros earlier this year through its philanthropic arm, Google.org.
Jen Carter, head of technology and volunteering at Google.org, told CNBC that measuring carbon emissions accurately is essential if small businesses want to understand the impact of their actions. “We’re thrilled to provide both funding and tech talent to help Normative build a solution that will make measurement more accessible,” she said.
To be sure, burning fossil fuels is the chief driver of the climate crisis, yet the world’s dependency on energy sources such as oil and gas is set to get even worse in the coming decades. It comes even as world leaders and CEOs repeatedly tout their commitment to the so-called “energy transition.”
Out of roughly 400 million companies worldwide, just a handful currently account for their carbon emissions, Ronn said, adding that small businesses and those in the global south are less likely to track their emissions than larger ones and those in the global north.
“Those [businesses] who do, actually only account for a fraction of their total emissions, so it’s very much a problem,” he said.
Many businesses only log emissions for things that are relatively easy to track such as electricity, Ronn said. “But that is only 10% or so for most businesses,” he added. “Most of it is in the supply chain.”
Prior to Normative, Ronn studied global catastrophic risks with renowned Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom at the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford.
“I left Oxford to start Normative because I wanted to make risks actionable,” he said. “It’s kind of crazy the things that we do today actually effect future generations for not just hundreds of years, but thousands, or tens of thousands of years in the in the future. If we can act in the right way now, where we have a stewardship over the planet, then then we can make a big, big difference.”