Based in Berlin, The Climate Choice empowers companies by making climate action available and tangible. Lara Obst founded the B2B startup in April together with Yasha Tarani, later joined by chief data scientist Dr Rey Farhan. Obst has a 10-year experience in sustainability and tech. She co-founded a wind-power startup, developed a blockchain system and joined the Corporate Accelerator Manager of Climate-KIC. Obst believes that business impact models, combined with sustainability metrics, have the power to build the climate neutral economy of the future. The Beam interviewed her.
You have been working in the field of sustainability for over a decade, since your time studying at university. Can you tell us about this journey?
I started my journey in sustainability in 2008 at the Leuphana University in Lüneburg. At that time, for me climate was still a theoretical concept and seemed like a set of guidelines to avoid plastics, coffee-to-go cups and animal-based food. After starting to work at the University’s Innovation Incubator, I learned that climate change is not a problem to be solved by science alone, but rather is society’s biggest challenge. Since then, I was able to work together with numerous cleantech startups and companies that strived to make our economy climate friendly. All of them had one thing in common: the need to understand the climate impact of their own businesses, as well as of the products and services they purchase. The CO2-emissions of obtained goods in general are typically 5.5 times higher than the direct emissions of a company. They are therefore the single most important category to consider in reducing the corporate emissions. The lack of climate impact data, the missing guidance for companies and unknown best-practices showed me that science and companies need to join forces to transform the existing system. This challenge is huge, as is the potential for sustainable change.
Where did the idea for The Climate Choice originate from?
The idea for The Climate Choice came years later, in 2017. During my journey in the cleantech field, I always aimed to increase my personal impact and searched for new and efficient climate neutral solutions. I came across attempts to capture CO2 from the air through technologies or natural sinks, which fascinated me. It was obvious to me that companies around the world should be getting increasingly involved in these offsetting mechanisms to become climate neutral. However, I felt that not enough attention was paid to carbon reduction solutions. Companies often need help to start their climate transformation and therefore approach external service providers, who again often focus on offsetting. That was when I noticed that an individual reduction roadmap and the disclosure of fitting solutions are often missing. After a large number of customer interviews, we found a clear need for impact related solutions and data. So we started The Climate Choice and we are continually amazed by the ongoing interest we have received since.
What is your mission at The Climate Choice?
The Climate Choice’s mission is to empower climate transformation within companies and help them to independently reduce 50% of their emissions by 2030. We believe that being climate neutral will be an essential part of any thriving product and service. Companies will integrate sustainability performance indicators in every process and purchasing decision. In order to become climate neutral, or even climate positive, a company will need to understand not only its own emissions, but also the climate impact of purchased goods through its suppliers. We help companies to address this challenge through the use of data and implementing necessary business transformation. And, since not one solution fits all, we research individual solutions based on a company’s needs.
You created and streamlined a solutions based approach in order to aid companies in becoming ‘climate champions’. How did you select them?
Climate relevant solutions are products and services that help measure, reduce and offset emissions. When working with companies, we follow an approach based on seven core climate categories: energy, building, production, mobility, food, digital and environment. Research shows that, by working in these categories, companies can reduce up to 50% of their emissions within the next 10 years.
Everybody working within the field of climate innovation has experienced the trials and tribulations of working towards a more sustainable future. What have been the greatest difficulties for your company?
I am very grateful for the mindset change that happened in the last two years, as many employees across all industries have asked their companies to become climate friendly. They are the driving force behind today’s shift in corporate cultures. On top of this, changing market regulations and science-based target initiatives increase the pressure for companies to act.
However, the COVID-19 outbreak shifted the focus from climate change to the economic consequences of the lockdown. At first, this was a difficult situation to navigate since most projects were put on hold. But we soon realised that it could be seen as an opportunity. With everyone working from home, we organised the first virtual conference on climate transformation for companies: The ClimateSummit.de. In June, 500 climate officers and committed people joined the discussion with 50 speakers out of the cleantech world to exchange best-practices. This would not have been possible five years ago. People are no longer negotiating about the “if”, today we act on the “how” of climate transformation.
"CO2-reduction is central to every corporate climate transformation and we help give companies a clear path to solutions and emission savings."
What is it that motivates you to keep on going and working towards a greener future?
A greener future is our best chance for prosperity. The decisions of our past do not have to determine our future: only our current choices do. With transparent information and future-oriented decisions, we can turn around current climate trends while improving the people’s quality of life. The resources of our planet are finite, while our human opportunities are not. The transformation to a carbon-neutral world is not only technologically feasible, but also economically beneficial. We believe comprehensive climate transformation is the most promising strategy for the long-term success of any business and the whole society.
What does the future hold for The Climate Choice?
We are now building up our team, which is very exciting. We recently had three new great team members and a third co-founder joining the team, Dr Rey Farhan, who brings in more than 15 years of experience in data science and AI from companies like PwC and SoundCloud.
We have used the last months to learn and test market needs, now we go full force into our service development. We are very excited about the next few months and aim to keep successful climate transformation going. Any corporate climate officer or organisational change-maker can join our free CHOICE webinars, where we present best-practices for CO2-reduction, or get in touch and send us a request via the website. Lastly, we are very happy to have recently released our Best-practice #Climatetransformation guide, which covers examples of impactful climate solutions.