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🤝#2 - Meet the Partners: Sweep
MEASURE DATABASE - Featuring Rachel Delacour, cofounder and CEO
Our ‘Meet the Partners’ series interviews the experts helping consumer goods businesses around the world get a handle on their heat. Each interview aims to provide you with insight into their work, what you can expect from partnering with them, and tips to help your business thrive.
A decade ago, corporate carbon accounting was far from the norm. Today, we’re living in a different world. With the effects of climate change becoming increasingly clear, customers are demanding action, and so are investors. It can be a tough ask for businesses, especially those with limited resources, to meet these demands. Internal teams are unlikely to contain the relevant expertise needed, so finding a carbon accounting partner is a big and often essential first step.
Sweep is the carbon management platform that connects companies and their partners to measure, reduce and communicate their carbon footprint together.
After recently raising a $22 million Series A, we caught up with Rachel Delacour, cofounder and CEO of Sweep. Our goal? To get to grips with how Sweep can help businesses effectively deal with their carbon footprint. Let’s begin…
We’d love to have an overview of what Sweep offers...
👉 How does Sweep support consumer goods companies in their climate journey?
80% of a consumer company’s emissions come from its supply chain. To significantly reduce its carbon footprint, the business needs to measure, analyse and take action with its supply partners. It’s a massive coordination exercise that only 25% of companies complete, according to CDP.
That’s where Sweep comes in. Our platform connects a company to its network so they build a science-based data-driven carbon strategy together. In the end, one large company triggers its business partners to deal with their emissions and scales climate action across teams, borders and industries.
👉 Do you have a specialist focus? What makes you different from other carbon accounting offerings?
Our network-approach to reducing carbon footprints is what makes Sweep stand out. We believe big companies can help tip the carbon balance by engaging all actors that directly and indirectly contribute to their emissions – from portfolio companies and overseas subsidiaries to teams’ air travels and maritime shipping partners.
As you can imagine, it’s a lot of carbon data to collect. And translating it into tangible action is a daunting task. Sweep combines the power of business intelligence and carbon science with a network effect approach. That way, companies and their partners can transparently, and securely increase their reduction efforts all in one place.
👉 How much do your services cost?
Our service cost is available on our website.
👉 How long does a typical project take with you? Are there any examples of projects you can give?
Our software can give large companies estimates in a matter of weeks – not months or years. But good, auditable and actionable footprinting isn’t a one time exercise. It’s a journey that involves regular data entry from your teams and partners. This is a crucial step to optimise the impact of your reduction actions. That’s how you make a real difference.
👉 Can you give more detail on the additional services you provide?
We define a company’s climate programme following these five pillars: organise, measure, reduce, contribute and communicate. I previously talked about the first two.
When it comes to reduction, Sweep users can play with our scenario simulation tool to pick a realistic target that’s aligned with their carbon pledges, resources and the global 1.5C target. To complement their reduction efforts, Sweep also connects companies to climate project-owners around the world. Funding initiatives like sustainable farming and rainforest protection have a positive impact on local communities and the planet – and contribute to creating a more equitable green transition. Contribution is our fourth pillar.
As for communication, we’ve built a comprehensive dashboard where companies can track and get a clear picture of the progress towards their carbon goals. As governments are leaning towards making climate disclosures mandatory, this feature will come in handy for big corporations: they will be able to clearly report on their footprint and actions taken with their partners to reduce their emissions across all three scopes.
Let’s dig into the details...
👉 If a smaller business came to you with a relatively vague goal ('we want to make our business more sustainable') and a tight budget, how could you help them and what would be your first steps?
While our platform is tailored to large companies with large network of partners (Scope 3), we strongly encourage companies of all sizes to look at their emissions as early as possible. As those smaller companies grow, their carbon impact will grow as well. So it is important that companies take a proactive approach.
👉 Our MEASURE database aims to help companies take the crucial first step of measuring their emissions. When a brand comes to you with the goal of measuring their emissions, what are your first steps?
Our SaaS platform assesses where customers are on their climate journey: Have they started tracking their emissions? Who’s involved in their company’s climate plan? What are the resources available to educate teams and partners on how to integrate sustainability into their activities?
Then, these questions will help us customise a customer’s onboarding to Sweep, which includes:
Identify where to find relevant carbon data.
Use Sweep’s API system to process the data and map your footprint.
Get your teams to track their emissions to start an internal carbon dialogue.
Apply the right emission factors to calculate how much greenhouse gas is emitted by a product or a process.
Invite partners contributing to your scope 3 to do the same and take responsibility for their climate impact.
After the initial data input, we automate the data gathering across teams and partners as much as possible, so you can focus on taking data-driven action, and focus on reducing your impact on the planet rather than measuring.
Is that just as applicable to smaller brands as it is to larger ones?
As mentioned before, we focus on working with large companies and their networks of partners. When one of them is a small-sized organisation, we simplified the onboarding process. That way, they can take ownership of its climate journey and start mapping its carbon footprint right away. Sweep will then automatically connect its emissions to the large company’s Scope 3 and suggest reduction initiatives.
👉 What areas of becoming more sustainable are particularly tricky for smaller consumer goods businesses?
We worked with the active-wear brand, Picture Organic Clothing. They use alternative materials such as oyster powder, limestone and natural rubber to reduce the footprint of their wetsuit.
The reality is often a bit more complex. Making a wetsuit out of oyster powder might sound better than the traditional fossil fuel-based neoprene. But extracting and refining the raw materials could be more resource-intensive – and not as environmental-friendly.
That’s why we use emissions factors to calculate how much greenhouse gas is emitted by a product or a process. In the case of oyster powder, we had to create a specific emission factor to check if it was a good alternative for the planet.
Now for some advice…
👉 What common misconceptions do consumer goods brands have before they start measuring their emissions? Are there any common surprises?
The most common misconception is thinking that measuring is enough – or worse, doing it without accounting for your partners’ footprints (scope 3). With such partial footprints, companies then go on thinking that their carbon impact is low and are more likely to take little to zero reduction action.
That’s why we’ve built Sweep to make the measurement exercise engaging and actionable so companies get an accurate picture of their carbon footprint and seriously work on reducing it.
👉 What are a few simple steps that any organisation can do to reduce their impact?
Take action. Measure your impact. Adjust your strategy. Repeat.
Looking into your carbon footprint can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t have a science background. Don’t let it stop you. Take it step by step. We all have to start somewhere.
My top tip to business leaders is to lead your climate journey with humility: educate yourself, talk to experts, hire talent and join climate communities. Be humble about your climate journey. It's fine to start now; and take things step by step. It is most important; just to start.
👉 Any final thoughts, or advice for brands?
Don’t solely rely on carbon credits, focus on reduction actions. Funding climate projects is part of a climate programme, but it won’t help curb your emissions. Reduction should come first if you want to help slowdown climate change and limit its impact on communities, cities, and natural ecosystems.