white man with a beard
Kristian Rönn

Back in 2014, Kristian Rönn was reading a lot about climate change and the importance of reaching net zero. But he didn’t see much discussion of how companies could measure their carbon emissions. 

He co-founded Normative, a tool that shows companies where they rank within their industry and offers suggestions on how to reduce their carbon emissions. Companies upload their data to the program, such as electricity bills and transportation history, so that they can get custom suggestions. The company has raised more than $13 million from investors such as ETF Partners and Copenhagen-based 2150. The for-profit company employs more than 50 people.

“Unless you can really measure and account for your footprint, you can’t manage it,” he said.

A Real World Solution

At the time he conceived the platform, Rönn was at the University of Oxford’s The Future of Humanity Institute, where he was part of a team working on quantitative analysis of global risks– such as climate change. He wanted to do more than publish another research paper that nobody reads, he said. He wanted to make a real tool to help companies reduce their emissions.

“I felt like what really needs to happen is we need to make this thing about climate change tangible, so that businesses and policymakers actually can take the right actions,” Rönn said, calling from COP26 two weeks ago. “There’s so much research that has been going on for the past few decades in terms of the average emissions of various goods and services activities.”

Now, Normative has partnered with SME Climate Hub to create a free version of the tool for small and medium-sized businesses. The tool is funded by an about $1.1 million (1 million euros) grant from Google.org, which also has provided a dozen fellows to maintain this tool and develop more. 

Businesses must pledge to SME Climate Hub’s climate commitment, which asks companies to halve their carbon emissions by 2030, reach net zero by 2050 and disclose progress annually. Then, they get access to the free tool to see how the business compares to the industry, based on data from the last eight years, Rönn said. It breaks it down into typical hotspots in the industry, such as electricity or transportation, so that businesses can reflect on where they might need to reassess their own business. “It is a way to engage companies that typically don’t think about their carbon footprints,” Rönn said. 

Some common adjustments companies can make to reduce their carbon footprint (according to Rönn):

  • Electrify your vehicle fleets
  • Switch to renewable electricity
  • Insulate your facilities and offices to preserve heat to 
  • Switch from flying to taking the train –or, even better, have video conferences

“There’s plenty of things that you can do in order to reduce your emissions and go towards net zero emissions,” he said. Most emissions come from indirect sources — such as purchased goods or business travel. 

Normative, its team of Google.org fellows and other partners — such as the UK government–  are working on new tools to launch for small and medium businesses, including a disclosure framework to make it easy for businesses to release their carbon emissions and a resource to connect with your bank to get a more accurate assessment of carbon emissions. 

“Even though we have governments setting targets for where they want to be at specific dates and time, we need to remember that it’s not the government buildings and offices that are the main contributors to co2,” Rönn said. “It’s the companies within the jurisdictions of those governments. 

“So unless we can get companies on board to reduce their emissions, we’re not going to go anywhere on the climate change issue. And in order to move the needle in the right direction, we first need to account for our carbon footprint, because as I said before, what gets measured gets managed.”

This story and others on New Builders Dispatch are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.