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☁️ "Watershed's Emissions Reduction Platform"

Climate 21

Photo by veeterzy / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Tom Raftery
Guest: Taylor Francis | Co-Founder | Watershed
Category: ☁️ Carbon Reduction

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[1:27] “Watershed is a software company that builds a platform to help companies get to net zero carbon fast. […] We're building tools that companies like Square and Shopify and Airbnb and Doordash are using to measure, reduce, [and] report their carbon emissions.”

[2:03] “We have a really short period of time, 10 years, in which we need to cut global carbon emissions in half. And so this matters, because the only way we're going to solve this problem is if we bend that carbon graph. We're emitting 50 billion tons of CO2 per year right now. We need to cut that in half by 2030. […] And so our mission is to give companies the tools that they need to make different decisions so that that carbon graph bends.”

[10:19] “One of our first customers was Sweetgreen. And they're a fast growing restaurant chain in the US. They set out when they started the company to try and define a model for food that is better for the planet and for communities, and delicious and affordable for customers. And so Watershed and climate fit into that mission really naturally. Sweetgreen has set a goal of getting to true carbon neutral by 2027, 20 years after they founded the company. The way they're doing that is by cutting emissions intensity from an already very low base, because they're a plant forward, no beef on the menu restaurant in half, over the next seven years. And then funding high impact carbon reductions for whatever emissions remain. Sweetgreen is really designing carbon into every piece of their business. And so they are designing new menu items, looking at the carbon footprint of the menu item at the same time, they look at costs and calories. They are sourcing suppliers and making procurement decisions about where to source different ingredients based on the agricultural practices and the sustainability and carbon practices of their suppliers. And it all kind of ladders up to this […] vision of a low carbon food system. And they're a good example of looking at climate as something to embed really deeply in every single part of the business.

[12:41] “We're really proud to work with Shopify and Stripe, in part because both of them are pioneering this new approach on carbon removal. And this is a big part of the genesis of Watershed. The old approach to sustainability was companies would buy these avoided emissions offsets, you'd pay someone else not to pollute. There's a way to do that, right, by the way. And for the companies that want to do that, we try to find the not necessarily sexy, but actually prevents carbon from being emitted to avoid admissions projects. But the real imperative is that we got to invent a way to take gigatons of carbon out of the atmosphere every year by the middle of the century. And if you talk to folks in the space, there's a lot of good ideas, but we are so far from the scale it's necessary and […] and price. […] Shopify, Stripe, Microsoft, a couple other companies had this notion […] to bring next generation carbon removal down the cost curve.”

[14:49] “Net zero started out as a policy and science idea. And the policy and science idea behind that zero is that for us to start to stabilize our climate, we need to get to a place where humans are on net, not adding carbon to the atmosphere. We need to get there by 2050 or sooner. And the way the planet is going to get there is by deeply decarbonizing every sector of the economy. Cutting carbon absolutely to the bone. You can't offset your way out of the climate problem. But there are a few sectors that are pretty stubborn to decarbonize. And so the notion behind the net and net zero is that for those sectors that are stubborn to decarbonize, we're gonna need at scale, permanent, durable carbon removal […] by the middle of the century.”

[15:51] “In the last couple of years it […] made the jump from the land of science and policy to the land of corporate commandments. […] There's a lot of companies out there that are claiming net zero, and it's kind of a new coat of paint on old, not terribly effective carbon neutrality commitments. Our view is that if a company wants to truly get to net zero, what they're signing up for, is an imperative to accomplish in their own sphere of influence, what the entire world must accomplish to beat climate change.”

[29:27] “I don't think people realize just how urgent the situation is. Everyone talks about 2030 as this big landmark and it is. And a decade can seem like a long time, but it is not. Between January 1, 2021 and today, we are now more than 7% of the way through the decade we had on January 1 to cut carbon emissions in half. Every month is 1% of our remaining time, every day is almost three basis points of our remaining time. And so, if you let that sink in that insane urgency of this crisis, it's kind of impossible to think about anything differently. When […] people email me and say, I can't meet for a month, in my mind that is I can't meet for 1% of the remaining time we have to solve climate change. So anyone working in the space should think about the fact that every month is a percentage point, every day is three basis points. And the only way you can be optimistic is if you act like that.”

[32:14] “The US, Europe and China goals aren't enough. I think the Climate Action Tracker is one of the great services to this whole space. […] Every time a country updates their climate target, they […] publish this excellent visual of emissions with business as usual, emissions with committed policies, emissions with committed pledges and the emissions the scientists tell us we need to end. […] You got to keep in mind how much every day matters. And you got to keep in mind that climate action tracker graph, and the fact that even achieving the goals we've already set is woefully inadequate for the future we need.”

[33:57] “I hope a lot of folks […] realize the power they have as potential change agents within corporations and organizations. If you take seriously that global carbon graph, and you take seriously the task of bending it, companies have a really big role to play and it's not in empty pronouncements and buying cheap offsets. It's in really rethinking, redesigning their businesses, rethinking, redesigning their supply chains. And I think there's going to be a new role at companies of climate lead, climate change agent, climate designer that is one of the most impactful roles of the next decade. Careers are going to be minted out of it and […] the effectiveness of that function is going to have a big impact on the effectiveness of us spending the global carbon graph.”

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 39 min | 🗓️ 08/25/2021
✅ Time saved: 37 min

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