There are lots of things to consider when making a purchase decision: the price of the item you’re buying, how well the item will meet your needs, how it compares to alternatives, and how easily you can pick it up or have it delivered. But there’s also a hidden consideration with every purchase – carbon.
Carbon emissions from human activities are driving climate change. While governments and international institutions make large-scale moves to control emissions, individuals play a much larger role than they think, and are the key to creating scalable impact by making more sustainable choices when they shop.
Greener is a new digital solution that has been designed to make sustainable shopping easier. It brings together consumers and brands that care about responsible production and consumption to create a new ‘Green Economy’, helping enable sustainable shopping in a practical, convenient way.
“A lot of people think of sustainability as something that requires a massive lifestyle change,” says Tom Ferrier, founder of Greener. “But when I learned that we could keep global warming under two degrees if we each reduced our carbon footprint to two tonnes per year, something clicked for me. That’s tangible. People can work towards it. Now, how do we make it happen?”
The average Australian generates an annual carbon footprint of 15 tonnes, so there’s still a long way to go. Ferrier believes that if people could not only quantify their impact on climate change, but also be shown easy ways to reduce it by doing what they’re already doing, and have that information in the palm of their hand, it would help them understand the influence they have and inspire them to make better, greener choices.
Building a new Green Economy
There are two sides to Greener’s solution. The first is the business side: helping brands unlock the purchasing power of the sustainable shopper, evaluate where they stand in terms of sustainability, understand the steps they can take to get greener, and get rewarded for their efforts. Switching to a green energy provider is an example of an easy, 15-minute action that can have an incredible impact on a business’s carbon footprint. Greener helps businesses understand not just what to do, but how to do it.
These efforts are showcased in the consumer app, which gives users information on brands that are actively engaging in sustainable practices. The app also links securely to the user’s bank account so they can see the ‘carbon price tag’ of everything they buy, and provides personalised recommendations to reduce the cost to the planet.
On average, every dollar spent contributes 300 grams of CO2 to the atmosphere. But, when consumers shop with Greener-certified brands, the emissions linked to their purchases are offset to make them carbon neutral at no extra cost to the customer.
If every dollar spent in Australia was carbon neutral, the resulting reduction in emissions would be equivalent to taking 58 million cars off the road every year, according to Greener’s founder. While that may seem like a lofty target, Ferrier says the key is just to start.
“One of our core principles is to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” he explains.
“We are really intent on making it easy and frictionless for both consumers and brands to become greener.”
Keeping it simple
To create this seamless and convenient experience, Ferrier’s two priorities were making the app easy to use and trustworthy.
Greener has migrated fully to the cloud, largely due to its sustainability, and the app has been built with Microsoft Azure as its core platform.
“We learned that a single email can have a carbon footprint of 50 grams,” says Ferrier. “Shifting a startup onto a new cloud provider is not easy, but it was important to us. We migrated to cloud so that every time we send an email, or someone uses Greener, it’s not generating carbon emissions but helping to solve the problem instead.”
A core focus for Greener has been security and privacy, as the app deals with sensitive financial information and users’ transaction records. It uses Microsoft Defender and Microsoft Sentinel to optimise security and performance. The company also uses private Azure Virtual Networks and firewall functionality to segregate data and protect consumers from cybersecurity threats.
The company is also looking at ways to leverage artificial intelligence, machine learning and other technologies like Azure Personalizer to create a unique and innovative end-user experience.
“We are very intent on giving our customers a personalised experience they can trust, so we can continue to build our Green Economy and grow our collective of changemakers committed to helping to end climate change” says Ferrier. “We live our values and want to work with like-minded businesses, so our partnership with Microsoft has just been fantastic.”
The future of green tech
With more than 250 businesses in its Green Economy, the app and Greener for Business solution is currently in beta and is set to launch in early 2023. In the meantime, the team behind Greener is focused on testing and learning to provide the best user experience for businesses and consumers ahead of its public launch. The startup aims to double the number of brands in its Green Economy by 2023.
The platform is already delivering positive results for the businesses and individuals that use it. Business members have reported growing customers by 10 per cent as consumers switch from competitors that have not been certified by Greener. And it has helped individual shoppers reduce their emissions from purchases by 23 per cent.
According to Ferrier, the Australian public is ready to act on climate change and use technology to do it. “Clean tech is a massive growth sector,” he says. “We have over 300 members in the largest clean tech community, Climate Salad, and it’s a really exciting and innovative space.”
His advice for other organisations looking to translate sustainability intent into action is:
Greener has secured $4 million in seed funding from NAB Ventures and RealVC to scale up its operations, and it plans to continue partnering with Microsoft.
“We’re really excited about our partnership with Microsoft because it has one of the world’s richest global partner networks,” says Ferrier. “We are keen to tap into that and see how we can bring scale to our Green Economy and solve the most pressing problem of our time.”