Businesses can take a leap into sustainability with GreenFeet, co-founder Lisa McKelvey tells Olivia McGill.
GreenFeet’s platform reduces businesses’ carbon footprint by giving them accurate visibility into their CO2 emissions, as well as ways of reducing them.
Its Co Donegal co-founder Lisa McKelvey believes that educating businesses that becoming sustainable doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive is key to lasting change.
“We wanted to come up with something that would make it simple and cost effective for companies to calculate and reduce their carbon footprint”
Why did you set up GreenFeet?
I always had an interest in climate change. When I worked in RTE as a journalist I covered a lot of climate change stories and became really concerned about the climate change emergency then.
After that I moved to Boston and it was there that myself and my co-founder, Trevor Parsons started talking about ways we could have a real impact. The idea came when Trevor was tasked with calculating the carbon footprint the of the company he was working for and it took forever. It was really complicated and hard to figure out.
We thought there must be an easier way to do this and that’s when we set about building GreenFeet. We wanted to come up with something that would make it simple and cost effective for companies to calculate and reduce their carbon footprint.
“We find that being informed around sustainability is motivating for companies. When they realise it doesn’t have to be as complex as they first thought, they really get into it”
What makes GreenFeet stand out?
Companies coming to us are completely overwhelmed by the sustainability requirements they are being asked to adhere to. They often need carbon footprint calculations quickly and don’t know how to do it. Calculating your carbon footprint involves setting goals, calculating your supply chain’s carbon footprint and putting in place a carbon reduction plan. With a lot of the solutions around that takes a really long time.
Traditionally it can take a large company up to six months to implement an effective sustainability plan with the solutions that are out there, we can do it in minutes. We can help them manage it too and all at a really low cost. Good technology has helped us do this and our team is made up of AI experts, sustainability experts, PhDs in data analysis and data security, as well as experienced founders and entrepreneurs.
A lot of the companies that do similar work are consultancy based so there can be high costs associated with that. They mostly target large companies and it’s a slower process. With our platform customers can see all their sustainability information on a dashboard in real time. If they want to put in a reduction initiative or present to the board, it’s all recorded on the platform so all it takes is one click and your report is ready.
“Don’t make the mistake of going down a rabbit hole where you don’t understand what your customer needs, and trying to build technology or a concept around that. You need to dig into the weeds of what the customer actually needs”
What challenges did you meet and how did you overcome them?
To figure out how to make the existing complex solution easier, quicker, and more effective than the traditional solutions took time. The biggest challenge for us was and continues to be identifying the exact needs of customers. The team spent a lot of time thinking about striking the balance between the amount of technology and human expertise we needed and staying ahead of the needs of the customer and their prospective needs in the quickly changing sustainability landscape.
When we really dug into customers’ needs we understood that education around sustainability was needed so they could see that being sustainability compliant didn’t need to be as overwhelming as they thought. We’re focused on helping companies be self-sufficient when it comes to sustainability. Information is key especially in sustainability in business.
We find that being informed around sustainability is motivating for companies. When they realise it doesn’t have to be as complex as they first thought, they really get into it. A lot of companies end up establishing Green Teams and launching their own initiatives, and we often end up supporting them through the process.
What is the support for entrepreneurs in Ireland like and how could it be improved?
We’re privately funded, there were some challenges getting it but because our team has such an established record and the technology is very strong, the process was quite seamless. I believe that Ireland is really well placed in terms of supports for entrepreneurs. We have great incubators and accelerators, and we have good access to early capital if needed.
What lessons have your learnt and what would you pass on to other businesses?
We wasted some time at the start of our business going down the wrong path. Building a successful business is about figuring out what the customers want so don’t make the mistake of going down a rabbit hole where you don’t understand what your customer needs, and trying to build technology or a concept around that. You need to dig into the weeds of what the customer actually needs.
What is your proudest moment?
At the heart of all we do is our commitment to address the climate emergency we’re in. Watching companies progress on their sustainability journey and seeing more companies understand what they’re trying to achieve through education and reducing their carbon emissions makes us very proud.
What are your plans for the future?
Our job is to keep educating people on what they can do to operate more sustainably. Every company that we add to our customer base is another success story in the climate change emergency. That’s all we want to keep doing – spreading that message and doing our part.
Main image at top: GreenFeet co-founders Lisa McKelvey and Trevor Parsons