Finding new and novel ways to reduce your carbon footprint

January 26, 2023

In this episode, Legislate meets Gabrielle Bourret-Sicotte, co-founder of Greenr, a climate-focused lifestyle app. Having been voted the United Nations' "Best Green Project" for 2021, Greenr is finding a new and novel ways to inspire individuals and businesses to reduce their carbon footprint, calculate their daily needs and reduce what they can whilst offsetting the rest.

In this episode Gabrielle discusses Greenr, gives us some of their sales tips and tells us about how simplifying contracts is key to business development.

Learn more about Greenr

Learn more about Legislate

Charles Brecque: Welcome to the Legislate podcast, a place to learn about the latest insights and trends in property technology, business building, and contract drafting. Today, I'm excited to have Gabrielle Bourret-Sicotte on the show, co-founder of Greenr, a platform to track, reduce, compete and offset your carbon footprint.

Gabrielle, welcome to the show. Please can you introduce yourself and Greenr?

The story behind Greenr

Gabrielle Bourret-Sicotte: Hi, yes, thank you very much. Great pronunciation of my name as well. It's not often I hear a French podcast speaker. Fantastic.

My name is Gabrielle and I'm one of the co-founders of Greenr and Greenr is, as you've said,a platform, both an app and a web based platform to help individuals and businesses calculate their carbon footprint.

And more importantly, once you've calculated it, it's to reduce it at source. So we provide tailored coaching tips, swaps and obviously employee engagement, so competitions and whatnot to try to be as 'greener' as possible. So yeah, fancy speaking to you today.

Charles Brecque: Thank you, and so how long have you been doing this?

Gabrielle Bourret-Sicotte: So Greenr was founded mid pandemic, so about a year and a half ago. We launched our first beta app about seven or eight months ago and our Greenr for business offering in the summer. So definitely onwards and upwards.

Charles Brecque: And do you think launching in the pandemic helped you or slowed you down?

Gabrielle Bourret-Sicotte: I think in our case it was helpful because a lot of our meetings are contacting.

So for example, we have 27 brand partners on our app, including: Octopus Energy and Quorn Foods and all these really big brands. And I think if it wasn't for the pandemic, it would have been more difficult to secure a meeting with them, especially because they're all over the country. But because everyone was used to new Google meets and Zoom meetings, and as well as being more connected, using LinkedIn and things like that, it was really easy for us to just reach out cold calls, slide into people's DMS and say, "Hey, we're trying to do something cool here. Do you want to help us out?"

And we have about 90% conversion rate for brands. So it was really nice to have all these really big brands and say, "I think what you're doing is great and we'd love to put our name to it." So yeah, that would definitely help us.

Charles Brecque: Well done. And that conversion rate is amazing.

Do you have any tips for entrepreneurs for cold calling or reaching out to brands?

Gabrielle Bourret-Sicotte: Yeah. So we've gone through many different ways, whether that's you just using the email address on the website, or as I said, reaching out to people on LinkedIn. So you try to use multi-pronged approaches and I think the main tip and what we've seen definitely is don't sound like a bot. There are so many robots out there that send out a million messages a month or whatever. So if you say, just have normal language and say:

"Hey, I'm sorry for interrupting your day. And we think what you did in this and this and this talk was really cool. And I'd really like to speak to you."

Then you sound like a human, so people are more likely to reply to you. And obviously then have a good offering. What we usually do is we don't ask them for anything. We ask them for advice rather than monetary compensation or loads of big things.

We just say, " we're small, you're big. Can you help us out?"

And usually people are quite helpful. So yeah, that's worked well for us.

What's been your favourite moment so far?

Charles Brecque: Be human and ask for help as opposed to selling. Great advice.

And in your one and a half years then of doing Greenr, what's been your favorite moment?

Gabrielle Bourret-Sicotte: There's so many. It's definitely been a wild ride . You pivot. I don't know. I'm sure you've seen this with your own startup, probably, you pivot your marketing strategy or your business or your whole business model and revenue model, depending on what the market is doing, especially in a pandemic.

So a bit of background. I started in academia. I have a PhD from Oxford in solar photovoltaics. So I was working more and definitely the scientific deep science side which is not the most fun at parties, but it was definitely exciting. I had a really great time.

But a lot of my friends and family would ask me things like, "oh you work in the climate space. Is it actually good to be vegetarian, even though you're importing avocados or green beans from South Africa. Isn't it better to just eat local eggs or local cheese, or if I'm doing a city escape to Edinburgh this weekend with my family of four, should I take the train even though it's going to be an empty train or should I drive with one car? What's the difference ? "

All these questions were very specific. But they weren't very easy to answer. And so when I looked online there wasn't really a good resource to give people that admissions data and allow them to do their own decisions. So that's what I wanted to build in the first place is a sort of my fitness pal, a calorie counter, a Strava, but instead of counting calories or effort you count carbon footprint.

So that's what we built in the first place. And that was our first, you know big launch. And that's the app that you can download on both app stores.

And then the first switch was the Greenr for business switch. We realized that SMEs in the UK make up 99.9% of all businesses. They employ over 60 million people. And they also make up from 25 to 50% of the business carbon footprint in the UK. So that's obviously a really large chunk of it. And if we're going to achieve net zero in 2030/ 2050, we're going to have to tackle it. But they don't get any support and they don't have the staff or the money or the capacity or the time to calculate their carbon footprint internally.

And so that's what Greenr does. Now. It's an SME calculator for free that you can just log on our website and do it. And so that was definitely a big highlight when we managed to touch all of these SMEs and help them as well .

And to top it off, last week, we were at cop 26 and we received the UN award for best green initiative, which was amazing. So that was really gratifying to see all our effort kind of culminate to an award of some sort.

Charles Brecque: Congratulations. Just so that I understand correctly, when you say your measuring the carbon footprint, are you taking a holistic approach then to calculate that footprint? You mentioned traveling on an empty train, how do you know the trains are empty and then factor that in the calculation.

Gabrielle Bourret-Sicotte: Yeah and that's a really good point. And we did have a measure of occupancy before where people would estimate your carriage is X or Y busy. But at the end of the day, the train is gonna run anyway. So whether or not you take the train, it shouldn't be your fault that 90 other people, didn't also take the train. So we've actually changed that. And we take the government averages of carbon footprint for trains because that's what's calculated in the greenhouse gas protocols. So yeah, so if you take the train, it's all positive. It doesn't matter if no one else is on it because the train is gonna run anyway. So you might as well take the train basically is the jist of it. Yeah, so that's what we do holistically. We try to give as much detail without being cumbersome.

What do you wish you'd known before starting Greenr?

Charles Brecque: Sure. And along the same lines what would you wish you'd known before starting Greenr?

Gabrielle Bourret-Sicotte: So many things I wish I'd known, hiring takes a really long time. That's definitely something to bear in mind, especially when you're in between funding rounds and things like that. It's a really tricky balance to strike. So we've just hired a tech lead for example, and we were interviewing loads and then we would find someone good and then we would have to wait for funding to come in so that they they would go. But at the same time, once we had funding, it takes two, three months to get the approval and then there's obviously leave period and all of that. So hiring takes a really long time.

Get yourself early and have a bunch of CVs lined up cause you might as well. So now we're just rolling, interviewing all the time. And then as soon as someone becomes free or we have funding then we snap them up because otherwise it takes too long, especially with contracts, driving contracts and getting them to sign it and negotiating, et cetera.

Charles Brecque: And so, I imagine you've secured funding now.

Gabrielle Bourret-Sicotte: Yeah.

Charles Brecque: Well done. Where do you see Greenr in the next three to five years then?

Gabrielle Bourret-Sicotte: Yeah, global expansion, I think. So our mission is to half our users' footprint by 2025. And we want to do that through a combination of reduction at source, which is what we really believe in.

Climate change at the end of the day is a people problem. We're the problem here. So we might as well change your own behaviors. And when you talk about a business' carbon footprint, it's the same issue. So yeah, you could be a huge manufacturer and you might be able to shave off a lot of your carbon footprint through a few executive decisions. So changing suppliers or changing manufacturing techniques and all of that. But at the end of the day your workforce makes up a large chunk of your carbon footprint and the type of people that you employ and their own education on climate change and all of that. That's what we want to achieve is behavioral change through our app and through gamification so that your employees are bought into your sustainability mission. And that they drive the change from the bottom up so that when you do want to do something from the top down, then there is immediate buy-in because you've put it in the app. They're already competing on taking less flights and taking the train more and you're giving them rewards. And it's a great positive experience towards climate change action, rather than the negative spiral that we have a bit at the moment which you need to be the perfect climate activist. And if you have one chicken nugget, once, then you're canceled. It's about creating this positive atmosphere of we're all in this together, and we can collaborate and compete a bit, but mostly collaborate and try to be a bit better. Yeah, that's definitely what we want to achieve seeing that shift and having our users footprint and really achieving meaningful impact through behavioural change.

Charles Brecque: That's great. And since you've rolled out the app to users and customers do you have any metrics on carbon that you've offset or a footprint that you've avoided?

Gabrielle Bourret-Sicotte: Yeah, for sure. So at the moment we have five or six companies on board with over 3000 people, 3000 employees. And together we've managed to combine our offsets and our reduction outsource and have an impact of 3,500 tons of CO2, I think, which is the equivalent of, I think 176,000 trees growing for one year. it was really nice to see, just to see that through change and just reaching out to people, you can be the equivalent of 176,000 trees. That's like really cool.

That was really nice. And we're obviously growing week on week, we now have one or two businesses every week reaching out to us and signing them up. Really looking forward to scaling up and increasing that in fact.

What are the key contracts you interact with the most?

Charles Brecque: That's really exciting. So yeah, well done. You mentioned you notice periods being one problem that you've encountered when hiring does that mean employment contracts are the key contracts that you interact with the most or what other contracts in your day to day do you work with?

Gabrielle Bourret-Sicotte: Yeah, we've had loads of different legal contracts, obviously employment contracts, and that's going to become more and more common as we scale up. And we try to have a contract that is clear and doesn't use a bunch of legal terms that no one can understand, especially when you're hiring young people and grad students. Just recent graduates, it's important to not try to hide clauses and notice periods and whatnot behind really difficult to understand legal jargon.

And so that is definitely what we're trying to do is have a really simple contract, something that's not too long that you can understand, and we're not trying to hide anything from you. And everything's really clear. So yeah, employment contracts.

Then we've also had trademarks for Greenr, which has been accepted in UK and Europe. That was a big one to do. Things like terms and conditions, privacy policy, scope of work for businesses, offset contracts. Yeah. We've had our fair share and yeah it's been quite a learning curve, definitely.

Charles Brecque: If you were to summarise them in a couple of points, what would they be?

Gabrielle Bourret-Sicotte: Yeah. What would they be? I think definitely your scope of work and summarising everything in a table is always really interesting and really good for us. And when we receive a contract from our contractor, whatever that has it all summarised in table, and then you can see and understand that you don't have to sit through 40 pages of contracts. Really good.

And yeah, I think also time. Have your policy's done in advance because it's way easier to have something protecting you than trying to retroactively change things once things go wrong or if you don't have something or whatnot. Yeah, that's definitely good. And also never underestimate how long it takes for a contract to be signed within a big company.

Us, if someone says, "Hey, I have this contract", I could just say, "okay, I'll sign it", done. But when you're talking to bigger companies, as I said, we have partnerships with Octupus Energy and we've had contractors designer, app and things like that, and that's legal departments, and that takes a really long time. So if you want to deliver a product within a certain time, you need to really put in loads of contingency for contract negotiations and signing.

Charles Brecque: Yeah. One reason I started Legislate a year and a half ago is because when I was in business development and when negotiating commercial agreements with large pharmaceutical companies, it would dragged on too long. And in two occasions, the contracts cleared the legal department, so were ready to be signed and just weren't signed because there was no longer a priority for the customer, unfortunately. So what we're trying to do is offer a framework for business users to go straight to signature without having to go by the legal department.

Initially for simple, low value agreements which are really important for startups, but less important for big organisations but ultimately if we do get enough traction, then then maybe one day we could even do MSAs and all those nitty-gritty agreements which the processes is designed to kill the deal.

Gabrielle Bourret-Sicotte: For sure.

If you were being sent a contract to sign today, what would impress you?

Charles Brecque:  Great. And, I'm conscious I've taken a lot of your time already so I'm going to ask you the closing question we ask all our guests. So if you're being sent a contract to sign today, what would impress you?

Gabrielle Bourret-Sicotte: Yeah, clarity. Definitely clarity and an effort to not use really complicated, legal jargon.

A lot of the times that hides a lot of clauses and policies that you try to get through and it would be nice to just have simple texts. Even if it's just an explanation box of both the clause. I've seen that in a few contracts and it's been really useful because at the end of the day, you want that contract to really push through the line and so she can make it as clear as possible without having to spend three hours on zoom explaining each clause then that will be beneficial to all parties. So yeah, that definitely is always really appreciated.

So of course and I also think legalese it does have a impact on the mindset of the negotiators, whereas when it's written in simple terms it's much easier.

Charles Brecque: 

Obviously, at Legislate, that is one thing that we do, and we also offer the contract in different views also as a set of questions and answers, not just the text so that you can quickly understand what the key terms are.

Gabrielle Bourret-Sicotte: Yeah, for sure. Definitely.

Charles Brecque: So thank you again, Gabrielle for being on the show.

Gabrielle Bourret-Sicotte: Thank you for having me.

Charles Brecque:  Good luck with conquering the UK and the world.

Gabrielle Bourret-Sicotte: Yeah, absolutely. You'll see us around I'm sure.

Charles Brecque: Yes. And yeah, hopefully we'll speak again!

Gabrielle Bourret-Sicotte: Yeah, love to. Thank you so much, Charles.


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