Taking the drudgery out of carbon accounting

January 26, 2023

In this episode, Legislate meets George Wade, co-founder of Zevero a software platform for companies to manage their carbon emissions and build a climate program to reach net zero. George shares the biggest opportunities for carbon removal as well as common friction early stage founders face with legal.

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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 George Wade on the show co founder of Zevero, a software platform for companies to manage their carbon emissions and build a climate program to reach net zero.

George, welcome to the show. Would you like to introduce yourself and tell us a bit more about your business?

The story behind Zevero

George Wade: Yeah, sure. I feel like you did a pretty healthy introduction there as well, Charles, so thank you very much. But yeah, my name is George Wade. I'm co-founder of Zevero. And as you said, we ultimately help companies reduce their carbon emissions. Pretty satisfying job.

Pretty good fun. Ultimately taking the drudgery out of carbon accounting. Extremely interesting, extremely rewarding.

Charles Brecque: I can imagine. And so how did you come up with the idea? What is the story behind the origin of the company?

George Wade: Yeah, so great question. So originally I was working on projects to do with carbon emissions for the university of Exeter, helping them build their waste and circular economy strategy, and ultimately found that a lot of the questions were left unanswered by a lack of data and a lack of tools for businesses and institutions to actually calculate the emissions. And let's say, you go, what happens if I do X? What happens to Y? And granted, that's a really difficult question, but I just found it really, time-consuming, really challenging and didn't really have the answers. So I contacted a friend of mine, Ben, who's my co-founder and said, Hey, am I doing this wrong?

Or is this the way it works? And he's a carbon consultant and he said, no, the system is just quite inefficient, nothing talks to each other. There's data siloed in spreadsheets. I've been thinking about doing something about it. And then the kind of idea spiraled from there where we were like, Hey, how can we actually just digitize the work that we're doing?

I wouldn't say the industry, but that's quite a farfetched thing to say right now, but ultimately taking away a lot of the manual processes of carbon accounting, because ultimately that means companies and people and institutions can actually spend more time on reducing our emissions, which is needed very badly at the moment.

Yeah, that's the story. That's how we came together. And over the last eight, nine months, we've been flat out just trying to build something that has value to customers.

What's been your favourite moment so far?

Charles Brecque: Very exciting. And in those eight, nine months, what's been your favourite moment so far?

George Wade: Great question. It's a whole process of just learning.

I feel like I've been thrown into the education of a lifetime. Previously worked in startups. So I had an idea of how chaotic it is and crazy, but when you're having to deal with every decision from, as we'll come onto it from the legal documentation and setting up your company through to, okay, brilliant you've signed your first client. Okay, but now you need a contract and you need everything else that goes with that. What does that look like? And how do you make sure that you look after customers whilst building your business? To be honest sounds quite cheesy, but like the process has probably been the best bit looking back. It's fantastic.

Maybe in the moment it's chaotic and stressful and oftentimes can be a little bit miserable, but actually the amount of learning and the progress that you can do if you look backwards. And I think that has been the most rewarding.

What do you wish you had known before starting Zevero?

Charles Brecque: Yeah, I can definitely relate to the chaotic early days, but it does get better. What would you wish you'd known before starting Zevero

George Wade: Yeah, I guess that follows on from the last question, but a lot more. However, at the same time I feel like I wish I knew more about what I didn't know. Cause then at least I'd be prepared for not knowing that. So there are so many things that you don't know. And I think the fact that you just accept that you don't know something and then you're just willing to learn and to find out how to solve that problem is probably the bit when it starts getting interesting granted that if you've got other people that can solve the problems that you don't have an answer for, that's also a great point, but ultimately I'd say just to accept the process a little bit better and understand that everything is quite a challenge and that everyone is going through that same process together. So don't feel too bad when you don't know how to do something. Call on experts if you can, to actually help you, whether that's legal or whether that's design or anything. I think that's probably the bit that I've worked out.

Charles Brecque: Yeah. I think on the other hand though if you knew everything you didn't know, then maybe you wouldn't, make that plunge of becoming an entrepreneur. Effectively, you're the carbon accountant for companies. What's the plan for the next three, five years? What's the big vision?

George Wade: Great question. Ultimately, the big vision for the next 10 years is to help companies remove 10 million tons worth of carbon emissions from their supply chains. In three to five years, hopefully that can be in, in the millions of tons, helped reduced. But ultimately it's about giving businesses a tool that actually means they can take climate action.

I think that's ultimately our key goal and everything linked back to us, being able to help companies both understand their impact and understand where to focus their resources, their time. And to really actually think, okay, we've got this. Here's our plans to take action. No longer a question of what happens now and how do we help tackle climate change from our business?

I think that's the vision. If we're looking at it from a customer perspective, anyone that uses the Zevero platform has the knowledge and the tools to take climate action. And they've got plans to reach net zero. If we can get to that point sooner than three years, especially for the kind of customers that we have now, I think that's really the goal.

Charles Brecque: And now you've already been working with clients and starting to look at their data and help them account their carbon. Where do you see the biggest opportunities for carbon removal in the supply chain or in the business generally?

George Wade: Yeah. Sure. Great question again. I think it really depends. Ultimately I'd say the biggest challenge right now is that most companies don't actually know what their carbon emissions are. So there's a figure that came out that only one in 10 companies know their environmental impact. . And when you think about financial accounting, everybody knows whether they've got money in the bank, or if they don't have money in the bank. That is the biggest challenge right now is actually just starting the process and for a business to take that plunge into one thing, to understand their emissions and then beyond that, the opportunities I think are around collaboration. So a lot of emissions are from supply chain. So we work with a lot of breweries and around 70, 80% of those emissions can come from the supply chain. So being able to understand where those emissions come from. Realise that actually, perhaps this specific molt has higher emissions than another one. Then we can really start to see progress on a larger scale. It's not just turning light bulbs off and going actually, we're going to put in LEDs and we're going to turn the heating off at four o'clock instead of five o'clock, those are all needed, but they're not at this point, almost going to save the world.

So I think that the biggest opportunity is in collaboration. Taking action in the first place and starting to measure your emissions. And then, just from there when you get an insight, you can start to uncover where your emissions are from and our customers get quite excited.

I think they start to go, wow. I would have thought that would be so much higher. We spent all our time focusing on getting rid of plastic in our bins, but actually we're using however many tons of emissions and electricity. I think that's When people have data and when they have insight into what is key, that is the interesting part for me.

What are the key contracts you interact with the most as a founder?

Charles Brecque: I guess optimisation without data is just guessing at the end of the day. And what you're helping do is, give that visibility so that you know what you're optimising and where you can improve really. And as a co-founder working with a team and early customers, what are the key contracts that you interact with the most?

George Wade: Yeah. Sure. So for the most part, our contracts are employment contracts. As we've been able to grow the team over the last few months, that was a big deal. Also things like advisor agreements, NDAs also came increasingly I think at the beginning, as we're talking to potential clients or investors So that was quite a key point, but I think it's those day-to-day things where you just want to get it done and out of the way quite quickly so those employment contracts, the NDAs, et cetera, where there's still quite a bit of friction. Hopefully over the next few months we'll be dealing more with client agreements and contracts with clients. But yeah, definitely so far has been around those admin based contracts that have been a sticking point.

What are the main contract objections and how do you overcome them?

Charles Brecque: And with those contracts, you mentioned there was some friction, what were the key objections or key areas where there might've been delays?

George Wade: Key areas are not knowing how to structure those documents. And I'll just give one anecdotal example. We as co-founders have to have an agreement with the company as employees.

And this was to do with our kind of share options and how long we have to be with the company before we leave, which makes a lot of sense. But there was a clause in there that as directors of the companies, there was no termination date. And that meant that essentially we had to pass a board resolution to be able to approve that contract and it was those small things where you don't know the circumstances of which to frame your legal documents, it can become a huge thing, a huge problem where you go actually, if we didn't know that we would have to do things very differently, whereas if you've got a company like yourself at Legislate, where you can frame something and you can explain that the documentation and the reason why you choose this, then it just means that you don't have to go, but are we doing this correct or not?

I think that those small bits

Charles Brecque: yeah. I remember as a solo founder doing an employment contract with myself effectively was very bizarre, but perfectly legal and what we were supposed to do. But I can imagine if you don't have any legal support it can seem a bit confusing or uncertain especially when it's your business at stake effectively.

George Wade: I think using templates that you download online, it's not necessarily applicable to you, or it might be a US contract, et cetera.

Charles Brecque: Yeah. When you're downloading a template online, you don't know where it's come from.

You don't know if it's applicable to your jurisdiction. You don't know why certain clause, was inserted or removed and effectively with Legislate we tailor custom contracts every single time you need to create one and we can do this through our technology, but ultimately by asking you the questions, which matter in plain English to configure one of those agreements.

Yeah we don't like templates and ultimately no one should ever really have to use templates. . And so with that friction you've now overcome it. Do you use some form of solicitor or how have you structured yourself to progress in the future on the legal side?

George Wade: Yeah, so we do have a solicitor, but as you can imagine, with solicitor fees. So we try and avoid legal documentation from solicitors where possible. And then we use online tools like SeedLegals as a really useful way to have everything in one place. But also as we expand on that, we need other options.

But yeah those are the ways that we did at the moment. And then we, as a scrappy startup like yourself, Charles, as you mentioned before we also have some friends that are trained lawyers that we've been able to pull into help out on small documentations to make sure that it's correct so combination of online tools with the strict parameters, but also pulling in favours rather than paying fees. That's the trick.

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

Charles Brecque: Yeah, I think as a startup founder, try and get as much as you can for free. I'm conscious that we've already taken a lot of your time so I'm going to ask you the closing question. We ask all our guests, if you're being sent a contract to sign today, what would impress you?

George Wade: Great question. What would impress me most, it depends on what the contract is, but as we're in the middle of raising money and speaking to investors, what would impress me is if it was a term sheet and it said, here is a certain amount of money for a certain amount of your business. So that is right now would be the thing that would impress me most. Scrap everything else, whether I have to print it out and sign it. As long as it says, here is X amount of money, for X amount of percentage of your company.

Charles Brecque: Great. And I'm sure that will come sooner rather than later!

George Wade: Yeah. Hopefully

Charles Brecque: perfect. Thank you very much George for being on the show and sharing your insight about Zevero and best of luck with the term sheets and hopefully we'll have you on the show again


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