An Interview With Sam Anderson, Co-Founder and CEO of CarbonGraph
We sat down with Co-Founder and CEO Sam Anderson to discuss his exciting new company CarbonGraph. CarbonGraph allows companies to calculate and share easily digestible data on the carbon footprint of their products and services. Sam and his talented team give “validation & context to your environmental data” which helps your company stand out against your competitors. Their work contributes to the goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 and creating a more sustainable world for all.
We started off our interview by getting to know a little bit more about Sam and his background. Anderson, looking cheerful and full of energy, began walking us through his early professional career. “My background is in engineering and I studied applied mathematics at Queen’s University. After completion, I entered the mining industry and worked for three and a half years for a number of companies. My role primarily consisted of analyzing production levels and identifying ways to increase them. However, I later transitioned into focusing entirely on carbon emissions.”
As Anderson explains, his initial career path took a turn in 2018 and ultimately led him to where he is today. “This change to carbon emissions came as a direct result of reading the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report of global warming by 1.5 ℃.
This stood as a real wake-up call for me and a truly eye-opening moment. I realized that although we have a 2050 deadline to achieve net-zero emissions, we need to start making decisions and investments today.”
But his revelation didn’t stop there. He continues, “I also came to realize the impact of my industry on this problem as well. The smelters and plant equipment I worked on typically last at least 30 years if not longer. That means the plants I’m working on today which emit massive amounts of CO2 and other pollutants, are still going to be there in 2050 probably emitting the same amount of greenhouse gases and I just couldn’t stand by on the wrong side of this global issue.”
Now, equipped with a new understanding and an ignited passion, Anderson started to roll up his sleeves. “I began working with these mining companies to evaluate their carbon footprint and identify different ways to reduce it. I found that overall the industry was and is keen to take action and has come a long way. In the last five years alone we’ve seen greater investment in solar plants connected to mines and lower carbon emission processes.”
The Major Problem At Hand
Going The Academic Route
When asked whether he always had an interest in being an entrepreneur or starting a business, Anderson was reflective. “Honestly, no I haven’t always wanted to start a business. I don’t think that was on my radar as a career path early on. When I had the idea behind CarbonGraph, my first thought was to write an academic paper. My plan was to describe my idea for a new carbon data sharing system in hopes that people would read and adopt it. However, I realized quickly that there are already a number of great proposals and systems for dealing with climate change. People just aren’t reading or acting on them.”
Realizing the academic approach was not the most impactful, Anderson turned back to the industry he knew best. “My next thought was to implement my idea within the mining companies I work for. I realized, however, that they didn’t have the expertise or the desire to invest in a system such as this. This type of project requires a considerable amount of innovation and a development period of three to five years before it becomes a profitable endeavour. As a result, this wasn’t something that could be developed from within.”
NGO vs Venture-Backed Startup
It Affects Us All
We asked Anderson whether getting involved in efforts to reduce climate change, global warming, and greenhouse gas emissions had always been important to him.
After a thoughtful pause, Anderson recalled his early views on climate change. “I always thought of renewable energy and efforts to address climate change as important. That being said, I thought of it as a separate industry. It wasn’t until I finished school that I realized how interconnected it is. I also learned how important it is for large organizations to lead in making large-scale investments in sustainable practices. Every industry I believe is responsible for evaluating its operations and seeing where they can make fundamental changes. For anyone who believes renewable energy and climate change are important, I would encourage you to investigate how it affects the work you do and how you can get involved.”
Starting A Business Breeds Personal Growth and Requires Resilience
With some experience behind him, Anderson reflected on the challenges he’s faced so far. “The biggest challenge I’ve faced is the amount of personal growth I’ve needed to push myself through over the last year. When I started out I thought entirely in terms of the idea and crafting the technology. The reality is, there is a lot of work that needs to be spent in developing a team, marketing and operating your business, thinking about cashflows and fundraising. When building a startup, you quickly realize that many other people in the world have had a similar idea as you. It’s a statistical improbability that they haven’t. So for me, the true marker of success is having a great idea that you’re passionate about while also being willing to execute on it and learn how to execute well. It’s funny because I think about carbon footprints 25% of the day and Human Resource (HR) policies 25% of the day as well, but that’s part of owning a business. For me, that is the biggest challenge i’ve faced and I know there are always bigger ones on the horizon.”
At this point, we asked Anderson to take a moment and dive into how CarbonGraph fundamentally works.
With a smile and excitement in his eye, Anderson explained that, “the challenge with understanding the carbon footprint of a product is that it depends on its history. A great comparison is the nutritional facts you see on food. This data represents important information that consumers should be thinking about when they choose to buy a product. Where they differ is that food can be analyzed in a lab to understand its components such as calorie content. You can’t take an electric vehicle and measure its carbon footprint just by studying the vehicle itself.”
How CarbonGraph Works
However, as Anderson explains, they have built a transformative new way to capture this information. “At CarbonGraph we aim to be a light layer of data that exists at each point in the supply chain. When a company uses CarbonGraph, they make an account and define the products they want a carbon footprint for. From there we utilize digital tools and meeting conversations to collect data that will help us determine their carbon footprint. We then develop an estimate of their carbon footprint for their product and we let them share that digitally with their customers along the supply chain.”
The impact only magnifies from there. He continues, “now that their customers have the digital carbon footprint of the product they just bought, they can use that as an input into creating a carbon footprint for their own product. By doing this we create enhanced visibility along the supply chain and are building towards an integrated supply chain network. This allows producers to make more informed buying decisions to support the sustainable sourcing of input materials.”
When asked about his goals and direction for the company, Anderson explained that, “our vision is that by 2030 consumers around the world will understand the carbon footprint of the products they buy just as well as they understand the price.”
Furthermore, our goal is to add additional dimensions to the quantified metrics we all understand when we make a purchase. To achieve this, CarbonGraph will need to grow massively. We will need to collect and share data across a variety of industries, and collaborate with businesses, NGOs, and governments. Ideally we’d like to be one of the first participants in a new ecosystem of carbon data sharing. However, there are a lot of decisions that will need to be made along the way. This includes whether we specialize in certain industries or geographical regions. If we operate in the business-to-business (B2B) upstream market or in the downstream business-to-consumer (B2C) market. Regardless of this, right now we want to take our model and apply it as widely as possible in the world.”
Your Dollar and Vote Counts
We wondered in his opinion, what was most important for people to understand about carbon emissions today. Smiling, Anderson explained, “people will often ask what can I really do about climate change? At this point, almost everyone has heard or read a list of ‘here are the top five things you can do for the environment.’ This usually includes things like recycling, turning your lights off, and watching how long you shower. These things are great when it comes to individual activities around the house. However, we really need to be aware of the impact our spending makes. The reality is we are all investors in the global marketplace. We decide what supply chains we support based on what products we buy and from who. I believe we all have a responsibility to invest that money responsibly. “
“As a result, consumers should be interested in knowing how the products they buy are sourced and produced. Furthermore, it’s important to understand that our purchasing decisions and who we vote for have a huge impact on climate change. These are the two single biggest things we can do to combat climate change and carbon emissions.”
Progress is Being Made
Recalling recent statistics, Anderson discussed the progress being made today. “Over 50% of Fortune Global 500 companies have set net-zero targets by 2050 or earlier.“
“This represents a large sum of the economy as their suppliers and their supplier’s suppliers which are hundreds of thousands of businesses around the world are now implicated in those net-zero targets. Furthermore, a significant amount of the world’s economy is now covered by some form of carbon pricing. This incentivizes businesses to understand their carbon footprint and have a plan to lower it. That is why we are seeing such a high demand for CarbonGraph as it presents the data in a way that the average person can understand.”
The Starting Point
We wondered: what can consumers and businesses alike do in 2022 to be better aware of their carbon footprint and actively work to reduce it?
Anderson believes, “the first place to start is to go online and use a carbon footprint calculator to get a sense of what your carbon footprint is. Roughly speaking, what you’ll find is that one-third of your carbon footprint is from the energy you consume, another third from the things you buy, and a final third from the transportation methods you use.”
Going One Step Deeper
However, it doesn’t end there. “Next, it’s time to dive into each of these three categories. Be aware of the types of products you are buying like electronics and their carbon footprint. Think about how much energy you are consuming as well as the impact your transportation is having. However, as I mentioned before, the two most important things are who you are buying from and who you are voting for. This doesn’t necessarily mean at a federal or provincial level. It can also be the policies of your local municipality. It’s equally important to understand important topics such as carbon pricing and its pros and cons. In fact, I would encourage every Canadian to dig in and understand the carbon pricing rules today and whether they make sense to you? I believe more people will begin to grasp why these initiatives are happening once they look beyond the surface.”
What Business Can Do
For businesses, Anderson says, “it’s absolutely imperative that they have an understanding of their carbon footprint and risk exposure. Beyond a moral or an ethical lens, it’s about understanding what your responsibility is as a business owner. It is very important to know how the demand for your goods or services might be affected by their sustainability today and into the future. Most businesses will find that about 80% of their carbon footprint comes from their supply chain. This means businesses need to think about how they can work with their existing suppliers to lower their carbon footprint. But, in certain cases, this may mean choosing new suppliers who have significantly lower carbon footprints. Additionally, companies should look for ways to electrify their processes and partner with companies like Bull Frog Power or Carbon Block who can help by paying for renewable electricity. The supply chain, however, is definitely the number one place to start.”
Connect With CarbonGraph Today
In conclusion, we asked where our readers can find CarbonGraph if they’re interested in learning more about the exciting things Anderson and his team are doing.
He explained, “you can find us at www.carbongraph.io, or on Linkedin. I really encourage anyone to reach out whether you represent a company and want to learn more about your carbon footprint or if you are an individual and want to better understand what we do and get a better perspective on your own carbon footprint. We are always excited to talk to different people and get some different perspectives.”
Want to Stay Connected?
Vertical Motion Inc. is a Calgary & Kelowna-based business supporting the needs of entrepreneurs and business owners since 2006. Our team of expert business specialists, project managers, front and back-end developers, marketers, graphic designers, and professional advisors support the needs of both B2B and B2C businesses in all industries including Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, Clean Technology, Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR), Sports and Recreation, Real Estate, and Health Care. We specialize in creating custom Web, iPhone, Android, and Windows solutions for businesses of all sizes including startups, small businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and large corporations. Ready to take your idea to new heights? Drop us a line
Not quite ready yet? Sign up for our monthly newsletter for relevant business articles, Vertical Motion blogs, and our business Q & A. Have no fear we are spam clear! 🚀
Written By Tyler Mikitka, communications officer on the bridge at Vertical Motion.