Google-backed start-up launches free carbon emissions tracker

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A majority (up to 85%) of the emissions from a barrel of oil come when transportation, such as your car, is driven, according to Carbon Tracker. It’s a stark example of how difficult the net-zero goal will be for companies, but far from the only one.

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Normative, a Swedish start-up backed by Google, has launched a free version of its carbon emissions tracker as companies around the world try to figure out how to manage their environmental footprints.

The carbon calculator is designed to provide small- to medium-sized businesses with a “baseline” from which they can take action after they put some data into a form. Normative also has a paid-for product that it sells to large businesses.

Though the burning of fossil fuels is the chief driver of the climate crisis, the world is set to become even more dependent on energy sources such as oil and gas in the coming decades. That comes even as world leaders and CEOs repeatedly tout their commitment to the so-called “energy transition.”

SMEs account for 95% of businesses globally, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Many of them play interconnected roles in the creation of the products and services of large corporations.

More accessible and accurate

“We need to act now,” said Kristian Ronn, CEO and co-founder of Normative, in a statement. “The climate will not wait for us to be ready.”

“We want to make measuring carbon emissions and joining the race to net zero accessible to everyone,” he added.

Around a dozen fellows from Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, helped to build the free carbon calculator, with software engineers, UX designers, and product managers all supporting Normative on a full-time, pro bono basis for six months.

The search giant’s support comes after Google backed the company with 1 million euros ($1.1 million) last year through Google.org.

Jen Carter, head of technology and volunteering at Google.org, told CNBC in October that measuring carbon emissions accurately is essential if small businesses want to understand the impact of their actions. “We’re thrilled to provide both funding and tech talent to help Normative build a solution that will make measurement more accessible,” she said.

Normative was founded in 2014 and it’s been backed by billionaire investor Chris Sacca’s Lowercarbon Capital, among others. It charges hundreds of firms, including French bank BNP Paribas, for access to its existing software, with rates depending on the size of the customer.

Tech giants have long strived to be seen as the greenest companies on the planet.

Google has been carbon-neutral since 2007, meaning it has planted trees, bought carbon credits and funded large amounts of wind power in places where it is abundant in order to offset its tapping of coal and natural gas power in other regions.

In September 2020, Google said it was aiming to power its data centers and offices 24/7 using only carbon-free electricity by 2030. Wind, solar and other renewable sources accounted for just 61% of Google’s global hourly electricity usage in 2019.

In May 2020, the search giant pledged to stop building customized artificial intelligence tools for oil and gas firms.

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