As the world strives to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the role of companies like CEEZER becomes increasingly vital in the battle against climate change. The Berlin-based startup positions itself as a platform that puts enterprises in touch with the voluntary carbon market and enables them to screen, purchase and manage negative emissions in order to meet net zero targets.
We spoke to the company’s founder and CEO Magnus Drewelies to better understand what CEEZER’s mission is, and how its tools can help promote meaningful climate action.
Can you share a little more about your background and how you entered the carbon industry?
So my background is actually in chemistry and business, and I originally came into clean tech, because it used to be interesting from a natural sciences perspective. And the business part of it is that science needs money to solve a lot of today’s challenges, such as climate change. So, I felt there needs to be a business case for this, which didn’t exist back then. And so I started looking into clean tech in the beginning, because that was where a lot of innovation was happening. This is around the time when the global business community also started to think about what they need to start doing to remain in business.
This led me to pursue a master’s degree that focused on sustainable development as part of a normal business matter, which brought me in touch with carbon removal and carbon markets. I had the chance to visit Madagascar and see different projects, including mangrove restoration, which by now is probably one of the most sought after carbon removal types. And that got me thinking of how it’s a huge opportunity for us to use some of the instruments that we know, that work efficiently, like financial markets and tie them to actual restoration work.
You used to work for Boston Consulting Group. It would be great to hear a little bit about your work for them.
I think the reason why I started at BCG was really that I felt the time and challenge was really on the enterprise end of things. But this was a few years ago, and, basically, ESG targets were not really heavily included in many of the organization’s targets or financial planning. And when I thought about where I can learn about getting climate change to scale on an enterprise level, I felt like a consultancy would be a good place to go.
My work was mostly focused on industry, working heavily with car manufacturers, also metals and mining, and sectors where climate change mitigation and adaptation was a pretty complex topic. And it was really interesting for me to understand the tradeoffs that companies need to do in order to become more sustainable. I think that made me then also start CEEZER, because I saw there’s going to be a need for negative emissions that are outside of supply chains in most industries.
Over the past year or so, CEEZER has forged several important partnerships, such as with Milkywire and South Pole. How did they come about and what has come of them so far?
As I see it, it takes a village to change the planet. So I think we’ve always been very much focused on thinking about how we can join forces with other peers in the market to make an impact in the quickest way possible.
South Pole is one of the oldest players in the market. And I think very early on, we were just trying to understand as a very young company in that space, who are players we can collaborate with early on to increase scale. We have a partnership to offer access to some of their supply, that’s mostly the supply that they develop themselves, and I think it’s been a very fruitful collaboration so far.
So that was something that we felt is helpful to know, I think Milkywire was almost the other way around, because I think what’s particular about CEEZER is that our ambition is to cover the full breadth of what’s available, because ultimately, if you want to make an optimal decision on how to manage emissions, not everyone can spend $1,000 per tonne on carbon removal, right? You might need other projects as well. So, what we tried to do was cover all the range of technologies and prices, and then we can optimize basically, based on that range.
What is your take on the latest scandals surrounding low-quality carbon credits and offsets?
I think it’s good that there’s coverage on this, that there is both a scientific stream of discussion and a public discussion going on, because we need to get the quality up. Part of the whole mission of CEEZER is to enable companies to invest in quality carbon credits, because in the past, it’s been a lot harder to understand what you’re investing in. With that said, we always look at every credit with a risk profile, and it’s also important to understand that every credit will always come with risks.
And so when we always look at this, you have a certified carbon credit. That’s like the base layer. But then, on top of this, you have to review the structural risk in a project and make a conscious decision if you want to take that risk or not. There are also methodology differences, which lead to a reduced risk for certain kinds of credits that are not that sound.
Even though we’ve learned from The Guardian’s coverage, we were already aware of the risks it highlighted. But it caused a lot of people to start thinking more about how to allocate their portfolio, which I think is a good thing. Ultimately, we need funds to flow, and it’s good that there is more scientific data around this matter.
Could you share a little bit more information about how you assess the risks?
First, we look at the base layer, and for this, we work with some of the smaller registries, as well as all the big ones, such as Gold Standard, Verra, Puro.earth, and BeZero Carbon. All of these registries have their own approach to risk, so some standards are a bit more rigorous in certain aspects compared to the others.
We then use data we have over 3.5 million data points on quality that we own, and we can use them to very quickly compare those credits to each other. The data points that we look at are both overarching these are their scientific data around additionality risks that we have from peer reviewed studies. This is something that we can use almost automatically to determine which project would have a relatively high additionality risk, so we actually go a bit deeper there. And then there’s also project-specific indicators that we look at, for example, for reforestation projects we look at what the avoided deforestation rate is, which is a super important metric. It is a number that defines how many credits you can generate from the same operations. But we don’t rate credits, and that’s also important to understand. We don’t look at ourselves as a rating agency, it’s a bit more like, we give our buyer side customers access to the key data points that allow them to actually make a judgment call.
What is your opinion on the different carbon removal solutions? Are there specific approaches you’ve noticed show more promise for the future?
We try to stick to approaches that are already backed by studies and data. To me, it’s important that these approaches are also accessible economically. I’m always interested in technologies that use, let’s say, natural pathways and don’t require additional energy use or a lot of technical infrastructure. An example might be something that can help spread the ring of biochar, which is relatively simple technology-wise.
What is your vision for CEEZER in the next few years?
I think we are in a super interesting place right now, as we’ve been operating for a year and eight months, which makes us still pretty young and these are still our early days. We’re lucky enough to have really large and very exciting clients that really want to challenge themselves to do the right thing and do it in the best way possible.
My vision for CEEZER would be to become an integral part of fueling the net zero economy. And I think if you want to have a net zero economy at some point, effective and reliable carbon removal will have to be integrated in the processes of most companies, so it’s going to be a ubiquitous requirement. And that will require that you always find the best possible solution for that point in time and in the most automated way, which is what we are looking for.
We’re also definitely looking beyond carbon credits already. Credits are a good means, but there might be more ways of doing things in the future. Ultimately, I would hope that every company manages its negative emissions with the same scrutiny, same professionalism, and the same seriousness, as it would manage its money or inventory, and CEEZER is building the tool for that.