Sweep offers one of the most sophisticated, all-in-one carbon tools for corporate emission management on the market. The software provides the functionality necessary for companies to keep track of the CO2 emissions across their entire value chain: mapping, measuring, reducing, and reporting.
What’s more, Sweep gives businesses a ready solution to help them scale climate action across all their operations.
Last year, the company unveiled a brand-new methodology that revolutionizes the use of carbon credits, and we spoke to Sweep’s VP of Climate of Action, Renaud Bettin, to understand how this new methodology challenges traditional carbon offsetting practices.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Tell us a little bit more about your background in corporate climate strategy and working with the World Bank’s Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition.
15 years ago, I started to work for an NGO, based in France, which was among the first in the world to certify a carbon project and to issue carbon credits. So, my job at the time and for the following 10 years was to oversee one of the first ever voluntary carbon offset programs, led by an NGO.
Then I joined Carbone 4, where we developed a triple counting approach, called the Net Zero initiative, which led to the main conclusion that a company is not carbon neutral, but can contribute to carbon neutrality. There is a big difference.
Then 2.5 years ago I became Sweep’s first employee, but I came with my climate expertise and my vision. So, you could say that the white paper is the result of 15 years of climate action expertise. And I think it was a year and a half ago that someone from the World Bank contacted us saying Sweep seems to have one of the most efficient and advanced carbon management software. And they offered to become part of the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition. Of course, we accepted.
What inspired you to join Sweep and what is the company’s main focus?
The co-founder, Rachel Delacour, called me and she’d read the IPCC report, and wanted to act on climate change. So, she asked me to train her for half a day and after that I joined the company. And Sweep is building a tool that will help companies to achieve their climate targets.
But because my journey is also around climate justice and I’ve seen how money can change the lives of people in developing countries, in the white paper, we are defending the use of government finance and carbon finance. In fact, the problem is not the carbon finance itself, but more so the use of the carbon credits.
Our job is to build the software that will help a company be on track with their own climate targets. Because at one point the private sector said it must act, since the government isn’t doing enough, there are now thousands of companies committed to climate action. And now what we are looking for is transparency of that climate action, which is where software will play a huge role. That is our main goal.
Let’s talk about the carbon credit methodology that you have developed. What are its main components and why is it important to focus on contribution, rather than offsetting?
It’s important to realize that carbon credits or carbon certificates stick to a standard of quality. And originally, they were used when a company, which was supposed to cap its emission, goes beyond that emission count. So, it is associated with constraint. And probably the origin of the issues is the voluntary use of carbon offsets. We have no regulation, no limits, no constraints, except for such on the carbon project owners. We are asking a lot of the project owners and the project developers, but there is little talk about the use of the carbon offsets by the crude oil companies.
Another issue is the notion that offsetting your emission means erasing your carbon footprint. But it’s two different things. There’s a big question of reconciliation, because to face climate justice, we need the money, and it could come from this government finance system mechanism. But we must also reconcile stakeholders, including companies, because we have clients that don’t want to offset their emissions. And it’s a shame because that money could support carbon projects.
So, the first step we need to take is to put a price on carbon, because it will incentivize companies to reduce their emissions at source. And this will answer to the main criticism, which is that offsetting doesn’t incentivize companies to reduce their emissions.
The second step is contribution, which is what you do with the money saved from avoiding emissions – contribution. Contributing is more than buying carbon credits. Contributing to carbon neutrality starts with your own emissions, and it can be made with your own product and services. But you can also contribute by supporting NGOs, investing in climate solutions or carbon credits.
Can you tell us how this approach to carbon credits is working with some of your clients like Klarna and Saint-Gobin?
To me, Klarna is a pioneer because they worked with Milkywire. This methodology is not that new, it goes a bit further back than the one released three years ago by BCG and WWF. And that’s a blueprint for credible climate action, but we go much further than that. So, the methodology is inspired by the BCG and WWF approach, which Klarna applied and raised $2 million in two years. They put this money in the fund and that’s an example to follow. Klarna is definitely a trailblazer.
We have different types of clients with Saint-Gobin, for example, for now, they don’t want to use carbon credits. And here in France, there are so many big companies that don’t want to hear about carbon credits. Their answer is: “We want to reduce our emissions first”. And to me, it’s a mistake today. This answer was acceptable 10 years ago. But now it’s too late because we are already experiencing the consequences of inaction right now.
And we need support from the world’s richest companies because they became rich by emitting so much carbon. So, to contribute means to contribute financially. And even if it’s only a few thousand euros, every company must buy carbon credits. So that’s why I’m talking about reconciliation and that’s why we are embarking on a big journey of trying to convince them.
Another type of clients like Ubisoft are already buying carbon credits through Sweep. So we are really transparent with our intermediation fee, which is 10% justified by our role in building the portfolio, the old communication module and the personalized space in Sweep, where they can manage their own carbon credits.
This is an old-fashioned approach, where the company says we emit a certain amount of CO2 and we want to purchase a certain amount of carbon credits at a given price. We introduce them to the new contribution approach, and they become keen to move away from the old-fashioned approach and start to adopt the new one. I really think that this kind of a movement is underway, and there are more companies that are willing to change their mind and their practices.
How do you think Voluntary and Compliance markets for carbon credits will develop in the coming years?
I read recently that there are too many carbon removal providers – more than the amount of removal we could offer. It’s crazy, there are literally too many platforms, way more supply than there is demand. Last year, at COP27, a lot of the discussion revolved around the slowdown of the market, and it seems that some companies are just taking a step back to look at the market, trying to understand how it works, and what could be the alternative way.
And this is where contribution could play an important role in offering that alternative way, which is precisely our job at Sweep – it is to help companies show their positive impact. There are so many companies that are doing things right, but at the last moment, at the very last minute, they say that they are carbon neutral. And it’s a shame because there are so many people that are working hard internally, and finally they claim to be carbon neutral, like all the other ones.
This year we are starting to talk with some companies about a coalition, not yet another one because there are too many and they only offer commitments without action. Instead, I’d love to build action coalitions and the only condition will be to apply the methodology: setting up a carbon price, managing contribution budgets, showing the contribution roadmap with targets, initiatives, assignments, and buying carbon credits in a meaningful way.