Innovator Spotlight Series: in conversation with Akhil Sivanandan, Green Story
Updated: Dec 7, 2020
Sustainability is an issue that permeates the fashion industry today and as a result, there’s a growing number of sustainable fashion brands, technologies and new business models that aim to change it for the better. But who are the innovators in the space? Fueled will be speaking to founders that are leading the sustainable fashion movement in a series of interviews called the Innovator Spotlight. Read on and get inspired.
Today, we speak with Akhil Sivanandan, co-founder of Green Story, a startup using data, a technology platform and easy to understand visuals to show consumers the positive impact they can make by choosing green products. The company works with over 100 brands in 15 countries to calculate and show their impact to millions of consumers worldwide.
Akhil has 13 years of experience in the sustainability sector and has worked on consulting projects for multinational companies in the space. He has given presentations and interviews on the topic for multiple publications including the New York Times.
What does sustainability mean to you?
To me, sustainability is about preserving our way of life and being able to thrive from the perspective of the human race in the long-term. I don’t want to be wondering if we’ll still be around a hundred years from now.
Sustainability to me is also about keeping the planet in balance. This is a very difficult thing to achieve because the world has the biggest population it has ever had, and our actions have a huge impact on the world. If we continue to live as we have lived, we are going to run out of resources and people very soon.
The biggest challenge to sustainability is the balance between human development, nature and the way we want to live.
What is the problem in the market that you are solving?
As human beings, we really want to make a positive impact on the world, no matter who you are. Sustainability is one of these issues that can help us have a positive impact. Globally, 85% of people want to be sustainable shoppers, but the follow-through rate is incredibly low.
What we are trying to do is make sure that consumers can see the impact of their purchases and therefore follow through on it. This will help people choose greener products over time. It will also help green companies sell more products, and hopefully, influence more companies to create sustainable products. We want to change the economy from “business as usual” to a green economy.
In order to do this, we work with companies to understand the footprint or their products and compare it to conventional products. We use real, credible and objective data to do this; we figure out what the environmental footprint per product is, including factors like kg CO2, water usage, energy usage and others. We then translate it for the consumer. One of the major reasons consumers don’t make greener choices is because it’s hard to understand what their impact is. We make it easy to understand and something that consumers don’t have to go out of their way to get.
Our technology integrates into e-commerce stores, QR codes, hang tags, emails, and most marketing channels in a way consumers can understand why this specific brand is sustainable. The third step that we offer is to get rid of the rest of your footprint, to offset it. No matter what you do, you always have a footprint. We allow companies to projects that can negate their impact through tree planting, electrification of buses, providing drinking water to communities and other initiatives.
This will enable companies to take into consideration their cost to society. Right now, a dollar value is placed on products, but we don’t take into account their cost to society, these are referred to as externalities. By taking into account offsets, you start taking into account these costs and reintegrate these externalities through a green premium in your products.
What’s your vision for Green Story?
Our vision is this moonshot goal, I mean, it would be if everyone could stop and think “What’s my impact?” before they purchase anything. It’s this idea that yes, you do have to buy things, but you can stop to consider the impact of what you buy before you buy it.
By showing our metrics, we hope to get people to think about their impact and be more aware and mindful of what they are doing as a consumer.
For companies, this is enabling them to know exactly how much impact they have and to change their practices. We have already worked with 100 companies and hope to work with 500 by the end of next year. In total, we have worked in 15 different countries to measure and showcase impact to over 10 million consumers.
What are your challenges in the market right now?
We are measuring the footprints of items, but at the scale we are doing it, it is really challenging. Measuring the footprint of up to 500 companies by next year has never been done before, and measuring the footprint of items requires a lot of data.
It is a massive challenge to find the data, to get suppliers to give up the data on what kind of recycling systems they have for instance. Or how much energy they use. We have to source the data directly from suppliers and also from second or third party suppliers.
Anything else you would like to add?
I think it’s important to keep moving forward when it comes to transparency and sustainability. Both consumers and companies are asking more questions on their impact, and there are more answers out there than ever. More than red light/green light ratings, showing the real data is important. Green Story is enabling this transition to more informed purchasing decisions, but it’s ultimately up to us, the consumer, to push companies to be greener.
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