In doing so, founder and CEO Julia Collins says she believes the world still can avoid the worst of climate change – even though it is not on target to meet fast-approaching global deadlines – and counter a mounting sense of doom that currently threatens to overwhelm even the most optimistic sustainability stakeholders.
“It is very much the case that we are not on track right now to meet global environmental goals. We have less than 100 months to reduce global emissions by 40% in order to stave off the worst of what will happen if our planet’s temperature continues to rise. And certainly, that is startling,” Collins told FoodNavigator-USA.
But, she added, “I think that climate action is the antidote to climate doom,” and Planet FWD’s goal is to help CPG companies, which currently account for 60% of global emissions, take action quickly by leveraging technology that makes it easier to understand and reduce or offset their carbon footprint.
“We help consumer brands in food and fashion and beauty to understand their carbon footprint at the product level. So, what’s my footprint? Where is it coming from? How can I reduce it? And then how can I promote carbon transparency by putting a carbon label on my product or how can I support carbon neutrality by sourcing offsets to get to zero?” she said.
Planet FWD does this with software that uses an attributional approach for carbon accounting as laid out in ISO 14067 and the GHG Protocol.
With the funding announced today led by Acre Venture Partners and Congruent Ventures, Collins plans to further automate Planet FWD’s greenhouse gas inventory platform so that it can support more and larger customers.
“The benefit to the customer of increasing our automation is that our turnaround times become faster and it unlocks another use case for our customer, which is product development,” she said.
“So, where we were in the past with platforms and consultants was often that brands would submit their information and they would have to wait a very long time – from weeks to months to be able to get high quality standards,” but with Planet FWD’s updates Collins said customers could get their results in minutes or hours and they will be much more specific.
While speed is of the essence, Collins adds she is excited that the platform and emission insights it provides can be used to create products with a lower carbon footprint from the outset.
“If you are create a granola bar and you want to make that a low emissions granola bar, you can use that platform because you’re measuring out your oats, the honey , etc, and can understand how these product development decisions actually align with your climate goals,” she said.
“So, you might, for example, source sunflower seeds instead of almonds, or you might source oats from one location versus another. And you can understand how these product decisions relate to the overall emissions picture for your granola bar in the same way you could measure calories and fat and protein while you are in the formulation phase,” she added.
Good ‘carbon hygiene’ is good for business
Several food and beverage CPG companies already are taking Planet FWD up on its promise, including Kashi, Pangaia, Numi Organic Tea, Sweet Lorens and more.
While many of these companies are already sustainably-minded, Collins said all brands can benefit from measuring and reducing their carbon footprint because it is what modern consumers want and what the Security and Exchange Commission could soon require if a proposed rule to enhance and standardize climate-related disclosures for investors is finalized.
In addition, she said, measuring and reducing carbon emissions could unlock additional funding as investors increasingly are interested in ESG goals and companies “carbon hygiene.”
Planet FWD’s ‘vertically oriented solutions’ and scope 3 focus sets it apart from the competition
Planet FWD is far from the only organization helping companies assess and reduce the environmental impact of their business, but Collins says her company is unique in that it is focused specifically on the CPG industry.
Because Planet FWD is taking a deep and narrow approach to LCA and carbon reduction, Collins says it can offer the “vertically oriented solutions” necessary to tackle not only scope 1 and 2 emissions, but also the far harder but increasingly important scope 3 emissions.
“We have a very special focus on scope 3 emissions,” and how to reduce carbon within the supply chain, which for most consumer companies accounts for 90% or more of their overall emissions, Collins said.
She explained Planet FWD is uniquely qualified to help with scope 3 emissions because in 2021 it purchased Clean Metrics – a company that gathered, modelled and developed scope 3 level data for the CPG industry for the past 15 years.
“That 15-year head start really allowed us to have the largest database of lifecycle assessments for agricultural systems, which is a very unique set of feedback,” Collins said.
“We also have onboard eight climate scientists who are dedicated to continuing to expand and increase our data,” she added, noting that the current fundraise also will allow her to bring on more climate scientists and expand the company’s team.
Learning from experience
Planet FWD also can draw on its own experiences developing its sister brand MoonShot Snacks, which is billed as one of the first climate-friendly snacks.
Two pain points that Collins experienced during that process, and which she addresses at Planet FWD, was the high cost of working with consultants to determine the product’s footprint and not being able to accurately model the unique aspects of her product based on the available datasets that used very broad averages.
For example, she didn’t want to know just the footprint of wheat, she wanted to know the footprint of the specific wheat she was sourcing at the farm level including the agricultural practices that they used.
“We have a model that been developed over a period of time that allows us to model farm level practices that actually relate to changes in emissions, and this is very, very unique and why we are so interested in helping consumer goods companies with huge supply chains,” Collins said.
Likewise, she said, because the system is automated and software for service it is much more affordable than working with consultants that often take on individual products versus an entire portfolio.
A personal touch
In addition to automating the platform and expanding the company’s team of climate scientists, Collins says she plans to build out Planet FWD’s customer engagement team so that as new customers come on board they receive the same high-touch experience as earlier adopters.
She explained: “We are really proud of the experience that our current customers have and we want to make sure that all our customers get that customer love.”