Earthly restores nature to reverse climate breakdown
“Accelerating investment into nature means not only showing businesses that it’s the right thing to do, but showing the commercial opportunity.”
Earthly drives investment into projects that focus not just on carbon, but also biodiversity and social impact. We sat down with CEO Oliver Bolton to learn more about their mission, and why they believe they can help reverse climate and ecological breakdown with nature.
OLIVER, CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR MISSION?
The climate goals for 2050 as set out by the Paris Agreement are very ambitious, and there’s a massive $500+ billion gap in funding to reach those goals. To date, 90% of the focus has been on carbon, but the biodiversity crisis is interlinked and can’t be ignored.
We focus on that larger story - getting funding to projects that not only remove carbon but also restore biodiversity, and improve the livelihoods of local communities like through access to healthcare or food security. Our mission is to close the nature funding gap, and help businesses remove at least 1 billion tonnes of carbon by 2030 through the protection and restoration of our planet.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO TAKE ON THIS MISSION?
My son was born when the IPCC’s 1.5 degrees report was released and every major newspaper ran the headline: “We have 10 years to defeat climate change.” I imagined a future conversation with him, when he would say to me, “You knew what was happening, you knew the severity. Why didn’t you do more?”.
At that time I was running a B Corp drinks business I was passionate about, but was frustrated with the lack of measurable impact. I wanted to create a company with impact at its heart. I committed to focus the rest of my working life tackling this challenge, so my children and future generations can have the same quality of life I have been lucky enough to have.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR CHALLENGES AND HOW YOU APPROACH THEM?
Accelerating investment into nature means not only showing businesses that it’s the right thing to do, but showing the commercial opportunity. We’ve zeroed in on two key challenges.
First, defining what it means to have a high quality, high integrity project. Projects today focus on carbon, but the biodiversity and social impact piece is still underrepresented. We developed a unique scoring system with 64 data points covering impact on everything from protecting endangered species to funding children’s education. It derisks our client’s investments and ensures that their money is going to the most impactful projects that speak to their company values.
Second, project investments are too abstract. Planting a million trees, protecting a thousand hectares - our brains aren’t set up to understand what that looks like. We developed a 3D tool in the form of an island visualization that shows what projects have been supported and flourishes as investments grow. It’s an emotive, engaging experience that helps customers understand the impact of their nature investments.
Reaching global climate goals requires a diversified approach. Unlike others, we’re building out a nature portfolio that matches the range of opportunities, including blue carbon projects in mangroves, kelp, and seaweed. These innovative projects are not yet certified - but encouraging our customers to diversify and invest in such projects means they will get the funding they need to get there.
WHAT KIND OF IMPACT HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO MAKE?
We’re tackling multiple SDGs, primarily 13 (Climate action), 14 (Life below water), and 15 (Life on land). On the climate action side we’ve planted 2 million trees across Spain, the UK, and Madagascar - helping businesses remove and avoid 100,000 tonnes of CO2e.
Our unique impact data and visualizations drive engagement such that one of our customers, a major European bank, reached their 25% project engagement goal in one month instead of the target six. They’ve since grown project investments 10x over the last 2 years. Driving that kind of impact investment growth is what it’s all about.
WHAT MADE YOU JOIN STARTUPS FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT? WHAT VALUE DID YOU GET FROM PARTICIPATING?
The affiliation with Google, and of course the funding the Startups for Sustainable Development program helped us secure, have been immensely valuable. Our business is based on trust - with our customers, and with investors. Having Google’s support builds trust, and investors take note.
The opportunity to get input and advice from expert Googlers across their various, often very niche, fields was incredibly appealing. That’s something no other program offers. We’ve spoken with dozens of Google advisors around the world, from UX feedback to drive conversions, to HR support in building unbiased, diversity-focused hiring practices, to help with our narrative during fundraising.
WHAT ARE YOU HOPING TO ACHIEVE IN THE COMING YEAR?
We’re on track for 2023 to remove/avoid 75,000+ tonnes of CO2e, plant 17 million trees, protect/restore 37,500 km2 of ecosystems, and improve 112,500 people’s livelihoods through access to healthcare, food security, and education.
We’re also working with the British Standards Institute’s effort to define a framework around nature based solutions, showcasing best practices for tracking and monitoring across different types of projects, which is targeted to evolve into an internationally recognised ISO standard.
By 2030 every company will have environmental impact and nature support at the core of their business, and we plan to help drive that future.
Thank you Oliver and Earthly for sharing with us their inspiring story of impact and their experiences participating in the Startups for Sustainable Development program.
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“The funding the Startups for Sustainable Development program helped us secure has been immensely valuable. Having Google’s support builds trust, and investors take note.”