The government’s recent plans to reduce carbon emissions 78% by 2035 are mainly based around structural changes to industries like energy and transport.
In order to hit those ambitious targets though the government acknowledges that consumers will have to do their bit reducing their own carbon emissions by watching how they eat, travel and spend.
One really interesting and innovative tool that consumers can do just this is Furthr. The London-based company has created an app that it says enables customers to ‘plant trees, sponsor renewable energy & reduce your own emissions from the comfort of your own phone.’
It is a subscription-based model and the fee goes towards funding reforestation and renewable energy projects. Yet at the same time Furthr makes the decarbonising fun and informative with advice on living more sustainable lives (it has a personalised carbon tracker) coupled with rewards and competitions.
Here Furthr’s co-founders Michael and Henry, explain how they came up with concept, what time of projects Furthr invests in and their plans to supercharge their impact.
What do you see as the key issue that Furthr is addressing?
The global population are becoming increasingly concerned about their impact on the environment. Whether their concern comes from the latest environmental documentary on Netflix or the influence of David Attenbrough we are seeing a real desire from people to be part of the fight against climate change. However, we’re learning that people aren’t always sure how they can help, which can lead people to feelings of helplessness and anxiety. People want high quality information on how they can reduce their negative impact and also need a way to mitigate any residual negative impact they have.
And how did you come up with the concept?
At the end of 2019, both of us (Michael and Henry, Furthr Co-founders) were engaged in a deep discussion about how we sometimes felt a bit anxious about our carbon footprint and our unavoidable negative impact. We wanted to come up with a consumer-friendly solution to remove this anxiety, and in so, create a new engine to inspire climate giving at scale. Originally we landed on a pure carbon offset subscription service with a monthly prize draw to attract as many people as possible. However, it soon became clear that we could also use this service to provide easy, engaging education on personal emissions reduction as well as climate giving.
How do you hope to make something that is a bit worthy – planting trees etc – sexy and interesting
For us there are two ways we make climate action sexy and interesting; gamification and tangibility. Gamification comes in the form of being able to win prizes every month as well as things like badges being unlocked when reaching a certain number of trees planted. We bring tangibility out with exact figures on people’s positive impact in their account area and personalised sustainability tips that show the exact reduction a certain action could have.
Explain what customers get from their subscription model? And why did you choose that route?
Our subscribers fund climate solutions and give back to the planet more than they take. They do this whilst learning how to reduce their own carbon footprint and winning prizes. Every month our subscribers:
Receive personalised sustainability advice
Offset carbon emissions
Plant protected trees
The subscription model enables ongoing action and a large impact over time, whilst the different elements of our subscription provide a fully comprehensive solution of not only funding critical climate solutions, but also ongoing environmental education.
And what would you say are the main motivations of your customers?
We’ve learnt that a lot of our customers have already made a lot of changes to their personal lifestyles to live more sustainably. A lot don’t eat meat, travel less and have changed energy providers for example. They feel they have reduced that impact but still have some residual emissions or eco-anxiety over their remaining negative impact. Their motivation to reduce their negative impact and be part of a bigger climate solution that goes beyond their own carbon reduction is what drives them to our service.
How do you choose the projects that you invest in?
It’s important to differentiate between the two types of projects we invest in; reforestation projects and renewable energy projects. Our renewable energy projects provide certified carbon offsets, whilst our reforestation projects provide a natural solution to the effects of climate change.
For our reforestation projects we partnered with the world renowned charity Eden Reforestation Projects and chose countries that have experienced huge rates of deforestation over the years. Eden Reforestation Projects is a world-leading reforestation charity, who have planted over 440 million trees across the world. As well as providing employment for local communities who will own the land and trees, each tree planted is always a native species to the region of the planting site, so we know that we are not bringing any invasive species into local ecosystems. These trees we plant with Eden bring a wealth of natural benefits: restoring habitat for local wildlife, providing protection against flooding, decreasing desertification & drought to name a few.
A true carbon offset has to be what is known as “additional”. This means that without funding from people like our subscribers the project wouldn’t be able to go ahead. In practice, this means that a lot of carbon offset renewable energy projects are in developing countries because the local economic conditions can’t sustain the projects without funding like ours. To prove that the projects we fund are “additional”, our projects are certified under both the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism and Gold Standard. Having this double layer of certification gives complete certainty that projects are preventing the carbon emissions they claim.
What plans do you have to expand what you are doing?
We’re currently expanding our service both across B2C and B2B markets. In B2C, we are just finishing up some tests with a new ad campaign, which is showing promising results and a clear route to scale our impact.
Excitingly, we are also seeing solid growth within our B2B market, having recently signed deals with among others a Times Top 100 employer to provide Furthr as an employee benefit and reduce corporate and personal emissions. We also now live on a number of employee benefit platforms to give employees at thousands of companies an easy way to take climate action.
Lastly we have plans that span both B2B and B2C. We are working to bring more amazing products into our prize draws that can help people to live more sustainable lives. However, the biggest plan we have is to raise capital over the summer to be able to supercharge our impact and bring our services to more people and businesses.