The Center for Data Innovation spoke with Gautam Bakshi, co-founder and head of product and engineering at 15Rock, an end-to-end climate analytics platform based in Toronto. Bakshi discussed how companies can use insights from climate analytics to uphold their commitments and predict the financial impact of climate transition plans.
Morgan Stevens: What was your goal in founding 15Rock?
Gautam Bakshi: Our mission is to positively impact climate change. At current rates, we risk reaching a four to five degree increase in global temperatures. This affects more than just the weather—it can cause geopolitical risks and human migration from inhospitable regions. At 15Rock, we’re combining finance, technology, and data to contribute to the fight against climate change and help solve these problems. Specifically, 15Rock’s goal is to enable companies to use climate analytics to limit global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, which corresponds to reducing global annual CO2 emissions from around 40 gigatons per year in 2018 to net zero by 2050.
In this effort, 15Rock’s netZero transition reporting assists investors and companies in tracking, reporting, and monitoring specific activities related to emissions creation. We integrate climate analytics and data into companies’ and investors’ existing processes to inform asset allocation decisions at an executive level.
Stevens: How does 15Rock help companies and investors have a positive environmental impact?
Bakshi: 15Rock’s platform enables businesses to uphold their commitments, for the climate and for corporate responsibility. We collect data, incorporate it with various alternative datasets, and create financial models for each customer. For example, to predict the financial impact of a carbon transition plan, we determine a company’s current carbon emissions, predict their carbon emissions if they enact a transition plan, and calculate the dollar value between the two outcomes. This helps companies price the value of changes like making their buildings solar-powered, and can help determine which courses of action to take.
Stevens: What types of data does 15Rock leverage to provide insights to its customers?
Bakshi: 15Rock uses a combination of public and private data to provide insights. Our platform uses investor behavior, consumer behavior, and geospatial data, as well as data collected from sensors and a variety of other public sources. We then enrich that with companies’ private disclosures. This in turn creates a flywheel where we can refine public data and models with private information. We’re essentially connecting companies’ carbon emissions with their actual plans to reduce them.
The combination of both private and public data has been a boon for some companies and an annoyance for others. For the former, the combined data is a benchmark for their efforts to become more environmentally friendly. For the latter, it’s a reminder that their public promises, climate pledges, and marketing campaigns have outpaced their actual efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. The data serves as a measure of accountability in these situations.
Stevens: What role do you expect cleantech companies to play in helping address climate change?
Bakshi: Cleantech firms will serve a critical role in leading the fight against climate change. However, while cleantech companies may start the process, every business should work towards integrating cleaner technologies into their operations. Companies can’t rely on cleantech firms to take care of their clean energy needs and then continue with business as usual. Instead, I think there’s going to be more of an integrated approach where managers and employees in every job will play a role in positively impacting climate change.
Unfortunately, at the moment, most employees don’t have that level of empowerment. In companies with thousands of employees, the power to implement clean technologies is concentrated at the top levels. Part of this is caused by a timing mismatch. The generations who will most experience the effects of climate change and are determined to fight it are the least empowered to do so, while the generations who can decide upon climate friendly operations will face the least consequences from climate change. This will change as younger generations assume more power in the workplace. So, while cleantech firms will lead the way in pursuing climate friendly goals, companies and workers in other industries should begin to do more soon.
Stevens: How do you hope to improve climate analytics in the future?
Bakshi: Increasing societal engagement will be key to improving climate analytics. We want to heavily engage our user base, regardless of whether our users are the CEO of a major company or young students. Many people think they cannot solve climate change unless they have a PhD in climate science but that’s not true. Everyday, we receive messages from users from all sorts of backgrounds with great ideas. We use their ideas to learn more about our user base and how we can make it easier for people to incorporate our platform into their everyday lives.
The industry is evolving daily and we work closely with industry leaders, academic institutions, and more to ensure we are always on the cutting edge. We believe to create a positive impact on climate change, everyone needs to work collaboratively.
There is no single winner in climate change, we all win or all lose as a planet.