INTERVIEW WITH AVERY MICHAELSON, CEO, UCAPTURE
Q. Tell us about UCapture. How will it help the planet and where do you see yourself a year from now?
UCapture is a green-tech platform that combats climate change, for free, when users shop online.
We have developed a simple browser extension that activates at over 5,000 online retailers, and funds carbon offset projects like reforestation and methane capture at no extra cost to our users. As such, UCapture captures the “cost of carbon” in a win-win-win for consumers, companies and the planet.
Our technology works automatically once installed, making it easy for anyone to adopt. It also provides coupon codes, so users can save money. In this way, UCapture addresses the 3 main problems limiting individuals from acting on climate change:
Nobody wants to pay for it. UCapture is free.
People are reluctant to change behaviour. UCapture is easy.
People require incentives. UCapture saves you money.
We made a lot of progress in 2018 on solidifying the performance of our technology and proving our usefulness as a sustainability tool for institutional partners. In 2019, we hope to accelerate our efforts on all fronts, including the release of our mobile app in the first half of the year, and forging relationships with new businesses and environmental organisations.
We were recently selected for the Startupbootcamp Energy Australia Accelerator Program, which will be a big boost for our growth ambitions.
Q. In the UK alone, people conduct over 1.5 billion internet searches a month. How much of this traffic are you hoping to capture?
UCapture has already partnered with over 5,000 stores – covering all types of consumption from travel and clothing, to website hosting and online dating. While it’s difficult to pinpoint what percentage of online shopping this represents, I can tell you our ambition is to continue expanding the range of opportunities consumers have to support the environment when they shop.
This will not only mean adding additional online partners, but with the lease of our mobile app, we will rapidly begin adding real-world opportunities for UCapture users to offset CO2. This will range from partnerships with restaurants, bars, concerts and events, as well as transportation opportunities such as ride-hailing services.
We recognise that all forms of consumption, whether done online or in-person, have a carbon footprint. UCapture intends to continue inserting the “cost of carbon” into consumption in a way that works for businesses, not against them, with the end goal of being nearly universal in consumer-driven transactions.
Q. How can UCapture support environmental organisations?
Environmental organisations need powerful tools to fight climate change. These same organisations compete for funding in a crowded non-profit sector. Fortunately, UCapture provides organisations a free way to increase their environmental impact and generate a long-term source of financing for their own operations just by engaging their community to our climate change solution.
It’s quite simple. Environmental organisations can create a UCapture Program for their members, followers and anyone else to join here.
As a result:
The carbon offsets generated by an organisation’s UCapture Program are tracked so the group can quantifiably track its environmental impact.
UCapture donates 5% of all revenue generated by the program directly to the organisation to help fund its own operations.
In this way, by building a community of UCapture users, an organisation can generate meaningful carbon emissions reductions, while also creating a long-term revenue stream to support their own sustainability initiatives.
Q. How does your platform help companies meet their emissions pledges?
Many companies have publicly committed to reduce their carbon footprint or “go carbon neutral”. This will require them to take dramatic actions and incur significant costs. In most cases, in order to meet emissions pledges, carbon offsets will be needed.
Unfortunately, most businesses lack the budget or corporate backing to make large carbon offset purchases. For these companies, UCapture is an efficient and economical solution to reduce the company’s carbon footprint just by engaging employees and customers to our green-tech platform.
UCapture works with Corporate Sustainability Offices and motivated employees to deploy simple on-site and online engagement strategies. The carbon offsets generated by a company’s UCapture Program are officially retired in the company’s name, reducing its corporate carbon footprint. As such, companies can use UCapture to make progress on their sustainability goals without spending their CSR budget on carbon offsets.
Q. Every Google search comes at a cost to the planet. In processing 3.5 billion searches a day, Google accounts for about 40% of the internet’s carbon footprint. Our collective appetite for digital services has meant that the data centres that power them are responsible for about 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, a similar share to aviation.
Given the circumstances, it sounds as though the practical and philosophical validity of carbon offsets as a solution depends on scalability? We would need to constantly offset our carbon footprints not just on a corporate but personal level in order to make a difference. Is that the case?
You’re correct that technology is responsible for a very large and growing share of the global carbon footprint. However, rather than single out one segment of our carbon emissions, I think it’s important to think holistically about the costs and benefits of consumption as well as the solutions we can deploy to mitigate the costs.
By this I mean, we know consumption has a carbon footprint, but at the same time it also brings happiness to individuals and economic growth to society. It is the negative externality of consumption – primarily the “cost of carbon” – that must be addressed.
We believe both individuals and institutions should strive for carbon neutrality. This means reducing their carbon footprint as much as possible through responsible consumption practices and other behaviors, coupled with offsetting the remainder by obtaining an appropriate amount of carbon offsets.
Q. Let’s talk about your users. How would you define them? Would you categorise them as ‘innovators’, are you at the early adoption phase or has your user base expanded beyond that?
Our current users are definitely early-adopters!
I give them a lot of credit for trying out a new technology, from a company they may not have heard of, to address a problem that can sometimes feel quite intangible.
We’ve been thrilled by the positive response from our user base. Many users are eager to share the platform with their friends, using the social media tools we’ve built into user’s accounts.
Fortunately – given that UCapture is completely free, easy to use, and saves users money – we expect a broad segment of society will be willing to give us a try; especially as concern about climate change continues to reach new heights.
I’ve even had a climate change skeptic liken UCapture to a high-tech version of Pascal’s Wager, “I may not believe in climate change, but what do I have to lose by installing UCapture?” Answer – nothing. He joined.
Explore the UCapture extension