S2 #3 'From Private Jets to Calculating Carbon - My Journey into Sustainability', with Sylwia Bodzon
Series 2 Episode 3
[00:00:00] James Gill: Hello. And welcome to the EcoSend Podcast. A weekly podcast on becoming a climate conscious business. Every week we'll be interviewing founders, marketers. And leaders who are championing the climate. The podcast is hosted by myself, James Gill co-founder and CEO of GoSquared and the makers of EcoSend.
[00:00:21] If you run a business or responsible for growing And you want to have a positive impact on the environment. Then listen, on every episode, our goal is for you to learn something and be inspired to take some action. Every single one of us making small changes and some knowledge changes will add up. We're all in this together. So let's get on with the show.
[00:00:43] Thanks so much for listening now. Let's meet today's guest.
[00:00:52] Hi there. Welcome to another episode of the EcoSend podcast. I'm James, and I'm the host. And this show is a weekly show all about building a more climate conscious business. We ourselves at EcoSend on that journey and this podcast is all about talking to other people and learning as much as possible from them.
[00:01:11] Each show's about half an hour, and hopefully in that half hour you. Educated in, inspired, and maybe even a bit entertained and and so hopefully you'll enjoy today's show and today. I am joined by Sylvia. Sylvia is a sustainability advisor and account executive at a startup called EIVEE where she helps businesses across the Nordic carbon emissions and report on their footprint.
[00:01:37] So I'm very excited to be speaking to Sylvia today. She has over 10 years of international sales marketing experience under her belt. However, she's spent the majority of it in the business aviation industry. So not the most climate friendly industry ever. I'm sure we'll get onto that.
[00:01:53] And working at startups as well as some fortune 100 companies. And now she has decided to move into the world of sustainability. So I'm keen to talk to you all about this. Sylvia, how are you doing today? Welcome to the show.
[00:02:05] Sylwia Bodzon: Thank you so much, James, for this introduction. I'm so excited to speak to you today about about that journey and about sustainability. It's something that's very close to my heart and yeah, really, really happy to be here.
[00:02:18] James Gill: Awesome. Thank you so much. Yeah, I feel like this is the first time I've spoken to someone in the aviation industry on the podcast or who has been in the aviation industry as far as I know. So I'm very keen to hear more about this. How did you go from that world, which I think all of us, anyone listening would think, 'gosh, that's one of the problems in the world', or when it comes to climate. To now in a world where you are trying to do something about the world of sustainability and climate. I'm keen here. Tell us all about that. It'd be great to hear.
[00:02:47] Sylwia Bodzon: Yeah, sure. Not your usual sustainability career path, I suppose. I actually started working in business aviation a little bit by accident. I was looking for an internship at a time and that, you know, it was a small company based here in Denmark, in Copenhagen, and I just decided to apply.
[00:03:07] Little did I know at that time it was very, very cool and exciting company that was dealing private jet operators or private jet owners you know, probably the 1% wealthiest people in the world. And I was working in a marketing capacity at that time.
[00:03:23] And then, over time we've been acquired by a Fortune 100, which was really exciting. And in general, it was a great career as a 20 something year old. You know, you're traveling the world. You are meeting great people, you're working with great technologies you're growing professionally. So it was an amazing time, amazing eight years of my career.
[00:03:47] James Gill: It does sound, it does sound pretty cool. I mean, it sounds like the true Instagram lifestyle from what I'm hearing.
[00:03:53] Sylwia Bodzon: Yeah, I'm also making it sound better than it at times. It was not all, you know, unicorns and rainbows, but it was really great from that perspective. But you know, at some point, and I think 2020 was the year for me to really reflect. And it's not like I was not reflecting on that prior to 2020, but I think we all had more time to just really ponder about, you know, what are we doing?
[00:04:19] And specifically in my case, I had a great life. I was living in New York City I was doing well. And I had, you know, a bright future in front of me. However, looking at everything that has been happening at that time, the earth being literally on fire, you know, with all the wild fires in California, Australia the Amazon and all the news regarding climate change was just so nerve wracking and, and just really alarming.
[00:04:48] It made me really question like, what am I doing? You know, why am I spending my energy in, in something that, maybe is not necessarily our top priority or shouldn't be our top priority, or at least not mine. And that's what really provoked the decision to just leave that behind and really start from scratch and shift my career to sustainability.
[00:05:10] Trying to use my skills, what I learned in business aviation and software sales in that industry to sustainability. And try to you know, add and contribute to that agenda.
[00:05:24] James Gill: Wow. Yeah. So really doing a bit of a, I guess they'd call it a 180 in terms of climate at least.
[00:05:30] So that must have been quite a daunting time then. So how did that look? You just thought stepping away from the private jets; no more. Now I'm gonna, get into the world of sustainability, but, did you have any thoughts on particularly where you wanted to get involved?
[00:05:47] Because I guess one of the challenges is there's so many places you could get involved and so many factors and problems to solve. How did you think about that?
[00:05:56] Sylwia Bodzon: It took me a while. So from, you know, leaving my job in, in New York and then I actually moved to Southwest of France for a couple of months.
[00:06:05] Together with my husband to just take a break and have some space to, first of all, rest after quite a stressful couple of years and then have some time to to reflect on what I wanna do next.
[00:06:19] So, another passion of mine is yoga and meditation. So that was a very intense time for me to meditate every day. I did my yoga teacher training as well, so I'm a certified class teacher. But also what it provided me with was just more clarity in terms of where I want to go.
[00:06:36] And as you said, there's just so many problems to solve. It coincided with us moving back to Denmark at that time. And I just started searching anything that would pique my interest. So I did not have any sophisticated methodology to do this, to be honest with you, being totally transparent.
[00:06:54] I just felt like I need to follow my gut a little bit and see what really speaks to me. And that's what happened. I just got in touch with with some startups and founders that were doing really cool things in the sustainability space. And I just tried to help there.
[00:07:10] I did a bit of consulting as well. And you know, it's really a humbling experience because when you change from an industry where you are pretty settled.
[00:07:18] If, you know, smooth sailing in a way. Of course there are always challenges and obstacles, but it is starting from scratch, so I'm not going to lie, it was not easy. It's very humbling and it's still to this day . It's like taking the easy way forward versus the difficult way forward. And I feel like I'm definitely, you know, I'm happy that I'm doing the right thing and I can look in the mirror every day and say, well, at least I'm doing what I believe I'm supposed to be doing.
[00:07:46] James Gill: Yeah. Looking in the mirror and hating what you're doing every day is probably not a great setup for life for anyone.
[00:07:52] Sylwia Bodzon: No!
[00:07:53] James Gill: Yeah. That's absolutely fascinating. And such a brave step to take. To be what you would call an expert and really senior in an industry to then go and reset and go back to the beginner.
[00:08:05] Takes a lot of , a lot of courage. So that is quite inspiring already to hear that. And so you mentioned that coincided with moving to Denmark, right? Was that would you say in Denmark then that, a bigger sort of narrative there around sustainability and climate than, I guess, in contrast to when you were back in over in New York? Did you find this, this sort of attitudes were dependent on the region where you were and also south of France as well? Did you find there was a difference when in those different areas you were in?
[00:08:37] Sylwia Bodzon: I think the Nordics in general are very much ahead, and very progressive when it comes to sustainability. And Copenhagen specifically is a big, big hub for sustainability and climate tech startups. And I wanted to work in a startup space as well, because I felt like, I used to work at a small company, and then I went into the corporate world, which I honestly really liked. I loved working in, in that corporation. But it just felt right to go the startup way again and to look into those opportunities because there's just so many fascinating companies and startups dealing with real, real problems. And I feel like the Nordics are definitely very much ahead of the game in certain aspects. Having that said, I think New York and, well, I think globally climate tech is by far the most trending and growing industry and space. If I'm not wrong climate tech is one of the only or very few industries in the startup world that venture capital has invested more last year. The trend is basically very, very positive because of the economical situation.
[00:09:45] Venture Capital has been a bit tricky but it's not the case for climate tech, so it's good to see. Good to see that, you know, this is something that not only makes sense for the climate, for the planet but it's becoming more of a financially sound career and also direction to take. And there is more support for initiatives.
[00:10:06] James Gill: Very interesting to point that out actually. Yeah. The last sort of six, twelve months in the world of VC funding and investment, it's definitely been a tough time and you only see it with the number of layoffs going on and the challenges companies have with trying to raise money.
[00:10:22] And compared to those huge boom times, a lot of people have gotten used to. And so yeah, to see climate tech maybe either not suffering as much or maybe even doing a different trajectory to the rest. That's very reassuring to hear, I think for the planet at large, I guess.
[00:10:40] Sylwia Bodzon: Yes!
[00:10:41] James Gill: So in terms of your journey now; you are in Denmark and I would say you're probably not a beginner anymore. You are now building up and becoming an expert in the new field. So talk to me about where you ultimately have decided to build your career and what you're up to?
[00:10:59] Sylwia Bodzon: Yeah. Super excited about you know what I'm doing now!
[00:11:03] I work as you mentioned in the intro as a sustainability advisor and account executive at a company called Ivy, where we help customers, you know, organizations to map their carbon emissions all across their supply chain. And this is a really, really interesting task because I was quite surprised, I have to say, how behind most organizations are when it comes to measuring their footprint. Because you hear about, you know, ESG reporting, sustainability reports you see them all over the place with pictures of happy people and you know, plants and I thought that this was all under control more or less.
[00:11:46] But then when I really got into it I saw how many gaps and how many challenges there are in terms of mapping your carbon footprint. In terms of actually knowing what to report on, how to report on it. There is not a lot of let's say guidance or regulations per se. I mean, there are regulations coming and there is a lot of progress when it comes to that.
[00:12:13] But to get to a quality carbon reporting you need years to get to a decent level. So it's definitely an evolution. And most companies I speak to and I speak to companies in in the maritime industry, retail, manufacturing companies, industrial companies and they need quite a bit of help with that still.
[00:12:36] James Gill: I see. Yeah, and and I can imagine the bigger the company, the more complexity there is and, and I guess there's also just, I know even as a smaller business, the number of options and questions that one has are almost infinite. Even if you have the right intentions, knowing where to start on this journey of figuring out what your carbon footprint is and what you can do about it it's a pretty daunting task.
[00:13:04] And that's with someone or a business that has the right intentions. So at least from your perspective, you are dealing with companies that are intending to do the right thing generally, or is it that they're being forced to by regulation or how does that play out?
[00:13:18] Sylwia Bodzon: It's actually both. Yeah, it's a mix I would say. There are companies who are very futuristic in their thinking. And they want to do the right thing, even if they're not required to do so, just because they believe this is the right thing to do. But definitely I think more and more companies realize that this is not only good for the planet, it's also good for business.
[00:13:41] James Gill: Mm.
[00:13:42] Sylwia Bodzon: Because it will become a metric. It is already a metric, a metric that companies are being evaluated upon when it comes to getting better financing, so-called 'green loans'. You have to be able to demonstrate what your emissions are today, and also plan for your reductions. Consumer. Are asking for this information more and more we wanna know what we are buying.
[00:14:05] Where does it come from? Businesses make decisions to produce in certain country countries that add to to the carbon footprint. So there's a lot of pressure also from investors who realize that there is value in sustainability. So there is a lot of forces at work to push businesses, to take it seriously.
[00:14:24] And I see that shift as we speak where, you know, a couple of months ago it was more of a conversation trying to convince people we really need to start thinking about this. And now it's more, okay, we know we need this how do we? So there is definitely a progress there, which is great to see. But you know it's still the beginning, I would say.
[00:14:46] James Gill: Yeah, no, I'm intrigued then as well, are you mostly dealing with companies in the Nordics then, or is this a more global thing? Because I can imagine the attitudes for businesses vary wildly around the world. Hopefully they're generally going in the right direction, but, do, you deal with many companies outside of the Nordics?
[00:15:08] Sylwia Bodzon: Yeah, it's mostly within the Nordics and it was a very intentional decision for two reasons. One as you mentioned, the Nordic tend to be quite ahead when it comes to their sustainability aspirations, and also awareness. That's number one. Number two the way we work at EIVEE is really a combination of technology to help to automate some of your reporting to take advantage of AI and, and making sure that we actually help you save time and resources by mapping your carbon footprint.
[00:15:40] But we also are very strong in human expertise, so we don't rely exclusively on technology to map your baseline and map your reductions. We actually have a team of experts that work on every single case. And we have a project manager to manage all this. So it's a collaboration, it's a partnership between the customer and EIVEE.
[00:16:01] And for that reason our expansion is very gradual because we would rather do it right and do it with quality than, you know, opening it up to to global clients. But I'm sure this is going to be you know, the plan eventually, but first we want to make sure that we keep our customers happy and we do it right and we make sure that they avoid any risk because the last thing we want to do is to report numbers that might be not quite accurate. And then the repercussions are obviously very, very severe.
[00:16:32] James Gill: For sure, I'm fascinated then by, at a more practical level, how does it look and do you have any examples of the types of businesses coming in and how you even go about, you know, everyone talks about measuring their carbon footprint and whether that's as an individual or a business, but how do you do that and, how do you help a business go about doing that? And how, how do you get from having no idea to being confident in some sort of measurement?
[00:17:00] Sylwia Bodzon: Yeah. Very good question. So , there are actually three different methods that you can address this challenge with. According to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol the first method is maybe a little bit surprising, but it is based on companies spend. Essentially whatever you buy has a carbon footprint.
[00:17:20] So it's our job to help you identify what are the emissions of each purchase that you make as a company. So we would take all of your procurement data, map it with carbon emission factors from a specific environmental database, run it through our our solution, our software solution, and then also validated coming back to that human expertise factor in work with the customer to validate it Now, if you think about it, it's not the most detailed and quality way to address your carbon footprint because it is based on well, the dollar value or the euro value of what you're buying. So for example, if you are a business let's say you're a restaurant and you buy, let's say, 10 chairs worth that much of 1000, 2000 euros, whatever that might be. We will map what you spent. So that 2000 euros, let's say, to a carbon emission factor. So it really depends. And of course the carbon emission factors take into account the material, you know, the origin of your purchase. But it's more of an estimate. It's not the most granular way to address it, but what it really is, and that's also our philosophy at EIVEE, in order to be able to identify where you need more granularity, you need to know your baseline and smart based method really helps you to see. Usually you can map 80% of your emissions based on spend. And that allows you to pinpoint, 'okay here, in those areas we might need a bit more granularity.'
[00:19:02] We need input that's more specific, and that's what we call activity based accounting, which is based on the volume of what you're buying. So then we would, those chairs, for example, we would take the wood and the weight of that wood and basically the parameters that relate to that exact object that you buy. As you can probably imagine this data is much more difficult to get your hands on. It is tricky. Usually your scope one and scope two, you will definitely do them according to the activity based accounting because you know how many kilowatts of electricity you're purchasing or how much fuel you're using to distribute your goods, for example.
[00:19:43] So there are certain areas that are almost a no-brainer to use activity-based accounting. As of now, it's really yeah, it's case by case I would say. And it requires quite a bit of insight and analysis to do it that way. And the third method, and that's the most I would say accurate one. Most people assume, well, if I need to know what I'm buying and the carbon footprint of my purchases, I will just ask my suppliers. They should have that data. They should be able to tell me how much emissions is in that product that I'm buying from.
[00:20:20] The truth is, the reality is that most of your suppliers will not have that data, they're simply, they're simply not ready. They haven't done that exercise for the most part. It's very rare. And also just the fact that, you know, you as a company you are just starting this exercise today.
[00:20:38] So it's very unlikely that, that you will have a lot of the data provided by your suppliers. It's definitely , it's a work in progress..
[00:20:47] James Gill: That's actually fascinating to to hear those. So it almost to me sounds like there's, it's almost like if you're painting a picture, you've got the very rough pencil outline with the spend based and then you're filling in some of the details with the activity based and then all of the details and finer grain bits with the supplier based.
[00:21:08] Sylwia Bodzon: Love that analogy, by the way. I might steal it!
[00:21:10] James Gill: Yeah, Go ahead. Go ahead! But yeah, it's so fascinating though to hear that and, as over time, then more businesses will do this. A lot of those businesses are suppliers and so hopefully we get more and more supplier based reporting and accounting and that makes everything easier.
[00:21:26] Sylwia Bodzon: That's the expectation for the spend based method to go away eventually. It's not the most granular one for sure. But that's, we have to work with what we have. That's the reality.
[00:21:36] James Gill: See, I see. And that's great. So I'm keen to hear, I guess, you know, I, I feel like we've already got so much time with this, this episode. Like where's the time gone?
[00:21:46] Sylwia Bodzon: Sorry I talked too much,
[00:21:47] James Gill: No, no, no! It's actually we're just getting into really fascinating stuff here. So I guess there's one question, where are businesses struggling the most at the moment? Like out of all those steps on that journey, are there any particular pitfalls or areas where they're finding it toughest?
[00:22:06] Sylwia Bodzon: Yeah, I think the first challenge we kind of covered with, you know, the data quality or the challenge of just that data doesn't exist yet, right? So the quality data that you're looking for is still to be collected and provided. So that's definitely a challenge and you have to find ways to map your emissions and come up with your planning reduction initiatives based on the data that you do have today. Of course, there are ways to enhance it, and that's also what we do to get you to the highest level of quality in your reporting. So that way you can be, first of all, compliant. And second of all, you can actually plan reduction initiatives.
[00:22:49] James Gill: Sure.
[00:22:50] Sylwia Bodzon: And I think that's also another challenge. I feel like businesses spent so much time on measuring their carbon footprint because it is very, very time consuming and it requires a very diverse set of expertise. Because what we see oftentimes is someone who works in HR or marketing or project management. All of a sudden they they get that responsibility to report on sustainability. And it is a big, big job. It's really not just plug and play. It's a lot of manual work today. If you decide to do it on your own as a company, it's lots of time, very much sensitive to error .
[00:23:29] So it's easy to make mistakes unintentionally. So I think businesses struggle with that notion of this being very time consuming. There is not a lot of awareness of what it actually takes to get to compliant reporting.
[00:23:46] James Gill: Right. Yeah .
[00:23:47] Sylwia Bodzon: The data is very, very elusive.
[00:23:50] So it's not easy to get to get ahold of data that you require for compliance reporting. And speaking of compliance, that's also very very complicated to navigate different regulations. There is a new regulation coming from the EU called, called the Corporate Sustainability D irective.
[00:24:07] And it's going to require companies to report on scope one, two, and three starting 2024.
[00:24:14] James Gill: Not long. That's not long.
[00:24:16] Sylwia Bodzon: Yeah, especially if you think about this can take easily a year. So it's really it's time to not, not even start thinking about it. It's time to take action on it and, and get your reporting ready.
[00:24:27] James Gill: I see that. Yeah, absolutely, gosh. There are quite a few challenges, but it's all worth it ultimately; you got to figure out this stuff before you can really deliberately and confidently act on doing something about it.
[00:24:41] Sylwia Bodzon: I think, you know, and I'm also an example of that. I think people who work in sustainability and who choose that career path, they're in this job because they want to make a difference. They want to drive impact. They want to actually show, look, we managed to reduce our emissions by, you know, 50%. Here's how we did it. Now we use renewable energy for all of our operations. We use sustainable fuel, whatever that might be. Right. So this is all action, action, action. Impact. But what ends up happening is that these people spend their days doing Excel spreadsheets and doing all the tasks that are not very inspiring and not very productive in a way. Because there are ways to do it a little bit more efficiently and finding partners that can help you on that journey.
[00:25:32] So then you can actually do a cool job of making a difference.
[00:25:36] James Gill: Yeah. Having the impact. Yeah going back to what we were talking about earlier, looking in the mirror every morning and deciding whether you're happy with what you're doing. Don't personally find spending my day in Excel is one of those days where I'm excited to go to work.
[00:25:49] So, Yeah, I'm intrigued then. Hopefully Excel doesn't feature too heavily in this next part. But my final question would be, what does the future look like? And, and hopefully it's not all an Excel spreadsheet , what do you see? Yeah. How do you see the industry changing, the world evolving over the coming years?
[00:26:08] Sylwia Bodzon: Perfect, perfect segue, James. Well we are going to spend much less time in Excel spreadsheets, that's for sure!
[00:26:16] James Gill: Okay. That's good. I'm all here for that.
[00:26:18] Sylwia Bodzon: Yeah, I think personally I think AI, and I know everybody talks about AI these days, but it's because it's so revolutionary. And I think it's going to definitely have a big impact in sustainability and in reporting.
[00:26:33] So today, all those methods that I explained, which are kind of time consuming, they're not perfect. They are evolving. I think in the future we are going to automate a lot of those activities. So for example, instead of getting those numbers about your fuel consumption from a specific company, there will be sensors installed on, on the cars or tracks that will automatically feed data into your digital solution that allows you to track that and that could be applied to virtually anything. So very much 'IOT' 5G, 6G, whatever you want to call it based on self-reporting, in a way thanks to AI. So a lot of that time that's now very much admin is going to go away and is it is going to be automated.
[00:27:21] And I know it's also, it's kind of, it's great, but it's also a little bit scary to think about. But I do think that's where we are going. And having in mind the importance of sustainability for our sake really I think it's going to be that reporting is going to be as important as financial reporting.
[00:27:40] And we are already seeing trends when it comes to that. I just saw a post about new jobs being created in the ESG space that are very similar to the financial space. So like ESG controller.
[00:27:54] Your ESG practices and calculations and reporting.
[00:27:57] So definitely it's going to be on par with financial reporting, if not even, you know, more important in certain cases.
[00:28:06] James Gill: Wow. I feel like it's like looking into the future, it's actually quite fascinating to hear your thoughts on that and, and how things can change and hopefully over time it makes it easier for businesses to ultimately do the right thing and to be very transparent about it.
[00:28:20] Sylwia Bodzon: I may add one thing, because I wouldn't be comfortable
[00:28:22] James Gill: Please do.
[00:28:23] Sylwia Bodzon: if I didn't add something about aviation. Because I think
[00:28:27] James Gill: Bring it full circle. Yeah.
[00:28:28] Sylwia Bodzon: Yeah. I think the latest developments when it comes to sustainable aviation fuel are very, very exciting. So basically cutting your emissions by using Fuel that's made out of biomass or waste or oil, leftover oil.
[00:28:46] And this is happening already. It's just a question of price and supply. These are the challenges, but if we can allow for more green travel and less guilt. I don't know about you, but I tend to feel guilty when I take a flight. So I'm trying to to limit that as much as possible.
[00:29:03] But you know, it's not going to be as much of an issue moving forward if we manage to make aviation a little bit greener. Also with electric propulsion vehicles and electrifying some of at least local travel.
[00:29:17] Trans-Atlantic travel is still going to be a challenge to electrify. I don't think we have the technology, but the fuel, the green fuel, sustainable fuel is something that really, really excites me and I hope it's going to be a standard.
[00:29:29] James Gill: Yeah absolutely. What an exciting next few years, it's going to be, hopefully only a few years. We'll see how long it takes, but wow. Thank you so much, Sylvia. I feel incredibly inspired and motivated after this chat. I I guess, did you have any where you would point people to?
[00:29:46] I guess if someone's looking to learn more about how to measure their carbon footprint, you would have one place to go, which would be EIVEE
[00:29:56] Sylwia Bodzon: Yeah well that's definitely my go-to. And I would definitely recommend checking out EIVEE and what we what we do, how we help companies with that. The name of the company spelled a little bit you know, in a, in a interesting way. So it's EIVEE spelled. E like Echo. I like India, V as in Victor, and double E.
[00:30:19] It's just to make it more fun. If someone wants to check it out, they will, they'll find a way. So it's EIVEE.io.
[00:30:25] James Gill: Great, and we'll link that in the show notes as well. So thank you Sylvia, and if you want to connect, LinkedIn probably the best and we'll pop that in the show notes too. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Sylwia. It's been an absolute pleasure to have you on the show.
[00:30:39] Hopefully there's many business leaders and people listening who are now a little bit more sure of what to do next in terms of going on there, common footprint, measurement journey, and doing something about it. So it's been great to chat. I'm excited for the future. Thank you to everyone for listening.
[00:30:56] Thank you, Sylwia. Thank you