This article was published on June 6, 2023

This AI-powered carbon tracker is fighting corporate greenwashing

Berlin-based Plan A is bringing accountability into carbon accounting


This AI-powered carbon tracker is fighting corporate greenwashing

This article features an interview with Lubomila Jordanova, founder and CEO at Plan A. Jordanova will be speaking at TNW Conference, which takes place on June 15 & 16 in Amsterdam. If you want to experience the event (and say hi to our editorial team!), we’ve got something special for our loyal readers. Use the promo code READ-TNW-25 and get a 25% discount on your business pass for TNW Conference. See you in Amsterdam!

In 2016, on a surfing trip in Morocco, Lubomila Jordanova experienced a serendipitous moment that would redirect the course of her life. That moment came not in the barrel of a wave, but on shore.  

“Looking around I noticed litter everywhere. I ended up spending that week cleaning the beach and, in the process, I realised I had basically no knowledge about pollution and climate change,” the Bulgarian entrepreneur tells TNW. “So after my trip, I embarked on a one-year journey to educate myself.”

At the end of that year, Jordanova quit her corporate job as an investment banker to forge a path as a climate tech entrepreneur. “I think it was an incredibly irrational decision,” she says. “I was working for a really successful fintech company at a time when the sector was exploding.”

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But Jordanova was convinced that she had a moral obligation to dedicate her skills and knowledge to the climate cause. In 2017, she founded Plan A — an AI-powered carbon accounting tool that helps corporates measure, reduce, and report on CO2 emissions. 

“I was basically on my own,” she says. “Climate tech wasn’t even a thing at that time, and I had no experience as an entrepreneur. I learnt a lot in those first two years, lessons that are now helping me succeed as a founder and CEO.”  

Lubomila Jordanova, founder and CEO at Plan A. Credit: Nadine Stenzel

Out of the plethora of climate tech solutions, Jordanova chose carbon accounting because she believed that companies were lacking the necessary tools to precisely quantify their environmental impact, thereby impeding progress towards a more sustainable economy. 

The “key magic” behind the platform, says Jordanova, is an algorithm that gathers up to 20 million data points each month and automatically prescribes a list of actions a company must take to reduce its footprint. These actions include improving energy efficiency, sourcing goods from more sustainable suppliers, and, particularly for financial institutions, making climate-friendly investments. 

Jordanova has assembled a 100-strong team of leading climate scientists and developers to design and run the platform, which looks to make carbon accounting more accurate, robust, and, well, accountable.  

So far Plan A has been adopted by the likes of BMW, Deutsche Bank, N26, and the European Commission. The company does not, however, work with coal or oil and gas firms.   

Carbon accountability

As the world warms, pressure is mounting on corporations to decarbonise. But measuring a company’s footprint is far from straightforward. The fragmented and non-standardised nature of carbon accounting methods hampers accurate measurement and transparency in tracking corporate emissions.

Moreover, most companies in the EU, other than the largest ones, are not required to report on scope 3 emissions — which includes all indirect emissions outside a business’ purview, like those of suppliers. This scope, however, typically represents the largest chunk of a company’s total emissions.  

Failure to report scope 3 emissions, therefore, gives an incomplete measurement and may encourage greenwashing, says Jordanova. “When companies market their goods as sustainable without fully accounting for their emissions, they risk deceiving the consumer and furthering unsustainable consumption patterns,” she says. 

Fast fashion companies, for instance, have come under fire in recent years for falsely labelling products as ‘recyclable’ or ‘sustainable’ while masking the true impact of these products across the supply chain.   

“Climate risk is business risk.

Inaccurate carbon accounting isn’t just an enabler for greenwashing either; it can also squander genuine corporate efforts to decarbonise. Without accurate measurements, businesses cannot accurately reduce emissions or accurately report these reductions to customers, partners, and shareholders.     

“We want to turn carbon accounting from corporate headache to actionable opportunity,” says Jordonova.       

By automating the process with AI, Plan A looks to eliminate the human error associated with manual carbon accounting methods, which often rely on spreadsheets and manual calculations. All data is traceable in the platform, in an effort to improve transparency and accuracy.   

Importantly, the platform is aligned with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the international standard for carbon accounting, as well as the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), which provides decarbonisation targets based on the goals of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to well below 2°C above preindustrial levels.  

For Jordanova, transparent and accountable carbon accounting aligned with the best science simply makes business sense. “Climate risk is business risk, and anyone who ignores the writing on the wall will get left behind,” she says. 

While there is still a long way to go on the path to a net-zero economy, Jordanova is optimistic about the future. “I feel like things are bubbling,” she says. “There is a lot of excitement in this space and businesses we work with are showing a genuine interest in changing their practices. Let’s hope that momentum builds even further.”

Lubomila Jordanova is one of many tech luminaries speaking at TNW Conference on June 15-16. Use the promo code READ-TNW-25 and get a 25% discount on your business pass for TNW Conference.

  

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