HomeInterviewsAccelerating the Net-Zero Transition: StepChange CEO Ankit Jain On Navigating Decarbonization Through Tech Innovation

Accelerating the Net-Zero Transition: StepChange CEO Ankit Jain On Navigating Decarbonization Through Tech Innovation

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During the interview, Ankit Jain, Co-founder & CEO of StepChange Earth, discussed how his company uses innovative strategies to help companies set net-zero targets that are realistic and achievable, as well as how it assists companies in navigating and adopting emerging technologies to accelerate their decarbonization efforts.

Read the complete interview:

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TechGraph: How does StepChange Earth assist companies in their transition towards achieving net-zero emissions? Could you elaborate on the specific programs or initiatives you have in place to support these companies?

Ankit Jain: Climate change is the single biggest challenge facing humanity today. Both Sidhant and I, given our backgrounds in the climate action space, realized that while several efforts are being made they are at this stage not at the pace or scale required to avert the severe consequences of climate change.

StepChange is the manifestation of this vision of creating a real large impact on the journey to Net-Zero emissions and accelerating that journey in the long run. A large part of our emissions come from power generation and industrial activities, where corporations have a pivotal role in creating the needed impact.

Most sectors and players alike need a reliable partner to help them reach their targets effectively and quickly, not in the next 30 years but sooner. So with the overarching goal of providing enterprises with sophisticated and effective climate decision-making tools, our offerings are divided into two categories.

ESG Accelerate which is our cloud-based sustainability platform: Helps companies measure, analyze and optimize their ESG performance, while simultaneously improving operational efficiencies and future-proofing their product and service offerings.

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This involves benchmarking ESG metrics, identifying emissions hotspots, setting achievable targets, tracking improvements, reporting ESG performance, complying with regulations, and communicating the benefits of their sustainability initiatives to their consumers via internationally-recognized science-based methodologies and intuitive cloud-based tools that integrate seamlessly into existing enterprise systems.

Our platform has been tested for scale to work with billions of data points across multiple silos in an organization such as Facilities Data, Financial Data, Travel Data, Transportation Data, Employee Data, Supply Chain Data, Production Data, and Training Data. It is supported by a suite of custom tools for product sustainability, supply chain sustainability, ESG goal setting & roadmap development, and finally intervention planning and program management.

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NetZero Portfolio, our other offering for financial institutions, is a comprehensive program designed to help financial institutions meet their NetZero goals.

We help them measure financed emissions with confidence, set net-zero targets aligned with SBTi, Receive tailored emissions reduction guidance (with quantified impacts) developed by our team of researchers & industry experts, improve loan-level sustainability and incorporate long-term scenario planning to de-risk their portfolio

TechGraph: Net-zero commitments have become a growing trend among businesses globally. What unique approaches or methodologies does StepChange Earth offer to help companies set realistic and achievable targets?

Ankit Jain: India tends to be consulting-heavy. We have effectively productized a lot of it allowing us to scale much faster and offer solutions at a much lower cost. We work with companies to create a thorough baseline of all relevant ESG metrics including Scope 3 emissions across all 15 categories. This is enabled by StepChange’s one of the largest India-specific carbon accounting databases, with over 75,000 emission factors for various products and services.

We also conduct automated benchmarking against all relevant national and international peers of each company. We then help triangulate where their baseline, their competition, and their materiality to set ambitious yet achievable targets backed by industry data and environmental science.

TechGraph: Collaboration and partnerships play a crucial role in addressing climate change. Can you provide examples of successful collaborations facilitated by StepChange Earth that have significantly helped companies towards net-zero emissions?

Ankit Jain: Collaboration is key to making progress in a NetZero world. We work closely with advisors from academic institutions like MIT, and Stanford and institutions like WWF to bring state-of-the-art climate science to our customers in India.

We also collaborate with solution providers, especially startups, to introduce them to our customers to drive specific interventions. We have helped companies with all types of interventions including rooftop solar, sustainable packaging, electric mobility, alternate materials, and more.

TechGraph: Implementing sustainable practices and transitioning to a net-zero future require substantial investments. How does StepChange Earth support companies in accessing financial resources or funding opportunities to facilitate this transition?

Ankit Jain: It is a misconception that sustainability requires financial resources or funding. The real challenge, especially for large enterprises is that only a small percentage of emissions are under their control, such as the fuel they burn or electricity usage. Almost 80-90% percent of their emissions are scope 3 emissions, which are outside their control. For most organizations, many opportunities reduce both costs and emissions.

A simple Work from Home policy for example can have a significant impact on a company’s Scope 3 emissions. However, it requires a cultural change in people’s work habits. To approach this systematically, StepChange has a large database of all potential interventions with their cost-benefit analysis. This allows organizations to pick which interventions make sense for them.

TechGraph: Monitoring and measuring progress is essential to any net-zero strategy. How does StepChange Earth help companies track and report emissions reduction efforts? Do you have any mechanisms in place to ensure transparency and accountability in this process?

Ankit Jain: StepChange encourages major corporations to initiate the shift towards net zero and contribute to the necessary changes. Here are some ways we help companies track and report emissions reduction efforts.

We support companies to set up organizational structures with business hierarchies and define role-based access for contributors, approvers, and management personnel. Track all updates and actions undertaken by users on the platform.

We help companies automate their ESG reporting needs in one place with compatibility with multiple global formats. One of the most important things we do is help companies with comprehensive Emission Calculations with Existing Data Streams such as Accounting and HRMS data.

For hard-to-collect data, we enable user-friendly distributed data collection, set up data validation and approval flows, and automate data aggregation and ESG metric calculations. And most importantly, we assist companies with tailored reduction insights to reduce their emissions and drive reduction initiatives to achieve their emissions targets.

TechGraph: In addition to reducing emissions, companies also need to address supply chain impact. How does StepChange Earth support companies in engaging and influencing their suppliers and partners to adopt sustainable practices and contribute to the net-zero agenda?

Ankit Jain: StepChange plays a crucial role in supporting companies in engaging and influencing their suppliers and partners to adopt sustainable practices and contribute to the net-zero agenda by providing tools, and frameworks that facilitate communication, monitoring, and evaluation of sustainability efforts throughout the supply chain.

This often includes mechanisms for assessing suppliers based on their sustainability performance. These assessments can evaluate various aspects such as carbon emissions, water usage, waste management, labor standards, and ethical sourcing. Regular monitoring allows companies to track progress and identify areas where suppliers can improve.

TechGraph: Net-zero targets often involve complex technological advancements and innovations. Does StepChange Earth provide any expertise or resources to help companies navigate and adopt emerging technologies that can accelerate their decarbonization efforts?

Ankit Jain: StepChange was built to address a critical need in the market: businesses lacked a reliable and effective way to navigate the complex landscape of sustainability and NetZero Transition.

  • We have over 10 dedicated climate researchers on our team to ensure that we bring state of science solutions for businesses to become sustainable and achieve their sustainability goals.
  • This includes for example one of the largest India-specific carbon accounting databases that we’ve built with over 75,000 emission factors for various products and services.
  • It also includes a giant database of LCAs that allows our customers to assess their SKUs within days.
  • And to go the final mile, StepChange also helps companies by conducting research and providing recommendations on emerging technologies and their potential applications in various industries. This assessment may include evaluating renewable energy options, energy-efficient technologies, carbon capture and storage solutions, and more.

TechGraph: It’s crucial to engage employees and foster a sustainability culture within companies. How does StepChange Earth assist organizations in developing internal initiatives and educational programs to raise awareness and empower employees in their net-zero journey?

Ankit Jain: StepChange has off-the-shelf training programs for management and teams that can be customized to an organization’s needs. These training programs help drive awareness around ESG and help employees understand how they can make a difference in their roles. We also have a mobile app that gamifies the NetZero journey which our customers use to ensure their employees become more sustainable.

TechGraph: Net-zero initiatives depend on effective policy frameworks and regulatory support. Does StepChange Earth actively engage with policymakers and advocate for supportive policies that help companies achieve their emission reduction targets?

Ankit Jain: We recognize the importance of effective policy frameworks and regulatory support in driving the transition to a net-zero economy. We help conduct research and analysis to identify gaps in existing policies and recommend solutions that align with their emission reduction targets.

We also provide policymakers with data-driven insights and recommendations to support the development of effective policies. The aim of actively engaging with policymakers is to influence policy development and advocate for measures that incentivize sustainable practices, encourage emissions reductions, and create a level playing field for companies committed to sustainability.

TechGraph: Looking ahead, what are StepChange Earth’s plans or key focus areas to further assist companies in their transition to a net-zero economy? Are there any new projects or partnerships on the horizon that you can share with us?

Ankit Jain: Our mission at StepChange is to accelerate the global transition to a NetZero economy. To drive this forward, it is necessary to 1) create incentives in the economy to become more sustainable and 2) support companies with the right interventions and decision-making tools to become more sustainable.

To enable the first phase, we are partnering with some of the largest banks in India to calculate their financed emissions and figure out how they can incentivize (through different lending terms) their portfolio companies to decarbonize. Secondly, we are working with many industry bodies and think tanks to drive awareness and build capacity among both enterprises and MSMEs.

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Krishna Mali
Krishna Mali
Founder & Group Editor of TechGraph.
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