5 Questions with Betty Cremmins

November 3, 2020

Ariel Lozovsky

Betty Cremmins is Lead at 1t.org, North America, an initiative of the World Economic Forum, and Strategy Advisor to SINAI.

1.  Tell us about your career so far, and how you landed in sustainability. 

So my pathway into corporate sustainability -- I guess I kind of got lucky. I was always into what I was calling practical environmentalism. So I always cared about the environment, really wanted to work to protect it, but really wanted to find a way to not just complain about problems, but to actually drive practical solutions to those problems. And when I was sort of in college in the early 2000s, corporate sustainability was not really a thing, but green building was sort of coming on the radar. And that seemed like a way to build houses for people that were energy efficient and healthy and promoted better transportation options. And all of that sort of encapsulated all of the great ways that you could be productive, but also protecting the environment. So right out of college, I worked for Habitat for Humanity for a while, building affordable green building homes in New York City and also across the country and then around the world. And that was my first sort of foray into how to be a both practical environmentalist. And then what I also called a professional volunteer. I wanted to do things that were volunteer roles, that did good things for the world, but actually get paid to do it. And so ever since then, I've sort of been seeking ways to bring those two together.

2.  What do you think keeps companies from taking the next step in their carbon journey? 

I cannot count the number of times I've had the ‘what are greenhouse gases’ conversation with a company. I've literally had a company say, ‘but we don't have any greenhouses’.

I think it boils down to sort of three areas of reluctance or resistance or just inertia we have to overcome. The first is around the data itself. When we start to talk about greenhouse gases and greenhouse gases, it's a whole new vernacular. We're not used to accounting for carbon emissions and removals and avoided emissions and net emissions. And it just gets complicated and techie really fast. Which is really why I love SINAI, because it puts it in dollar amounts. It takes the environmental issue, but puts it in a language that the company already understands and is already using to be able to manage the environmental impact. 

Now, even if you told me after all these years that your greenhouse gas footprint was two hundred thousand million metric tons, I don't know if it's good or bad, I have no basis of understanding these numbers. So I think having the data be comparable is the second area of issue is, even if you are able to calculate your greenhouse gas footprint, you find all your energy bills and your fuel bills and you ask all your suppliers for their data and you actually calculate your greenhouse gas footprint, what does that mean? I think we need better tools for benchmarking and understanding and showing progress over time, progress compared to peers' progress compared to your own targets and your projections.

Then the third area is, if the government's not demanding this, there is a resistance from any companies, especially legal teams and companies, to disclose data that you're not being asked for. We call it like non financial metrics or ESG environmental social governance metrics. We just forgot to put a dollar amount on the environmental things that we all generate profit from or cause impact on. And so as we can again add financial metrics onto these things and make it legally required to be calculating and disclosing and managing them, that will drive just so many more companies to take action.

Finally, I mean, let's face it. Most companies are still using Excel to calculate their footprint, which I was thinking about the other day, and I was like - imagine if you were having to take a road trip and were using paper maps. I mean, can you imagine not using Google Maps?

Here in the Bay Area we rely on software to know exactly where the fire zones are, where the traffic is, and so on -- we  manage our world in real time. You need to be managing this stuff, & not just in real time, but projecting out into the future. What business does things so important in Excel at this stage? So I think there are increasingly numbers of some tools sort of supporting companies in calculating their footprint or setting a science based target or in identifying renewable energy investments or other investments we can make. I think there's some piece meal tools out there. There's also the climate risk tools. But I think we need a whole lot more to be able to support a sort of a holistic journey for companies and to make sure that it works for all sectors. 

3.  What are companies that are knocking sustainability out of the park doing right?

Well, a lot. Well, so they're transparent. Let's look first right there. They're measuring or managing or reporting reducing their emissions or they're managing the data, but it goes way beyond that. I would say the best practice companies are not just taking this as a one-off thing like, every year they disclose their data and that's their sustainability strategy, where they create a website and they put out a flashy report and that's it. They're actively managing that [sustainability strategy] throughout the year. 

So, the best analogy is people are like, oh, yeah, I have a wellness plan. I go to the doctor and get my annual checkup. That's not your health plan.

You have to like exercising, eating healthy mental health, all these other issues. But you also have to not just be sort of following the plan. It has to make sense for your lifestyle. So they're doing all the right things throughout the year, but contextualized within their lifestyle based on where they live, how they work with their family looks like, et cetera. I think the same thing goes for greenhouse gases and climate strategy. The best companies are calculating scope 1, 2 & 3 but then they're managing them in a way that makes sense for their business.They're engaging their suppliers and finding procurement levers and ways to not only incentivize suppliers to take action, but actually encouraging suppliers, providing cool new collaborative ways to be working together on sustainability so they can invest in renewables or new products and services or new materials. 

 4.  Tell us about your work at 1T.org

So 1T.org is the Trillion Trees initiative. It was launched by the World Economic Forum at Davos earlier this year with the goal to conserve, restore, and grow a trillion trees over the coming decade. And it's in service to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which kicks off in January of 2021, and is meant to an all hands on deck effort to restore ecosystems. You know, we have the president of the United States, we have the Girl Scouts, we have companies, we have cities, we have other civil society groups. Everybody loves trees. And I think especially in COVID times, we all are really connected to our local nature. We also realize how interconnected we are across the entire planet. And so it comes at a really great time to really focus on trees. 1T is really trying to sort of bring the community together. We realize that we can't solve this issue alone, and there are all sorts of collaborations that we can build. We're bringing together companies who have things like net zero goals who are well on their way towards a science based target and then are trying to invest in carbon removal opportunities to offset their remaining emissions. 

5. Why did you decide to become an advisor for SINAI? 

So, you know, I don't I haven't seen that many tools on the marketplace that support corporate engagement on sustainability. I really love seeing solutions come on the marketplace that support sort of big corporate players in making smart choices on greenhouse gases at a scale and a time scale that actually matters for the planet. So I love that SINAI is using financial metrics to help companies understand their climate impacts in languages they understand. I love the decision making opportunities. I love the management of data, not just the tracking and reporting, but the sort of scenario planning that you can do and the future projections, because I think that's where that's where a lot of companies get stuck is how to then take the data and actually make it actionable and then work over time and sort of manage things on different timescales with different payback periods and different options. As the world around us changes and new carbon pricing schemes come online and climate risk comes online and new methodologies come online, and we're able to all sort of move forward faster together. So I love technology solutions that sort of meat companies where they are, but really show them the way forward. And that's so like I said, I wish you had many more competitors, but until you do, I'll keep advising it because I think you're definitely onto something amazing.

Sinai Technologies is here to help your organization be better prepared for evaluating and executing your decarbonization strategy. Our goal is to provide you with the tools you need to make the best decisions around emissions possible. Our platform serves as a force multiplier so that your carbon inventory team can focus on actionable insights and help future-proof your organization. We can help address the data challenges discussed above as well as support your organization’s overall modeling and climate-related forecasting needs. To learn more, schedule a demo today: https://www.sinaitechnologies.com/request-a-demo. 

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