Many people found their plans had to change in 2020, but the team behind Reduce My Footprint put the time to good use. Studying a Masters in Energy Systems within the University of Oxford engineering department, founders, Marcus Lima, Mbongeni Dube and Erik Millar found themselves thinking about the best way to deal with carbon capture and storage. Despite the best engineering solutions of offer, the best abatement process lies in nature, through reforestation. They found themselves wondering how individuals and businesses could support carbon capture as a means of offsetting their carbon footprint.
The team recognised that there was a need for transparency and that some systems of carbon accounting were opaque and dubious. Their approach has been to create a platform that allows individual users and companies of all sizes to determine their carbon footprint, then to translate that into tree planting activities that ‘capture’ the associated carbon. Their tool uses geolocating mechanisms to determine where you are, as the place you live or operate your business is the greatest determinant of carbon use. They also use other questions to assess your impact. They give an example of one of their early clients that has outsourced printing activities to India, which is a significant driver of the company’s carbon footprint.
Setting up the company is 2020 may have been a bold move, but Reduce My Footprint benefitted from being part of Oxfordshire LEP’s Innovation Support for Business Programme.
“We received an e mail from the University’s career service, which told us about the programme”.
They received a modest grant from the programme, but it made a real difference and working with the impartial business advisors over the summer of 2020 was helpful as they got the business going.
The company is currently in the market validation phase and are working with some early clients to undertake a full and bespoke carbon audit. Marcus’s background is in strategy consultancy prior to joining the Masters programme so he believes that systems are key “we have developed a system for identifying the key contributors of carbon which allows us to put a number on it”. They offer the audit as a consultancy service, which allows companies to translate their carbon usage into a cash equivalent which is paid annually to capture the carbon.
Reduce My Footprint is working with 6 international locations on reforestation projects within Nepal, Mozambique, Indonesia, Haiti, Kenya and Madagascar.
They have started to see good traction in terms of attracting customers to their site, and while 50% are based in the UK, they have also picked up interest from the US, Canada, Australia and Norway. They are using social media to get the message out and Instagram has proved to be the best platform for traction. Interestingly, some other social media platforms have proved more difficult as climate change is deemed to be a political issue in some international jurisdictions, so advertising can be very challenging.
The team is currently bootstrapping the company, but they may look to bring in investment in the future. Having finished their Masters in September, Marcus, Mbongeni and Erik have chosen to stay in Oxford
“We like the City and the people are great.”
All images courtesy of Reduce My Footprint