The environment and how it is quickly changing is burning brightly at the forefront of the collective conscience. From the blazes of the Amazon and Outback seared into our minds to the hundreds of millions expected by the World Bank to be migrating due to climate change, the costs of climate inaction are mounting.
It is no wonder it topped the agenda at Davos this year – some calculate the economic costs of inaction to be north of $100 trillion. But the obstacles are not insurmountable. The human race has collectively taken on other challenges before, and made good headway. Take poverty as an example.
Although more than 600 million people live under extreme poverty (less than $1.90 per day) on the planet, that burden is down from nearly 36%, or 1.1 billion fewer people, than 1990. Nevertheless, 600 million is 600 million too many.
But one organization, Greenstand, is seeking to tackle both climate change and poverty at once. By leveraging incentives through technology that fix the former, the latter can also be vanquished.
DisruptionBanking spoke to the team behind Greenstand, the builders of “open source technology to power economical ecology”, about the platform, ‘ecotagging’ and the future of impact investing.
Where did the idea for Greenstand come from and how would you describe the platform?
In 2013, on the foothills of Mt. Meru in northern Tanzania, the co-founders of Greenstand, Ezra Jay and Sebastian Gaertner, had started a small tree planting project and wanted to be able to report and account for the trees planted as the effort made was literally untraceable. And so the idea of Geotagging trees was born, and while likely not a new idea at the time, we quickly saw interesting use cases for the data.
The idea of the tree-tracking app was born. Through our open source technology and volunteer community, the app has moved along with a single mission – having some of the world’s poorest communities plant trees, track and verify them, and then get paid to grow them.
“a tradable eco-currency displaying a social and environmental value
Through this mission we now offer a full stack of applications that include a data input tree-tracker app, data analysis and quality check in the form of an Admin Panel, a payment platform (in the beta phase) which allows direct planter payouts, an impact ‘web map’ to show tree tokens and the information attached and finally, our latest prize addition, an API that allows these tokens to be very secure and work as an eco-based currency.
We can thus now offer wallets and sub wallets holding these tokens which can become a tradable eco-currency displaying a social and environmental value.
This wallet can now be extended across industries from banking to gaming, mobile networks, non profits and profit making organizations. Corporations and private individuals can have a traceable, verified, monitored and valued ESG investment.
A tree token in a green wallet.
How has your journey as a sustainable tech startup been so far?
Very early on, we were committed to moving most of the development in the open source platform. It has been a steep learning curve.
As a leadership team we are made up of a handful of passionate individuals working late into the night to harness a driven group of over 150 volunteers from more than 20 countries.
Managing this dynamic, almost lucid, community and keeping them engaged has been at times overwhelming, incredibly rewarding, and at times challenging.
We could write a book!
Could you talk about the reception you got from seed investors?
This is an interesting question, our seed investment has come from the community rather than seed investors per se, the growth has been very organic rather than artificially inflated with people investing their time, talents, skills and resources to the process.
As mentioned we have had more than 150 volunteers invest their time into the app.
The Green Bond market has been exploding over the last few years but is dominated by big ticket offerings to corporates. How hard is it to design a P2P marketplace for e-tokens?
That’s exactly what we are designing but have not yet taken it to market.
A true P2P mechanism based on our token system is already possible based on our current infrastructure but it is not yet automated or upscaled. To make this happen, quickly, we need ‘acceleration’ funding, yet irrespective of the funding, we are certain that with time and our committed team we will get us to the same end result, it will just take a little longer.
With this said, considering the current Green Bond Boom and a desperate need for accountability and transparent ESG investments we are very keen to get there quickly.
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Which emerging technologies do you incorporate into GreenStand and which one has been the most ‘impactful’?
Our tech team is using the latest infrastructures used by the big tech giants. Kotlin, React, Node, PostGrSQL, AWS services, Droplets, Docker, Postman and various other technologies and programmes.
What does the Green Finance ecosystem look like today and how do you envisage it changing in the coming decade?
Currently the green finance ecosystem is not easy to understand or utilize as an individual.
“Green financial solutions should focus on inclusion
A lack of common values and clear business cases restrict participation to its full potential. The future will see a shift of values towards eco-based services and ecology that is accessible and beneficial to everyone, everywhere.
Green financial solutions should focus on inclusion. Greenstand is working toward an ISO certification within it’s framework that is attached to a verification platform forecasting that a multi-facetted new eco-based climate restoration industry is going to emerge in the next decade.
Insurers like Muencher Rückversicherung will need this type of information to continue their work which is now already highly influenced by climate change caused disasters. In ten years we will see eco values being fully integrated into day to day financial transactions, investments and decision making.
Sarah Scott, Founder, the Kilimanjaro Project / Business Director at Greenstand
Sebastian Gärtner, Co-Founder, Project Manager of Europe and Africa at GreenStand