Tackling Climate Change with Data, Technology, and Stubborn Optimism

The co-founder of Sweep shares five ways that data and technology (and YOU) can make a difference.

Editor's Note: Recently, we kicked off a brand-new series at Alteryx called “Breakthrough Moments for a Better World.” Our goal with the program is to educate ourselves on global issues including diversity, equity, and inclusion, corporate social responsibility, and environmental stewardship. 

Our most recent guest was Raphael Güllerco-founder and Chief Design Officer at Sweep, a new tech startup focused on helping companies tackle climate change immediately.

 

Slowing the pace of global climate change is “the moonshot of our generation,” Raphael Güller believes, and small steps are as vital as giant leaps on this journey to heal our planet.

“Every move in the right direction is worth celebrating.”

—Raphael Güller, co-founder and chief design officer of Sweep 

In his presentation to members of the Alteryx community, Güller also praised the unique value that technology companies can provide in addressing climate change. 

“The start-up mentality and entrepreneurial spirit that we see in the tech world is the same kind of mentality that we need to apply” toward solutions to global warming, he said. “If we get this right, there’s so many things we can improve for our world.”

Güller recommends five core steps to follow in shrinking our carbon footprints.

Five Steps to Shrinking Your Carbon Footprint

1. Reality Check

Start by identifying the various activities that contribute to your carbon footprint, ranging from factory emissions and electricity usage to air travel and waste disposal. From that baseline assessment, you can start measuring your footprint and setting reduction targets tied to specific actions.

Technology and data are really important to help you understand where you are at now and how to get where you want to be,” Güller said. “Even if you haven’t figured out all of it yet, that’s OK — in the tech industry, we do A/B testing and get feedback, and then we make some more changes.”
 

2. Democratization

Empower as many people as possible in your organization to not only understand the factors influencing climate change, but also take meaningful actions to reduce impact. Güller said one of the primary design goals behind the Sweep software platform is to deliver intuitive tools for entering data, tracking progress, and sharing results. “With climate change, we need to have all hands on deck,” he said.

“The beauty of technology is that it enables you to distribute tasks more broadly and help people share in the decisions on what actions to take.”

Democratizing the carbon-reduction effort can also spur healthy competition among those involved, Güller added. “People see how they are performing compared with others, and everybody starts pushing to do better.”


3. Hiding Complexity

With a challenge as large and multi-faceted as global climate change, said Güller, giving in to discouragement is a constant risk. Companies and individuals can help sustain their momentum by focusing on what they actually have the power to change and filtering out other peripheral details or responsibilities that belong to someone else.

“Technology can really help with giving people the power and the right tools to manage a specific task while abstracting other details where it makes sense,” he explained. “That’s going to encourage people to keep doing what they actually should.”

4. Collaboration

Businesses can make a greater positive impact on climate change by looking beyond their own walls to also address carbon-footprint contributors that lie upstream and downstream in their overall value chain, Güller said. For example, pay attention to the environmental practices of your suppliers. Also, consider the energy required for customers to use your company’s products or services when calculating your greenhouse gas emissions and formulating actions to reduce that impact on the climate.

“In tech companies, collaboration is very much in our mindset and how we stay agile,” Güller said. “We can apply that quality to how we fix climate change.”

 

5. Stubborn Optimism

“We are bombarded with the bad news about climate change,” Guller said, “and so it’s really easy to think, ‘This ship has sailed – what’s the point?’ That’s where stubborn optimism comes in.” He encouraged webinar attendees to combat disillusionment by trusting that their small actions, alongside millions of others happening worldwide, can effect a massive change.

“Let’s be stubborn about creating a better world, because each of us has a lot of power,” he said. “Move forward step by step and talk with your friends about it — not to tell them what they should do, but to show them that you care.”

"This is Just Good Business Sense"

One of the biggest reasons for optimism, said Güller, is that thousands of companies — including Alteryx — are deepening their commitments to environmental sustainability backing those pledges with concrete action.

“The companies of the future that are going to thrive will be the ones whose growth is aligned with creating a healthier climate,” he said. “In the case of Alteryx, how your product can help other companies analyze data about their carbon footprint — that is a massive opportunity.”

Next Steps on our Journey

Alteryx will conduct its first-ever environmental, social and governance (ESG) materiality assessment in 2021, which will include auditing our global carbon footprint and honing our strategy for subsequent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The materiality assessment also will provide detailed recommendations as to where our company generates the most negative impact on the environment and where we have opportunity to offset that negative impact. We will use the results to help identify ESG issues that are material to our company and how we should focus our strategy and reporting.