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    The CLIC® Chronicles: How much CO₂ is in your lunch? Meet Klimato, the start-up labelling food to tackle emissions

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    The CLIC® Chronicles: How much CO₂ is in your lunch? Meet Klimato, the start-up labelling food to tackle emissions

    Interview with Anton Unger, co-founder and CEO at Klimato.

     

    What is Klimato and how did it start?

    Klimato is a Swedish start-up measuring, tracking and communicating the carbon footprint of food. It started back in 2017 when a couple of my friends and I began investigating food-related emissions in school canteens in Stockholm as part of a university project. We came across the shocking statistic that the food industry accounts for nearly a third of global emissions. We immediately identified one simple need: factual and concrete information on what we all can do to reduce the impact of food on the climate and our planet. This is why we founded Klimato, to cut food-related emissions by raising awareness of how our eating habits affect the climate, and to bridge the knowledge gap for the consumer.

    …Klimato [was founded] to cut food-related emissions by raising awareness of how our eating habits affect the climate, and to bridge the knowledge gap for the consumer

    Today, we work with a good mix of restaurants and food service providers of various sizes. Our customers range from independent restaurants and restaurant chains, to hotels, catering providers and big facility management companies. We have also noticed an influx of food brands and other food companies contacting us, so carbon footprint tracking of food definitely seems to be on the agenda of most food companies nowadays.

     

    Where did the idea of labelling come from?

    When we started we wanted to make people aware of the climate impact of food, and how small daily decisions, like choosing your breakfast, lunch or dinner, can lead to a significant reduction in carbon emissions. Climate labels sit at the point of decision for restaurant guests when looking at the menu, which made labelling a natural first step when developing our solution.

    Carbon measurement, tracking and labelling are becoming recognised as crucial for the food industry

    Carbon measurement, tracking and labelling are becoming recognised as crucial for the food industry. In just the past few months we've seen an increase in people finding us as a result of researching climate solutions that they didn't even know existed a year ago. The objective is to communicate scientific information in a way that makes it easily digestible for restaurants and their consumers – pun intended!

    Read also: Tactics to reduce food waste: meet 5 game-changing start-ups

    Food production and waste management are among the most carbon intensive sectors. Why is this? And how does Klimato make an impact?

    Food is something that concerns everyone. Everyone has to eat. Climate change means more drought, floods, extreme weather, etc., which impact food production massively. Simultaneously, food production is a significant driver of climate change. It’s sort of like a cat biting its own tail.

    We intend to turn this around and make food production and consumption a means to reduce carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions today and for future generations. At Klimato we believe rigorous calculation, tracking and monitoring, along with awareness and transparency, provide the tools to identify and start to reduce the emissions that are intensifying and accelerating global climate change. In 2021, 7,284 tonnes of CO2e were saved by Klimato users. In other words, this equates to roughly 31,000 one-way trips from London to Rome for one person.

    To reach the UN's sustainability goals defined by the Paris Agreement…each individual has a weekly carbon budget for food of 11kg of CO2e

    What is the daily food-related carbon allowance we must stay within to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement?

    To reach the UN's sustainability goals defined by the Paris Agreement – limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – each individual has a weekly carbon budget for food of 11kg of CO2e. Broken down by day and meal, the carbon footprint of a lunch or dinner should not exceed 0.5kg CO2e. As a reference, the average in Sweden today is 1.7 kg CO2e per meal, more than three times the food-related carbon budget recommended by the UN to achieve the Paris climate goals.

    Read also: A thirst for sustainability? Innocent Drinks’ recipe for a carbon-zero smoothie

     

    What has your growth journey been like?

    We were selected to join the KTH Royal Institute of Technology and STING accelerator programmes early on, which opened up a network of investors. Since then we have done two funding rounds where both private and institutional investors participated. We provide a unique solution that takes something complicated and makes it easy to understand and apply to everyday eating decisions. Our investors see the potential for Klimato to not only build a financially sustainable high-growth company, but also to contribute to reducing the carbon footprint of food globally.

    Our investors see the potential for Klimato to not only build a financially sustainable high-growth company, but also to contribute to reducing the carbon footprint of food globally

    How are you able to calculate the carbon footprint of different foods?

    We have partnered with RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, who have one of the most extensive carbon footprint databases for food in the world. The partnership was born soon after Klimato was founded. We have also, during the last two years, developed our own carbon footprint database based on LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) – we adapted the raw data to make it applicable to different countries.

    Also, the data was contextualised to make sense both for restaurants who are dealing with large quantities, numerous recipes and complex supply chains, and for consumers who want to figure out how to make climate friendly food decisions daily.

    Read also: The CLIC® Chronicles: how technology is changing the future of agriculture

     

    You labelled all the food for the COP26 climate summit. What's your key takeaway from this experience?

    Seeing our labels at the global arena for climate debate was incredibly empowering, and proof that our solution and work is important. We gained a lot of visibility, especially in the UK, with the media covering us and bringing climate labelling into public debate. It also helped bring food emissions to the agenda for COP27, which of course was very rewarding.

    …people want to see scientific evidence and to understand the data behind the calculations, especially nowadays as greenwashing has become a growing concern

    One key takeaway is that people want to see scientific evidence and to understand the data behind the calculations, especially nowadays as greenwashing has become a growing concern. Being asked about the trustworthiness of our data is an inquiry we're happy to receive, as a lot of time and consideration goes into the methodology and carbon footprint data in our databases.

    Another important learning point from COP26 has been the importance of understanding and communicating the complexity of food emissions. There are lots of variables going into carbon footprint calculations, and although the food served during the summit was mostly local, which is great from a social and economic point of view, it didn't always mean that the carbon footprint of the finished meal was low.

    …the business case for reducing food-related emissions is to future-proof your business, and to lead the change and be part of shaping the future of the restaurant industry

    Read also: Five reasons why you should consider going plant-based

     

    You talk about the business case of reducing food-related emissions. Can you explain this?

    To us, the business case for reducing food-related emissions is to future-proof your business, and to lead the change and be part of shaping the future of the restaurant industry.

    Promoting sustainability efforts, such as reducing emissions, is a branding opportunity and also a business approach which consumers are asking for. Reducing emissions from food often involves shifting to a menu with more greens and plant-based alternatives, which caters to a growing consumer group. You are also preparing for incoming environmental regulations, meaning you build a stable, sustainable and resilient food organisation. Additionally, our tool helps restaurants gain perspective on their resource use, which can lead to reduced operating costs.

    Read also: The start-up putting an end to food waste

     

    The Klimatorian diet consists of replacing some foods with less carbon-intensive alternatives. Can you share three tips?

    1. Reduce your intake of red meat. If you still want to eat meat, think about the quality, quantity and frequency of your meat intake. The same goes for dairy products. We could have restricted this tip to, “eat more plant-based food,” but a balanced and diversified diet is easier and more encouraging for people to follow, while it also avoids putting too much pressure on specific food groups, which can lead to intensive agriculture and other environmental issues.

    …a balanced and diversified diet is easier and more encouraging for people to follow, while it also avoids putting too much pressure on specific food groups, which can lead to intensive agriculture and other environmental issues

    2. What you eat is more important than where the food is from. In contrast to what many people think, transport accounts for a relatively small portion of the emissions. So, from a carbon footprint point of view, switching out carbon heavy ingredients, like red meat, is better than only buying local food.

    3. Eating in season, however, is always good, as seasonal foods aren't dependent on greenhouses that may be powered by fossil fuels. It might seem counter-intuitive but eating an imported tomato grown in the wild is most likely better than eating a local tomato that has been grown in a greenhouse.

    As you can tell from our tips above, this is a complex issue. If you are interested in reducing your carbon footprint, read up on the different aspects that go into it and learn some of the common misconceptions. Be curious!

    Climate change is a global issue, and efforts to reduce the climate impact of the food industry should be made on a global scale

    Read also: How can we feed the planet sustainably? 3 interesting sectors for investors

     

    What's next for Klimato?

    Today, we’re working with customers in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the UK, but we are currently planning for our European expansion. Climate change is a global issue, and efforts to reduce the climate impact of the food industry should be made on a global scale. We are working on a climate footprint database which will make country-specific carbon footprint calculations easier. We also want our labels to cover more sustainability indicators, like water footprint and biodiversity impact, in addition to carbon footprint.

    Finally, while today we are mainly working with food service providers, we are looking to expand this to work more with food brands. We have noticed a growing interest among consumers and would love to be part of reducing food-related emissions beyond restaurants, and make it easier for anyone to track the carbon footprint of what they eat in their everyday life – at home, on the go, and in restaurants.

    Important information

    This document is issued by Bank Lombard Odier & Co Ltd or an entity of the Group (hereinafter “Lombard Odier”). It is not intended for distribution, publication, or use in any jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, or use would be unlawful, nor is it aimed at any person or entity to whom it would be unlawful to address such a document. This document was not prepared by the Financial Research Department of Lombard Odier.

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