Today’s consumers want to make sustainable purchasing decisions – and they want merchants to help them do it. We’re talking to Dane Baker, Co-Founder and CEO of EcoCart, about how ecommerce brands can take the right steps to lessen their carbon footprint.
Brian Weinstein: Welcome everybody to Sippin’ and Shippin’. I’m your host, Brian Weinstein. We’ll be kicking it here every other Thursday, quenching your thirst for an insider’s take to enhance your customer’s experience. Grab your drink of choice, kick back. It’s Sippin’ and Shippin’ time. All right. Welcome everybody to another episode of Sippin’ and Shippin’. I am your host, Brian Weinstein, and I’m here with Caitlin Postel, the co-hostess with the most-ess. How are you today, Caitlin?
Caitlin Postel: I’m doing well, Brian. How are you?
Brian Weinstein: I’m doing awesome. Thank you very much.
Caitlin Postel: I like that. When did I get upgraded to co-host for the mostess? That’s new.
Brian Weinstein: You know what? It was something I was thinking about. I’m like, we got to give her something a little bit more pizzazz, like capture that personality.
Caitlin Postel: I’ll take it. They can’t see it, but I’m doing spirit fingers right now everybody.
Brian Weinstein: Awesome. We have here today, a very special guest Dane Baker from EcoCart. Dane, how are you?
Dane Baker: Great. I’m doing great. I’m excited to be here. Thanks so much for having me.
Brian Weinstein: No, we’re looking forward to it. We’ve been looking to try to find the right guest to really touch on a subject that’s sort of near and dear to us around sustainability. And in meeting with you and having some calls, we thought you’d be the perfect person to kind of loop into our discussion points. So if you could just take a minute, give the audience a little bit of background on yourself and EcoCart.
Dane Baker: Absolutely. And I’m flattered. Thanks so much for saying that. I’m definitely honored to be here and appreciate you all having me on the show, taking the time and for everyone listening as well, appreciate your time. So as far as my background goes, multi-time founders, so started a couple companies in the past, all of which have really been kind of centered around this idea that through an entrepreneurial venture, that the world can become a better place. And so I’ve always kind of had that sort of core, I guess, fabric like kind of core fabric between all of the experiences that I’ve had. And the most recent, and the reason I mention it is because it’s kind of a foray into EcoCart, why we started EcoCart. It was an online peer to peer rental marketplace business that my current co-founder and I started together.
And we started the company because we thought that renting in contrast to consumption was a greater benefit for the environment, especially with high plastic items like kayaks and surfboards, as much as the exact items that were with which we were renting on the platform between from obviously on a peer to peer basis. And so, as we scaled, it just really became complicated and expensive to maintain that sustainability, ecos and rigor. And we tried everything. We tried to buy offset, switch out a higher consultants, was very complicated, very expensive, realized there was a problem. And that problem always kind of stuck in the back of our minds as even long after we sold the company.
Brian Weinstein: And just to ask a question around that. So the concept there was that you were going to rent, let’s just say kayaks, for example, to cut, maybe to reduce the number of kayaks that were actually being manufactured and purchased by giving people the opportunity to just rent it when they wanted to use it and then be able to share it amongst others, essentially.
Dane Baker: That’s exactly right. So kind of fueling all around the circular economy. That’s exactly right. So that the idea being there would be an aggregate less kayaks actually being manufactured. And kayaks being the example, there was obviously other product categories, but less of them actually being manufactured, given demand would be lower considering there would be a rental marketplace that existed for folks to have another option versus just purchasing.
Brian Weinstein: Excellent. It’s so funny how far we’ve actually come, especially in the US. And I know we’re lagging, which is kind of interesting because there’s a dual message, right? We’re lagging behind of where we could be, but yet we have come so far. I mean, I grew up in a time and I’ll age myself here where recycling wasn’t really even a thing yet. It was just starting, right. And now we’ve gotten to a point where we’re recognizing the impact of everything that we do in the world manufacture how we’re actually, to your point, consuming the product and looking at alternatives to reduce that, to really help the world, right. So excellent. I’m sorry to interrupt you. I just thought that was an important point to speak to.
Dane Baker: No, that’s a great point you raise, absolutely. And that was the sort of like never ending challenge as we kind of scaled that business is that it actually turned out that there were a lot of, I guess core sort of like secondary consideration emission sources that made it sort of like counterintuitive to the ethos of how we started the company. And there was those unavoidable carbon emissions were the exact reason why we realized there was a problem in the market. And the exact reason why two and a half, three years ago now my co-founder and I are rejoined for us to start EcoCart. And our mission at EcoCart is simple, to make the fight against climate change, easy, affordable, and accessible, so everyone can do their part.
What that means in practice is we basically just developed the technology to calculate and then offset the carbon footprint of consumer activity at large. But eCommerce has really been kind of our bread and butter and really obviously relevant to this particular instance and story. And so eCommerce has kind of been where really most of our customers and our platform kind of holds strong. Whereas we’re actually through the sort of checkout flow of a brand. We are able to allow a consumer to offset their carbon footprint by simply adding a few extra cents. What this means is as you’re going through and purchasing, let’s just say a pair of shoes or a shirt online, you would be able to see in your checkout experience, the EcoCart option, which would allow you as a consumer to add a few extra cents to mitigate the unavoidable carbon footprint of your order by effectively donating to carbon offset projects. And a carbon offset project is just simply a measurable reduction of CO2 from the atmosphere. And it comes in the form of projects, such as planting trees, building wind farms, sustainable agriculture, et cetera.
Brian Weinstein: So let’s take a step back because there’s something that you said, and you actually said it twice and it’s that unavoidable carbon footprint, right? So I think there was sort of a thought process at some point that we were going to be able to reduce and/or eliminate carbon footprint altogether. But we’re at a point now where we recognize that there’s no way to make it all go away. Is that a fair statement?
Dane Baker: Yeah, absolutely. So EcoCart is like I mentioned, it’s an offsetting play, right? So we are offsetting the unavoidable carbon footprint for manufacturing and shipping items that get purchased. There is so much else that can and should be done from a brand’s perspective, really any company’s perspective to optimize their own supply chain, their own materials, mix their own sourcing methodologies, et cetera, to ultimately reduce at the source, right? And so we are there to take care of everything else that cannot be reduced and therefore is an unavoidable carbon footprint from really any activity, more specifically logistics, shipping, and manufacturing. And that was exactly what we’re there to sell for.
Brian Weinstein: Can you talk a little bit, and I think you had mentioned offline. I think it’s footwear is one of the biggest culprits, let’s call it, of the carbon footprint. Can you talk about maybe…
Caitlin Postel: Unintended? Unintended.
Brian Weinstein: Unintended of course, right. I mean, listen, it is what it is. We all need shoes, right. And somehow, or another it’s going to happen. Can you talk a little bit about the touch points of where that eco footprint is most impactful? Let’s use shoes. I know it’s almost every product out there, but let’s use shoes as some of the unintended places that the eco footprint is a negative, the carbon footprint is a negative along their process of supply chain.
Dane Baker: Absolutely, yeah. And so, I guess what you’re asking me is how does our solution fit into the overall supply chain of a brand? Is that kind of what you’re asking?
Brian Weinstein: A little bit more like where’s the negative impact of the manufacturing along the way we could talk a little bit about? Because I know that you guys have some algorithms built into your system that sort of says, okay, this product type or whatever is creating this much of a carbon footprint, so you can calculate your offset. But can you talk about some of those areas where it’s creating that carbon? Yeah.
Dane Baker: Yeah, absolutely. I think really where we see the majority… So if you look at kind of almost like a pie chart of all of the carbon emissions, and their kind of associated weight of most of our brand partners that we are integrated into, and we’re actually partnered with over 1500 brands today. And so it’s including brands like APL, Addams, BarkBox, Pacific Foods, many more. And so it’s a pretty good sample size in terms of like, what does the overall eCommerce industry look like in terms of the emissions breakdown? Most of the time, and this holds true across the board, is that manufacturing is a huge contributor to or a huge emitter, right, in terms of carbon emissions. And that is generally much, much more, much, much greater than the actual shipping component of that.
And so we’re seeing a lot of opportunity for brands to optimize their manufacturing processes and start having things like the energy of the actual factory itself running off of renewable energy versus local grid, for example. And then actually just kind of really just optimizing, kind of look at if you break down each individual process of the manufacturing suite of processes, then you start to see there’s a lot of opportunity, even if it’s small bread crumbs in terms of opportunity that actually snowball into really big change in impact if you look at it in aggregate. So I’d say the manufacturing side or component is a huge contributor, and that’s oftentimes overlooked. Actually to many other carbon offsetting solutions in the marketplace today, hugely focus on the logistics part of everything, which is definitely an important part, and something that we see is a significant contributor, but really the manufacturing component is a much stronger and much more heavily weighted in terms of total carbon emissions.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah. It’s interesting that you say that how it starts at the source, because most merchants that I speak with, they’re always when they talk about sustainability, it’s always, top of mind is packaging. They don’t even consider the manufacturing piece. So how is that impacting? Are brands or merchants that are considering the carbon offset, are they seeing better conversion rates? Are they engaging with their customers? Is this introducing a new level of sustainability to folks that otherwise wouldn’t wouldn’t consider it?
Dane Baker: Such a great point, absolutely. So yes, the short answer is yes. We initially launched the solution about a year ago now. And it started off as a Shopify app, right? That you kind of just plug right into your store as a merchant, and it would populate a checkbox at your checkout flow, enabling your customers to have an eco friendly option. And so that’s really, what it started off as. Specifically, we were thinking our hypothesis was this was going to be a really great niche market for us in terms of we’re only going to be attractive as a solution to the inherently eco-friendly companies that have eco friendliness as part of their core DNA. Turns out it’s much more mass market than that actually.
And the reason for that is exactly what you mentioned is there are core key brand and company KPI benefits that come along with the solution such as boosting cart conversion rates. And so it’s as simple as a consumer going through and actually being more willing to purchase, knowing that their environmental impact is mitigated. And that shows mission alignment between the consumer and the brand at the most important moment of the shopping journey, which is the checkout experience and greater cart conversion across the board. And so that’s exactly right. Our brand’s on average about a 14% boost in cart conversion, and it’s exactly to your point of what you mentioned.
Caitlin Postel: Right. So they’re already aligned with the end user before they even know what packaging they used or didn’t use, because they know that they’re looking to make an impact just like the folks that they’re supporting with their purchase. That’s great.
Dane Baker: Exactly right. Exactly right.
Brian Weinstein: And so the contribution, how is that being directed? So let’s say for example, a brand who aligns with you, and one of our customers is APL. So we could use them as an example. Who gets to choose where that money, that the consumers allocating in the shopping cart, where that is going to help offset?
Dane Baker: What we provide in terms of value add is a portfolio of already heavily vetted and completely verified carbon offset projects that each of which are incredibly varied in terms of geography. We have projects all over the world and also varied in terms of from a categorical perspective. And so the brand can actually ultimately choose from our portfolio, what is the project that resonates most closely with their brand, for example, and then ultimately direct all of those funds to that project. We also have the ability to effectively support the entire portfolio by choosing really what is kind of referred to as kind of our geolocation option. Wherever the consumer is located, the closest project would be automatically assigned to them based off of their location at checkout. And so there’s kind of two high level options, but most of the time we’re seeing brands go all in, so to speak, on one individual project, because it fits their brand and has a strong story associated with it.
Brian Weinstein: And can they get in involved where the donations are going or at least the money the contributions are going towards projects that are involved in manufacturing specific to their industry.
Dane Baker: Yeah, exactly right. So we have a lot of different projects in our portfolio that kind of span different categories. Whether it’s protecting the forest planting trees, whether it’s a wind farm creation or building project, or if it’s something like sustainable agriculture, a little bit outside of the direct line to the specific company itself, there’s a ton of different options within our portfolio that they can choose.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah, because to me, I mean, what sounds most interesting, and I’m not sure if this is something that’s on the radar for you guys yet. And maybe it’s something you’re already doing is, if there’s a big issue with the carbon situation around manufacturing, a footwear, how do we go after and how do you invest into the R and D to make that less impactful, to have a more positive impact on the carbon footprint at the manufacturing level? And I don’t know if that’s something you’re already doing, or if I’m just kind of throwing it out there, but that to me would be something that’s interesting because we all know, like Caitlin said, the packaging, the transportation is something that we can’t get around.
So the eCommerce is continuing to grow. Right. And we know that. And the product, if it’s coming from overseas is probably coming by vessel, which has an impact. It’s going to come into the US. It has to travel in the US either by air or by transportation, by truck, which is also has emissions involved. And we know those are the ones that we all kind of see and think about, but to your point, that manufacturing level where R and D can be done there, to me seems like a really viable place to be able to plug in programs.
Dane Baker: Yeah. And it’s a really great point you raise. There’s a few different kind of layers to how we to our solution in terms of how to answer that question specifically. I’d say the biggest one really is around the fact that we also offer a really in depth carbon emissions audit for our partners. And that’s something that is incredibly valuable because you can kind of think of it almost like a little bit of a scale down version of an LCA, which is in some cases, a sort of a six figure upfront cost that takes maybe a year to run as a whole. We do this in a very, very efficient way, kind of really rooted in data and all of the data points that we have to kind of come up with what this emissions audit and output will be for all of our brands.
And that is something that the output of this kind of shows to a merchant or a company as a whole, it shows them where their areas of opportunity are. And so there, we get to see, okay, here we should be putting our focus, and we can be optimizing this. And so there’s a lot of, I guess, ways that we can work with our brands to actually optimize and cut the emissions at the source versus… And then actually ultimately have that be lowering the offset cost, right. And lowering the need to offsetting more because you’re ultimately reducing that carbon footprint to begin with. And so it’s kind of a wholistic solution as a whole and part of it really. And it starts with this very in depth, carbon emission audit that we run with in conjunction with our partners.
Brian Weinstein: I like that a lot, because this way, it’s not just people looking to ease their guilty conscience by just collecting some extra money and donating it somewhere. They’re actually really looking to make an impact within their own organizations. And having that audit at their disposal gives them that ability to get some expert eyes on there to say, hey, listen, this is how you can be impactful on your entire supply chain process. So I like that instead of it just being a straight up add-on to the cart, just collect some money, ease your guilty mind, and move on. Right. So I think that adds a lot of value to an organization, and they can continue to build upon that.
Dane Baker: Absolutely. And we’re seeing a lot of like brands have a ton of marketing and branding and storytelling arsenal that comes along with this initiative. It resonates just so closely and so much with consumers. And we see a lot of our brands that kind of absorb EcoCart as initiative, or really kind of like ingrained really deeply into their brand ethos. And you see this come out in materials like for example, website, like a sustainability page, or blogs, for example, social media and even like webinars and podcasts and things like that this sort of really comes out. And it’s great to see how much brands are actually kind of absorbing this into their core ethos.
Caitlin Postel: So I know that you offer this solution also to not just merchants. You said you work with like 1500 merchants. How many consumers take it upon themselves, have that guilty conscience maybe, and are using it independently?
Dane Baker: Yeah, it’s an awesome question. This is another really great data point. In addition to that 14% boosted cart conversion that I mentioned earlier, this is another pretty pure data point that shows the consumer demand for this. On average, we see 28% of consumers checking the box to make their order carbon neutral. That’s nearly one in three consumers who opted it as a checkout. And this is a totally opt in model, right? So it’s not like something that we’re kind of sneaking under the rug for them as they’re going through a checkout. They’re literally clicking this box actively in full autonomy to make their order carbon neutral, adding more to their cart, to make it cart neutral. And so probably gives a good idea into the gravity of how important this is from a consumer’s perspective.
Caitlin Postel: Right, yeah. I mean, if you’re going to be sitting at your desk all day, ordering from Amazon, you might as well help the earth, right?
Dane Baker: You got it. Exactly.
Brian Weinstein: As a rising brand, right, there’s a lot that they have going on. And especially ones that care about this subject, but at the same time are trying to launch a startup, or maybe they’re just coming at a startup phase, and they’re getting to that next level. A lot around sustainability and carbon emission footprint and everything else is overwhelming, right. And there’s so much that you can do from working with your manufacturers straight through to compostable bags here in the US and trying to reduce travel if possible by positioning product closer to consumers. Is there advice that you give to the brands as they’re coming on? So basically, they’re taking one bite of the elephant at a time and not trying to overwhelm their organization as they’re rolling this out?
Dane Baker: Yeah. I’d say that’s a really good question. I’d say as kind of a solution, we’re really adept getting a brand from zero to one. With sustainability as a whole, a lot of companies come to us and say, we have no idea what to do. We’re just getting started. We’re just thinking about it. We’re just formulating a plan to begin with, right, for taking any action. But we’re also really great at getting brands from two to 10 over time as well. And so there’s a lot of brands also at the same time come to us and say, we are already completely carbon neutral. We want to bring our customer into the experience, or we are already doing so much around sustainability. We want our customers to know about it, and bring that to the forefront as they’re going through and checking out.
And we want them to play a role in their sustainability journey. And so it really runs the gamut in terms of what kinds of brands kind of come to us and what stage they are within their sustainability journey as a whole. And because of that, there are so many opportunities for us to, I guess, recommend different solutions as they’re kind of moving forward. And so to your point, there’s a lot of opportunity that we see to recommend solutions, whether it’s a specific partner of ours, like a sustainable packaging partner, for example, or if it’s anything around sustainable fulfillment, sustainable shipping and logistics, all of that together are exactly kind of tools within our tool belt that we use when we’re working with a brand and truly being a good partner to them to show them the way in terms of what is the right kind of steps to take within sustainability as a whole.
Brian Weinstein: Yeah. I think there’s probably a lot of people out there that need guidance that really want to have this initiative for their company and maybe already are. But like you said, there’s ways to continue to improve upon it. It’s important. I think we’re having more and more of an impact. World population is continuing to order product and go through it at lightning speeds. And I think it’s important that we’re out in front of this and continue to contribute in this way and hope to stabilize if not reverse some of the damage that we’ve already done.
Caitlin Postel: Yeah. That’s you Brian, not recycling.
Brian Weinstein: No, stop it. Stop it. Dane, listen, it’s been great. Dane Baker from EcoCart. I really, really appreciate everything you and your organization are doing. We’re looking forward to continuing to hear from you and your group as new initiatives have come about. Appreciate you coming on.
Dane Baker: Thanks so much for having me. It’s been great. So yeah, definitely look forward to stay in touch and however I can be helpful, always willing to do so. So thanks so much for having me. And I appreciate you giving me the platform to share my story a little bit.
Brian Weinstein: Thank you very much. All right. Caitlin Postel, take us out.
Caitlin Postel: All right. Thank you, Dane. And thank you everyone for tuning in. Check us out at sippinandshippin.com or on your favorite podcast platform. We’ll see you two Thursdays from today. Thank you guys.