What inspired the foundation of Manifest Climate and how has the market changed since you created the company?
After practicing environmental law at one of the largest firms in Canada, I wanted to get into climate law, but realized such a field did not exist. As a result, in 2009 I started the first Canadian law firm focused on climate change, a first step towards the inception of Manifest Climate. The company started out in 2015 as a consulting firm, but in 2020 we re-founded it as a software company meant to help clients connect the dots in the climate change reporting issues they might face. Luckily, during this time, the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) was starting to get more traction, and we were able to build our methodology around this development.
How can your climate risk planning software help companies?
We found that, for our clients, it is key to understand the risk factors involved in their energy transition. Our software shines a light on what investors are looking for and how other peers are responding to those requests, breaking all this data into action items that translate into clear future priorities. We approach climate risk management and disclosures from a governance perspective, and we reveal ways to manage the risk internally, but we also help with educating boards regarding the role of stakeholders. These process-based, qualitative details can be quantified through our methodology, with the end goal to help clients disclose them in a manner that matches the market's expectations. In other words, it is not only about what a company’s carbon emissions are, it is about how the organization interacts with emissions across the economy (and the risks and opportunities associated with getting them to net-zero) and deal with the physical impacts of a changing climate. Companies can consult our system and draw inspiration from their peers’ disclosures that we dissect for them.
What is the profile of the clients who are showing the most appetite for your software platform?
We have seen interest from all companies that have to deal with climate change, as our product is not sector specific. We can work with any public or private entity that has publicly available information. Interestingly enough, almost half of our clients are privately owned, but they have an interest in showing their stakeholders or investors the public disclosure around their climate strategy.
Financial institutions and real estate companies have been a focus area in our client-base, but we do also work with service companies across various other sectors, from retail to tech, consumer brands, and manufacturing. Given this wide reach, we are being opportunistic and will take clients from anywhere in the world, while remaining based in North America and producing our reports in English. So far, we have served companies from New Zealand, Australia, Singapore or the Middle East.
Do you believe that your solutions can be actively utilized to fight greenwashing practices?
Given that we ask for internal measures on governance strategy, risk management and metrics, and compare them to the external reports, we can definitely identify areas of inconsistency. Thanks to the robust methodology that looks at about 250 data points per company and matches them to the various frameworks of disclosure, we do not need human intervention every step of the way. We launched this version of software in November 2022 and we are already seeing a great uptake, which foreshadows a prolific future.
Companies sometimes shun engaging in green investments due to the lack of information and expertise – how have you seen private companies’ attitudes changing over the past few years?
Although we have generous data, the competence issue stands in the way of progress. Historically, climate was a sustainability team's problem not a core business problem, but we are currently seeing a shift where our users are moving sustainability from the marketing and communications team into the core risk team. Traversing a massive economic transition and dealing with increased extreme weather events is both a business risk and an opportunity, and it is important to determine on which side of the $160 trillion transformation companies choose to position themselves on. Because a decade ago they were not asking the questions, we do not have the level of expertise in the system that is required to move as fast as we need to, and that is why we decided that a technology solution could reach more companies faster than traditional consulting.
What role does AI play in the development and refinement of your software solution?
We believe AI to be a force multiplier, but it does not replace the human expertise required to make sure it is actually reliable and developed accurately, and with accountability.
Nevertheless, it is extremely useful to complete mundane tasks and it allows us to take care of the important aspects of business. For example, by using Manifest Climate, people will no longer have to Control-F through climate disclosures.
How do you envisage the future of climate reporting?
The system needs to change through corporate leadership because policy makers have been nervous to take the bold policy actions that are required to deal with the climate crisis. In order to have a more resilient future, we need to have consistent global policies and corporates should be focused on pushing them as an enabling mechanism for the climate transformation rather than perceiving them as a negative regulatory movement.
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