Changemakers: Did the SEC just help Manifest Climate scale?

Changemakers - Manifest Climate
How this climate-focused AI solution is driving business innovation.

BetaKit is proud to present Changemakers, an AWS Startups series spotlighting Canadian tech companies solving complex global challenges.

Greenhouse gas levels are at an all-time high, more than a million species face extinction, and we currently use more of the earth’s resources than we can renew.

If that’s not enough to keep you up at night, the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US just made climate reporting mandatory for public companies, following repeated commitments from Ottawa to introduce mandatory climate-related reporting requirements for Canadian companies as well. 

“The underlying fundamentals of how we do business are changing.”

To regulators, these changes present an opportunity to advance global climate goals and mitigate investor risk.

To Toronto-based company Manifest Climate, it’s also an opportunity to get businesses to think differently about their market drivers.

“We are going through the largest transformation that our society has seen, based on the impacts of climate change,” said Laura Zizzo, Manifest Climate’s co-founder and CEO. 

“Everyone has to think about this, because the underlying fundamentals of how we do business are changing.”

Opportunities beyond compliance

Spurred by regulatory requirements and growing public scrutiny, businesses are increasingly grappling with the urgency of climate change, but often lack a clear path forward for internal change.

Manifest Climate was born of a consultancy practice led by Zizzo and Jeremy Greven, who now serves as the company’s president, and uses artificial intelligence to help companies understand and address their climate risk exposure. 

The software looks at a variety of company metrics, such as emissions, carbon pricing, carbon offsets, non-GHG climate-related targets, management reporting cadence, cross-functional communication on climate topics, and whether or not a company discusses its board oversight of climate risk. Then, with the help of AI, it performs gap analysis, benchmarks companies against its peers, and provides a framework for addressing climate risks and opportunities.

Laura Zizzo, CEO and co-founder of Manifest Climate.

For companies that face regulated climate-related disclosures, Manifest Climate ensures alignment with global reporting requirements, such as those issued by the European Union’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive and the International Sustainability Standards Board.

Many companies start out thinking of climate-related compliance as an exercise in hitting their numbers, but Manifest Climate says it has also revealed less obvious opportunities to drive business performance through a climate lens, such as policies that link executive compensation to climate targets. 

According to one research paper, companies that tie sustainability metrics to executive pay register higher profitability and lower emissions without it impacting operating performance or share price.

“You don’t have to be in the oil and gas sector to learn from Shell’s executive comp strategy around climate,” she added. “There’s something that might be applicable across different sectors for how they’re thinking about this from a systemic risk and governance perspective.”

The need for speed

The key to Manifest Climate’s value proposition isn’t merely data collection and analysis—it’s the speed at which it’s performing those activities. Thanks to its modelling, the startup can rapidly perform complex analyses that can save internal teams up to 75 percent of manual time and effort and up to 50 percent in compliance costs.

“It used to take us over 30 hours to do a company’s gap analysis,” Zizzo explained. Manifest Climate can now perform this task “within seconds,” she said.

For Zizzo, the priority was always to build something scalable, fueled by her understanding of where climate regulation was heading. “We knew there are tens of thousands of organizations that would one day be on the platform,” she said.

In order to ensure that the platform could meet demand, Manifest Climate needed tech infrastructure that could grow with the company. It also needed something powerful enough to help it quickly perform data collection and analysis.

“We’re using an AWS stack to help us organize and be very powerful with how we collect this information, sort through this information, and then surface it in our platform,” Zizzo said.

“AWS is thrilled to support the important work of climate tech entrepreneurs, and is committed to partnering with companies like Manifest Climate to accelerate the path to a net-zero future,” said Patricia Nielsen, Head of Startups for Amazon Web Services Canada. “The combination of AWS cloud capabilities and climate tech innovation is a powerful force for positive change.”

Turning climate risk into a market driver

With its solution, Manifest Climate is helping companies from a wide range of sectors including financial services, mining, manufacturing, and construction to gain more visibility into how their decisions and operations impact the environment. But Zizzo hopes it also prompts them to think about climate action as a business opportunity as well.

“I think often we talked about the regulatory requirements here, and I think that’s a real driver,” she said. “But what we want to say is: this is a market driver as well. The fact that AWS and others are putting so many of their resources behind this shows that this is a business strategy.”

By giving businesses deeper insights into their business, Zizzo said companies can integrate climate actions into their existing operational systems, opening doors to future opportunities for financial success and growth.

“The reason that the regulators are regulating in this space is because it matters from a systemic risk perspective,” she added. “The more that organizations understand that and they understand that technology can help them solve this problem, I think it’s going to unlock a lot of creativity and potential.”

Changemakers is presented by AWS Startups.

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Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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