At a time when climate change has never been more prevalent in people’s everyday lives, Toronto-based startup Manifest Climate is working to ensure that companies from around the world are set up to address climate issues in a strategic way.
Manifest supports companies in addressing climate change issues by helping them meet regulatory compliance and finding ways within their organizations to make environmentally-friendly changes.
“We know that climate transformation is happening; we have to move to net-zero [emissions] in the next decades – hopefully sooner – to sustain the way of life that we are used to,” said Laura Zizzo, co-founder and CEO of Manifest. “At the same time, we have to deal with the increased physical risks that are here that we all are seeing all around us. So that is the lens of climate-related financial risk that has not been integrated into core business functions.”
“All organizations are catching up to the reality of how serious this is.”
Zizzo, who has been working in the climate realm since graduating from the University of Toronto law school in 2007, has seen a shift in recent years – both from companies and governments.
“We’re seeing regulators and investors asking for those climate transition plans, asking for climate resiliency strategies,” she told BetaKit in an interview. “All organizations are catching up to the reality of how serious this is.”
Starting from its base in Toronto, Manifest has already attracted the likes of Manulife, Colliers, and Scotiabank as customers. Manifest has some international customers under its belt already as well – but is ready to take its tech even more global.
In an aim to reach more companies, Manifest has secured $30 million in Series A capital.
The round was co-led by BDC Capital Women in Technology Venture Fund and Climate Innovation Capital. The latter is a Toronto-based growth equity venture firm focused specifically on decarbonization that was created in 2020 by a group of local investors, including Paul Manias, formerly of OMERS Platform Investments, and Kevin Kimsa of ScaleUP Venture Partners.
Both investors provide possible unlocks for Manifest to scale its technology. BDC provided a line to the Government of Canada, which backs BDC and under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has put an emphasis on climate action. Most recently, the Trudeau government unveiled a new emissions-reduction plan with targets for 2030; it came ahead of the federal budget that is set to be tabled next week.
Manifest’s Series A round also includes investors that backed its $6.5 million CAD last year, including OMERS Ventures, Golden Ventures, Garage Capital, Active Impact Investments, Klass Capital, Bryker Capital, and undisclosed, “influential” angel investors.
The round also includes some debt from Silicon Valley Bank, though Manifest declined to disclose the breakdown of equity to debt, nor if there was any secondary capital involved.
Manifest raised the round just a year after securing its seed financing because of inbound interest from investors. Zizzo noted that the company had not necessarily been looking to raise capital, but with the investor interest and a market that is ripe for its solution, the timing was right.
In recent years, there has been an influx of companies realizing the need to address climate change, as regulators have started to ask public companies to disclose climate risks related to their companies.
However, recent studies have shown that while companies are making pledges and trying to take action they are often failing to meet their own targets.
“It’s not about sustainability, it’s about economic liability now.”
That is where Manifest is looking to create change. The company – which morphed out of a consultancy practice that Zizzo and Manifest president Jeremy Greven had created – is using artificial intelligence to better understand the impact companies are having, and provide recommendations on disclosures and climate-related business opportunities.
Zizzo noted that over the last five years companies began to understand the urgency behind taking climate action, but are missing the ‘how.’
“Where we’re trying to meet our clients is really change management within the organization, and how you think about climate as a core business issue – no longer something you do after you do the corporate stuff,” said the CEO.
“It’s not about sustainability, it’s about economic liability now,” Zizzo added.
The changing climate has a direct impact on businesses; whether it disrupts supply chains, increases insurance costs to labour, or even environmental disasters that directly impact people and offices.
“The message loud and clear for most organizations everywhere is, it’s now table stakes to have a story about how climate change impacts you,” Zizzo noted during a Patreon-exclusive BetaKit Live event last year. “It’s no longer about what you do about climate change, it’s about, ‘How are you actually going to be part of the future that includes being net-zero and that includes being more resilient?’”
With its Series A capital, Manifest is looking to scale its solution. By aligning with the recommendations from the Task Force for Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD), Zizzo is confident that Manifest will be able to spread its platform globally.
The TCFD is a group of companies from across the G20 that are looking to create a standard for climate-related company disclosures. It has been endorsed by the G20, and has seen regulators from around the world look to align with it.
The global alignment presents a unique opportunity for Manifest to bring its solution to new markets. While Zizzo is ready to make Manifest a global leader, she acknowledges climate change is a bigger issue.
“I want to inspire other founders and VCs that there’s a business to be had here,” she said. “We need to all be thinking about how we can address the climate crisis, and as much as we want to help [Manifest’s] clients and we think we’re the technology to do that, we also want to inspire other founders to think about what they might be able to bring to this process as well.”
Image courtesy Manifest Climate