BeZero Carbon's Sebastien Cross

Sebastien Cross at the Energy Tech Summit

After 52 years of Earth Day, there is still no sign of the planet being saved. Though there is still time to solve the climate crisis, it’s rapidly running out.

Sustainability decisions in business should therefore no longer be an afterthought, as outlined by Warwick Business School alumnus Sebastien Cross.

“The time to act is now,” he said. “Climate change is happening and the impacts and risks are becoming increasingly visible. The emissions impact of every action we take is vital. For many though, there is a steep education path still to climb.”

It was this steep path that Sebastien sought to illuminate and direct others toward – a path that eventually led him to create BeZero Carbon. BeZero is a leading global ratings and research agency for the voluntary carbon market, with third-party providers paying to display the ‘BeZero Carbon Rating’ on their platforms.

Graduating with an MSc Finance & Economics degree in 2014, Sebastien was comfortably adept at analysing complex data to forecast future trends. During a discussion with soon-to-be business partner Tommy Ricketts, Sebastien was struck by the lack of reliable data and analysis in the climate space to inform decision-making in business, and in particular, the voluntary carbon market.

What is the voluntary carbon market?

Unlike the government-driven compliance carbon market, the voluntary carbon market is an alternative mechanism for reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. GHGs are created by the burning of fossil fuels, a process that generates 84 per cent of the world’s energy, according to BP.

GHGs must be removed from the atmosphere in order to limit global warming, and voluntary carbon projects are designed to enable activities that do just that. They issue carbon credits which, once purchased, can be ‘retired’ in order to claim the carbon and ensure they aren’t reused.

The voluntary carbon market could and should grow to become an effective conduit for private sector capital to fund the reduction or removal of carbon from the atmosphere. Currently though, it lacks the tools to scale up.

It is commonly understood that one carbon credit equals one tonne of CO2, or the equivalent of CO2, avoided or removed. Sebastien, however, was sceptical. He among others suspected that not all carbon credits were equal in quality, and that a rigorous, transparent and universal approach would be needed if the voluntary carbon market was to scale efficiently.

It was here that Sebastien identified a key contributing factor to this deficiency - there were no tools to interrogate the core claim - was a credit actually achieving a tonne of carbon? It was with this issue in mind that Sebastien and Tommy created BeZero Carbon.

“We created a ratings framework to bring together a blend of science, policy and finance to tackle this problem,” Sebastien said. “This research-driven approach to product creation is fundamental to the DNA of the business.”

Accrued ratings allow all market participants to evaluate and manage risk. BeZero’s ratings and research tools offer crucial support for buyers, intermediaries, investors, and carbon project developers.

“We believe that the headline rating for carbon credits should be publicly available and we are transparent in our approach to rating projects,” explains Sebastien, who publishes and updates BeZero’s detailed methodology in full on its website. The company also ensures all underlying data, research and analytics are available to the firm’s paid subscribers.  

Who are the people that make it happen?

In order to evolve and scale up, Sebastien has employed a workforce that spans a diverse range of skills and backgrounds – something he sees as imperative to the success of BeZero.

“We’ve been extremely lucky to attract a highly talented team from across the world,” said the 30-year-old, now based in St Albans, Hertfordshire. “I’m so proud of the culture of critical thinking we have developed. It’s a joy to work with engineers, scientists, data analysts, economists and more - all joining forces to solve the same issue.”

Hiring people from across the world has been one of the few positives to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, as both BeZero and its employees have become open to remote working. This all-encompassing workforce is befitting of the cause for which they all fight - people across the planet working together, to save it. Sebastien, however, is quick to downplay any heroic comic book narratives.

“We don’t see ourselves as crusaders saving the world,” he said. “We aren’t fussy about where these good ideas come from, or who gets the plaudits. What’s important is the quality and uptake of ideas that major players use to take much-needed action on climate change.”