We sat down with Almond CEO and Founder Oliver Bolton to discuss how he is revolutionising the way we think about global sustainability.
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The word ‘sustainability’ has been thrown around a lot in the last decade. There is an emphasis on doing our best to help the planet. Recycling, cycling to work and going vegan are all options to reduce our personal carbon footprint. Whilst many have simply shrugged these challenges off, scientists however are predicting that we have until 2030 in order to prevent a catastrophic change in our climate.
With the current climate crisis having a devastating impact on our planet, more and more businesses and consumers are trying to reduce their global emissions. With 2018 having one of the lowest sea ice extents on record, there is a drastic need to change the way in which the world looks at sustaining our planet. Reducing our carbon footprint is something that Almond is at the forefront of changing.
Influenced from over a decade in the health drinks industry with Waterbomb, the creators of health drinks, Almond is designed to reward consumers for buying sustainable low-footprint products and help responsible brands grow their business.
“Waterbomb was the first European soft drinks company to certify as a B Corp, which is a business that meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance,” Oliver Bolton, Almond and Waterbomb Founder and CEO, tells me over the phone. “Getting to know the B Corp community made me realise that there are some great low-impact products out there, the consumer desire to buy them but people just don’t know where to find these products and with greenwashing which brands to trust. It just didn’t sit well with me” Bolton goes on to explain, and he’s right.
Research conducted by Almond and Carbon Analytics found that in the UK, 52% of the average person’s carbon footprint was made up of the products and services that they consumed. That’s a startling statistic. In 2017, the UK Government published a paper that outlined the biggest causes of CO2 emissions. Products consumed was not even listed in the 24-page document. “Our research highlights two things” Bolton states. “One, people are misinformed about what they think their biggest sources of carbon footprint are. Two, we have to fundamentally change the way we look at global emissions and capture the true cost of consumption.”
The sincerity of the message, as well as the fear that it instils, delivered by Bolton, leads into the bigger challenge that we are currently faced with: climate change. As it stands, the earth is dangerously close to facing an irreversible change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report over 500 pages long outlining what we needed to do in order to stay within the 1.5° limit: the maximum which the earth can heat up if we are to avoid a “hothouse earth” scenario.
“The IPCC’s report had some incredible statistics and echoed our thoughts at Almond” Bolton goes onto explain. “However,” he states, pausing before delivering something that stayed with me long after the call. “In order to stay within 1.5° we need to get our global carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.” To me, this sounds like an achievable target. However, I am quickly proven wrong. “To put that into perspective, we’d need to cut our carbon emissions in the next 11 years by 43% in order to be on track to hit that target” Bolton explains.
Facts like this are difficult to comprehend. It is also at the very core of what Almond are looking to rectify. “Our philosophy has two main focus points: businesses and consumers” Bolton tells me. “For consumers, Almond is designed to help them understand the impact that their carbon footprint has and then help them to reduce it” he goes on to explain. “We can help them to make a positive change by showing how these lower impact products will lower their individual emissions.” It, of course, makes sense to do so. A 2017 report from Unilever highlighted the fact that a third of consumers were buying products that they believed to be responsible.
“For the businesses, it’s about us working with responsible brands who are producing these low impact products and helping them gain market share” Bolton tells me. They are facilitating the next generation of B Corp businesses to succeed through their app. “It’s about us enabling them to attract business away from unethical and irresponsible brands with high impact products.”
The rewards come in the form of sterling backed ‘Almond Coins’. The coins are given when a consumer scans a unique code on a product in the Almond app (the Alpha version is currently available on both the App Store and Google Play). This code shows information about the product such as where it was made, who the business is, what ingredients were used, how they were sourced and why the price of the product is what it is.
“One of the challenges that comes with sustainable products is that sometimes they are a bit more expensive” Bolton explains. “The aim of incentivising people with a form of a ‘cash-back’ so to speak is to take the pressure off of those brands” he goes on to tell me. “It also means that brands will be able to better understand their customers, giving them greater insight into their customers and ultimately rewarding those who consume their products.”
Marketing physical products can be difficult, especially when these businesses are not cutting corners. Through the Almond app, businesses are opened up to a far greater number of avenues to which they can create recurring customers. “Because we are digitising a brands physical products, we are giving businesses the opportunity to incentivise consumers through our system and engage them through the purchase,” he tells me in a passionately animated tone.
An example of a brand being able to do this would be having a product on the app. Then, as a first time a consumer buys and scans it, the product could be given to them for free. This then creates a sampling exercise, and for the brand, means that they have the opportunity to create a recurring customer by incentivising them with Almond coins.
“Another example would be building in a referral scheme to the app. Inviting someone else to buy the product and if they buy it and then scan it both users are rewarded for that purchase” Bolton explains. Almond has the capability to revolutionise the way in which businesses and consumers are rewarded for making a conscious decision to reduce their carbon footprint through sustainable products.
Using cutting edge technology, as well as incentivising people to use the application, Almond’s decision to go down the route of a Security Token Offering (STO) then makes sense. “We’ve always looked to utilise technology which makes the has the best impact for the business. For what we want to achieve from now to next year, to five years time, the STO framework serves our business over the course of seed funding to the best it can be” Bolton tells me.
The decision to use a new form of investment was one that made sense for Almond as a whole. Almond itself will be operating under a Swiss foundation which owns all of the intellectual property (IP), technology and B Corp Certification. Sticking to the morals that the B Corp Certification brings, this means that if a corporation that is unethical or immoral by their standards asked to buy their IP or tech, they would not sell the business on. As this is a foundation, it also means that for investors there is no exit period.
“Because the project is acquisition resistant, we needed a mechanism to allow investors to exit their investment and we had to create a way for them to receive a return” Bolton goes on to tell me. “The STO model allows us, and our investors, to trade their tokens as they see fit. If they need to create some liquidity then after their lock-up period they are able to trade their security tokens on a regulated exchange.” This makes absolute sense. It also means that investors are able to trade Almond tokens between one another and the wider market, creating a greater pool of liquidity for an investment that has no exit.
“As a global project, we are speaking to people all over the world. Having TokenMarket help us to facilitate international investment is a huge factor for us as we move forward” he states. With Almond being so heavily involved with various sustainable global projects, and major supermarkets in the UK, the STO route does not confine them to just one investor pool but rather a global one.
There is one final string to the Almond bow that Bolton tells me as the interview begins to wind down. “We also wanted to give users the opportunity to use their Almond Coin rewards to invest in the platform on an ongoing basis”. A consumer being asked if they want to fund a platform that they are using is a bold move from the Almond team.
“These tokens are tradeable on an exchange meaning it would enable users to convert their reward money into actual Almond security tokens.” Not only does this make sense for Almond, but also the consumers. An app that tracks sustainability, rewards you for buying lower impact products and then being given the chance to invest, is something that would incentivise anyone.
As the interview draws to close, I begin to understand why projects like Almond are so vital to ensure that we reduce our global emissions. Rewarding users for making an effort to produce less CO2 is a great thing. B Corp businesses are championing the way in which all businesses should act. “If every profit-making business on the planet became a B Corp then the world would be a much better place” Bolton tells me. If Almond carries on with its sustainability mission, I am sure that they can help us achieve that.
What are your thoughts on global sustainability and if blockchain is the solution for incentivisation?
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