Waving ‘goodbye’ to the so-called safe life to set up Chooose was one of the toughest decisions that Andreas Slettvoll ever had to take. Since then, the now CEO and Co-Founder has seen the platform for climate positivity picked as a top 10 startup globally by Richard Branson’s Extreme Tech Challenge and listed as one of the hottest young companies disrupting the climate space.
Our team had the pleasure of speaking with Andreas on engaging people through positive narratives, simplifying (not stupefying!), and how climate action is inspiring – beyond just the business case.
What inspires you to get you out of bed in the morning?
Andreas Slettvoll (AS): Well, I have a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old, so it’s hard not to get out of bed early! Apart from that very practical pull to get moving in the morning, I’m very driven by what we’re trying to achieve here at Chooose, the big picture, the work that we’re also doing together with South Pole…seeing the impact that we can have every day. This is a really big driver for me. So – literally: kids; professionally: working to make a positive impact globally, every day.
Let’s talk more about Chooose. Why was it founded? How did it all start?
AS: It started as all good ideas often do – over a few beers with friends. We ended up having deep discussions about climate change in Oslo around one and a half years ago and came up with some key conclusions: for the first time, climate change felt personal for us, for different reasons. It was no longer just something you read about in the newspaper. For me, it was partially related to the election of a certain president who doubted crystal-clear science. For my co-founder, Martine Kveim, the main trigger was artificial snow – or rather, the need to use artificial snow in Norway [of all places!] at skiing centres, following the worst winter we’ve ever had in Norway [in 2016].
So we all had different angles, but the common ground was that 1) we all need to act on climate change, sooner rather than later; 2) we wanted to come up with solutions that appeal to ourselves, but also to others like us; and 3) we wanted to empower people to take action now, rather than offer them a ‘doomsday narrative’ on climate change.
“We wanted to empower people to take action now, rather than offer them a ‘doomsday narrative’ on climate change.”
And how do you help create positive actions with measurable impact?
AS: Let me offer an analogy here: I’ve tried to get my 2-year-old son to eat his vegetables. Telling him to eat now gives me very poor results, as you can imagine…but saying that he will gain muscles and grow up to be big and strong works wonders. He sees the benefit.
The same applies to climate change – you need to articulate the benefits of taking action, you need to focus on the positive. Ever since I was a kid, public communication on climate action was often associated with a lot of finger pointing and shaming. So many ‘don’ts’ vs. ‘dos’! This is not the right way to engage or inspire. It might work among a very select audience…but not with the people we are targeting. We want to engage as many people as possible, and in order to create engagement, you need to tell another story that is positive, inspiring, and actionable. Inspired people tend to be a little bit more curious, read a bit more…and make informed choices.
Your design, brand, website and the experience of offsetting with Chooose seem to be aimed at millennials. Is that fair?
AS: I would say that our target group is really everyone…apart from maybe the ‘climate denier’, who is a hard nut to crack! People like you and me. Informed people who are keen to do something – beyond changing their own life. Something with a high impact and a low barrier to participating.
We want to provide a clear, easy and high-impact alternative for taking action. This also extends to companies who want to engage employees, to organise climate positive events, such as concerts, sports events, etc.
You mention low-barriers as key to ‘engage in change’. How do you actively drive engagement and how has this worked?
AS: Well, first and foremost we’ve consciously embedded this ‘ease of participation’ into our actual offering. We provide, among others, ultra low-barrier applications such as monthly subscriptions to reducing your carbon footprint by the world citizen average with just a few clicks. It takes you exactly two minutes to register. But you can also be more hands-on – and this is where our partnership with South Pole adds great value. We can use your in-depth knowledge and reporting on project impacts to better engage with our members.
In a nutshell: simplifying, not stupefying, both our engagement and our offering. And no matter who we work with, we always put impact first.
“We want to simplify, not stupefy, the climate action message.”
Many companies selling carbon credits to individuals also give them the opportunity to measure their carbon footprint. You chooose not to. Why is that?
AS: As we mainly target individuals, this is not incorporated in our offering for several reasons: 1) It’s time-consuming. We don’t want to run the risk of losing anyone in the process by asking them to invest extra time before taking action. 2) We’re all so different! I personally have no clue how many kilograms of meat I’ve eaten this year or how many kilometres of bus or car driving I’ve done. No matter how specific I am, it will always be a guesstimate when it comes to evaluating my personal impacts.
Carbon neutrality is a precise science, which is why we focus on climate positivity. We need to do way more than just neutrality if we want to address the current climate crisis.
And we want to keep it simple. We’ve taken the average footprint of a person in a given country and you yourself will know whether you are, for instance, a frequent flyer or a hard-core vegan. You can then increase or decrease that estimate for yourself. We don’t want to claim that we know people better than they know themselves.
You also work a lot with artists. How is it helping you connect with the people you want to reach?
AS: We find it fascinating that interesting stories most often arise in the ‘in-between’ places, between climate action and art and music. Many artists have impressive personal platforms through which they connect with their communities. We want to use these creative spaces to communicate a different message, to advance a greater good, to mainstream climate action into modern culture in a way that is positive.
Who or what inspires you right now?
AS: Something that is not necessarily an inspiration but a radical call-to-action is the latest IPCC climate report. We cannot wait for organisations who have targets for 2030, we need to act now. We need to use this report almost as ammunition to keep communicating the urgency to act!
I’m also inspired by the growing interest we’ve seen for our services, and the wonderful people and companies we’ve had the pleasure of working with.
And last but certainly not least: it’s easy to talk about the big numbers, such as tonnes of CO2. But what’s really inspired our team at Chooose is seeing the real impacts on real people through the [South Pole] projects our efforts are supporting. We can actually see how many positively impacted lives are behind these emissions reductions, and how our work is helping to make a difference. This is incredibly inspiring!
“It’s incredibly inspiring to see the positive impacts behind these big numbers (tonnes of CO2): real lives, real people.”
Any words of encouragement to other companies working to make a difference?
AS: What we’ve seen over the past year is that a company like Chooose, which is entirely focused on supporting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is winning everything from ‘Best Young Tech Company’ to ‘Best Start-up of the Year’. This would’ve not been possible a few years ago. Climate action today is gaining real attention, it’s the culmination of a sustainability megatrend.
For us, this should be a motivation for big and small companies alike to focus on the SDGs, to acknowledge that taking climate action is inspiring – beyond just the business case.
Keen to hear more?