HomeFrance-StartupsAccelerating global decarbonization | Interview with Rachel Delacour, CEO and Co-Founder of...

Accelerating global decarbonization | Interview with Rachel Delacour, CEO and Co-Founder of Sweep

The impact of climate change is no longer theoretical or a future problem, but a reality that already affects communities across the world. 

Already a serial entrepreneur and leading female figure in European tech, in 2020, Rachel Delacour decided to take urgent action and help reduce the consequences of climate change by founding Sweep. Based in France, the B2B startup targets large enterprises and helps them understand, manage and lower their carbon footprints through big data insights.

We had the chance to talk to Rachel, who shared with us Sweep’s inspiring journey, the fast-paced growth the company recently experienced, and the role of innovation and collaboration in delivering climate technology and succeeding in the green transition. 

Carbon footprint management is crucial nowadays. Could you briefly tell us how your recent climate-tech venture Sweep helps large companies lower their ecological footprint?

Sweep is a software platform that enables companies to reduce carbon emissions in their business and value chain. Our network approach to carbon management enables businesses to connect across their supply chain to collectively track and reduce emissions.

It can be difficult to understand carbon data, particularly scope 3 (indirect) emissions, but having an accurate picture of your carbon output is a vital first step to reducing emissions. At Sweep, we enable businesses to automate the process of collecting emissions data and stay on track with their climate goals by providing a precise breakdown of a company’s actual emissions.

We’ve optimised our platform to support larger companies, ultimately those that are bigger carbon emitters. As they work with a large network of smaller companies, our unique approach addresses their needs and connects them to take collective reduction action – making the biggest impact in accelerating the transition to a low-carbon future.

Sweep has experienced very rapid growth since its launch in 2020. What kind of companies are you now calling your customers and how did you handle this fast business growth?

Since our public launch in April 2021, our business has accelerated incredibly fast. In the first 12 months, we’ve raised $100M in funding and have started working with a range of companies of all sizes, including IT, consumer goods and finance. 

Sweep for Finance our dedicated solution for financial institutions, has been supporting investment firms, such as 2050, Coatue, and Mirova, in decarbonising their financed emissions. We also work with giants such as Ubisoft, helping them to develop a portfolio of climate-positive projects to invest in. 

We have handled the rapid growth of our business by leveraging our unique talent: our team’s areas of expertise range from business intelligence to carbon science, product design, and finance. This level of specific experience is very reassuring to our customers. Our goal is to build the most powerful carbon management platform to help companies achieve their climate goals and become leaders of decarbonisation. 

Sweep has recently raised a $73m Series B round, bringing its total funding to $100 million, making your company one of the best-funded carbon management platforms. Is the topic of green transition attracting a lot of investment nowadays in Europe? 

Climate tech is an area of exponential growth, both in terms of investment and innovation. The industry is now estimated to be worth more than $104bn having doubled in value over the past two years. Within Europe, climate tech is thought to be one of the fastest growth verticals in the startup scene, second only to fintech.

Increasing regulation in Europe will bring transparency and accountability to the way large companies report their climate impact. Ultimately, the goal is to put financial information on the same level as financial auditing, not just in Europe, but across the world. We won’t meet our 2050 targets without collective climate action. 

The green transition concerns businesses of all sizes, across all industries globally. So, companies need to take a holistic approach to their climate strategy and have the right methodology to meet their targets.

Your data-driven platform helps businesses become “forever companies”. What does this mean and how can companies measure their progress?

At Sweep, we think of a forever company as an ever-growing company that anticipates (climate) challenges and innovates to adapt to the future needs of society. As we’re moving towards a low-carbon world, companies that get access to building their growth strategy based on carbon data are set to sustain and thrive in the future. It is crucial to see carbon not as a limitation but rather as an opportunity to innovate and strategise with a long-term outlook.

What are, in your opinion, the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the climate tech sector?  

The low carbon transition has finally risen to the top of the agenda for many businesses, who have realised that investing in climate change makes good business sense as well as the right thing to do. This shift in momentum has made it a very exciting time to be in the climate tech space. The market is ripe and the demand is real. Large companies have made their carbon pledges public and are now held accountable by investors, customers, employees and regulators. 

But, many companies are struggling to translate their climate targets into action and are finding themselves stuck in the realm of commitments and uncertain on how to approach a net zero plan.

Despite these huge opportunities in the climate tech sector, it looks like the current economic uncertainty is causing some companies to consider reducing spending on climate change initiatives. Many businesses may feel that climate-related initiatives represent a significant upfront cost without an immediate benefit, but these frequently end up helping businesses secure their bottom line in the long term while driving growth and innovation. 

This is obviously a fast-growing sector and there are a few well-known startups competing with Sweep. What do you bring different to the table?  

The task of effective and accurate carbon data collection is incredibly complex. At Sweep, our strong data background combined with our team of climate experts allows us to map out carbon data with a level of unrivalled sophistication. Many of our competitors rely on estimates – they look at monetary values on invoices and convert these to carbon estimates. This often results in inaccurate data which can cause compliance as well as reputational damage. 

As a pure player, Sweep delivers a carbon footprint analysis at the most extended scale and is tailored to any company’s climate ambition. Our science-based data-driven platform streamlines the complexity of carbon management and facilitates a carbon dialogue with every stakeholder across an organization and industry. This allows us to work out a company’s complete footprint on a level of detail that is not available with many of our competitors, such as SAP, Salesforce, and Microsoft. Most importantly, that’s how companies can take action to reduce their emission hotspots and move towards their climate targets. 

We know that regulations on carbon emissions have recently become stricter in the EU. How does Sweep contribute to enforcing these regulations? 

We enable companies to gather extremely accurate emission data, which makes it easier for regulators as well as the companies themselves to track progress. Regulations can help accelerate action to lower carbon emissions and meet carbon neutrality targets. Incoming new regulations, such as the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), will require all companies in the EU with 250 or more employees to measure their carbon footprint. Using a carbon management platform such as Sweep ensures businesses can confidently follow these regulations and will continue to be compliant even if the regulations change.

Sweep is an advocate of climate collaboration among different stakeholders. Could you tell us more about the different partnerships you have established to scale climate action globally?   

One way we establish global partnerships to scale climate action is through our customers, which include the likes of Swisscom, the largest telecommunications company in Switzerland. By enabling Swisscom to automate and coordinate data collection across their 4,000 suppliers through our network approach to carbon management, we’re helping them optimise their carbon reduction efforts.

Beyond this, we are actively involved in leading global conversations about climate change, being part of the World Bank’s Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, which brings together leaders from government, the private sector, academia, and civil society to expand the use of carbon pricing policies. As well as this we are a signatory of the Principles for Responsible Investment to help bring about a more sustainable financial system.

Global collaboration is particularly important to us – we are also members of IETA (The International Emissions Trading Association), who we work closely with to help enable businesses to take action and reduce emissions globally. Our presence at COP27 this year will help to spread an understanding around how data-driven technology can help businesses to hit reduction targets, which will be key to scaling global climate action.

Spreading our collaboration efforts, Julien Denormandie, former French Minister of Agriculture, recently joined the team as our Chief Impact Officer. His experience has strengthened our team and will keep expanding our partnerships across France and internationally.

Who do you look up to in this climate journey these days? Who inspires you to achieve your mission?

Entrepreneurs always inspire my work and I feel incredibly lucky to build Sweep with the support of great leaders, such as Tony Fadell, Bernard Liautaud, or Marie Ekeland.  

It’s incredibly powerful to follow an entrepreneur over the course of their life and I enjoy reading the work of Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the founders of 37 Signals. Every book they’ve put out has so many learnings about how to build a business, from mastering the product development process in “Shape Up”, to getting the most out of employees in “It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work”. Their way of re-envisioning how businesses should be run and how we should live our lives has definitely been a huge source of inspiration for me.

Iulia Baidac
Iulia Baidac
Iulia is a strategist, communications and content marketing professional, based in Vienna. Passionate about cross-industry innovation, startups and technologies that make an impact on the world, her experience spans different European countries and sectors. A storyteller at heart, she enjoys helping entrepreneurs get the word out about their ideas.

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