Episode 6

Building a sustainable future by default with Petra Janney

Q chats with Petra Janney, founder at Hatcher LLC - a sustainability advisory and incubator firm. Petras deep passion for sustainability shines through as they discuss how she founded Hatcher, and the kinds of work they do with clients. They talk about creating a sustainable future, and where the opportunities are for companies to embed this as part of their DNA as not only the right choice, but also the obvious one. They take a look at an optimistic future, which appears to be right in the palm of our hands.


[00:00:00] Qayyum ("Q): Welcome to the Real People Real Impact podcast. I'm Kim Or Q, and I'm your host today. I have an awesome person with me who's Petra Jani, and she is the co founder of the Hatcher LLC. And Hatcher. I'm going to give it to Petra in a little bit, too, to put that in her own words. But it's where advisory means incubation, doing really cool stuff with social impact and ventures in this space. But I'm not going to Butcher that totally. So first of all, Patricia, tell me a little bit about yourself, and then we can get into a little bit about what Patrick axis is.

[00:00:32] Petra: Yeah, absolutely. So thanks to for having me on today. I really enjoyed our conversations during our sustainability and behavior change event a couple of weeks ago, so it's great to be speaking with you today. So, yeah, my name is Petra Jani. I'm one of the founders of Hatcher, and it's our mission to invent a sustainable future for our clients and communities. So like you mentioned, we kind of go after that mission through two separate strategies or branches of our company, if you will. On the one side, we have the advisory kind of consulting area where we work with companies on really bold initiatives to move the needle on sustainability. And then on the other side, we're putting our money where our mouth is with our own incubations and the sustainability and social good space. So we're trying to help companies change and then actively be part of the change at the same time.

[00:01:22] Qayyum ("Q): That's a good portfolio effect. Right. And you can talk to it on both sides of the stream. I know you have a very interesting background. So how did you get into co founded Hatcher, and what was your journey into the sustainability ecosystem?

[00:01:38] Petra: Well, how much time do you have?

[00:01:40] Qayyum ("Q): Q this whole life of ours, honestly, is just a random walk. Things just happen as they do. But close notes if you can. And we can get you on for a half a day podcast one day in the future.

[00:01:51] Petra: Yeah, sounds great. Sounds great. So I guess I'll start getting but I promise I won't tell my whole life story. I was lucky enough to grow up in Maine kind of surrounded by nature, and I've always had this deep affinity for the natural environment and all the creatures in it. But I've always been very fascinated by technology and the power that technology really has to transform human potential and what humans are capable of. So I kind of pursued that idea. I spent ten years working in technology research and development, basically working across all different kinds of industries. And I'm kind of this hyper curious person where I like exploring how the patterns and ideas from different industries kind of crossover. But anyway, after about a decade in research and development, working on educational experiences for the Smithsonian, built Exoskeletons to start a national conversation around aging worked on mobile fabrication laboratories that can survive in any environment for the military. And while I always kind of wove sustainability into those projects in some way, after a while, it became kind of frustrating. Like, how is this not the major focus of these major companies and institutions and organizations? Right. I mean, the writing has been on the wall for a really long time. That climate is changing, and that's the way the world is heading. And so if we position our companies to prepare for it, we're obviously going to be in great shape. It just seems so clear. So anyway, I kind of had this epiphany after about ten years. That kind of conventional technology, R and D, it's supposed to solve problems, but it's really just making new ones. Right. And we're just hoping that future generations are better able to solve them.

[00:03:29] Qayyum ("Q): Take the time down the road.

[00:03:31] Petra: Yeah, exactly. It's like they'll take care of it. So we found a Hatcher to really address that problem. We saw that conventional R and D is just creating more problems and that sustainability is still an afterthought for so many of these really massive companies. And so we see sustainability as this really critical forcing function for future innovation. Right. If you're not thinking in this domain, then you're missing out on all kinds of opportunities and challenges that are coming our way. And so, yes, sustainability has always been a massive passion of mine. And I always kind of assumed I haven't took for granted that it was a passion of everyone. And then you spend some time working and you realize, oh, wow, this is not the focal point that it should be. So we started hatching and to make sustainability at the core of everything we do.

[00:04:18] Qayyum ("Q): That's awesome. I feel like it's from your background. It's like that Ben diagram where your talent and your experience meets you're in the zone of you're in your purpose zone. I feel like right now, which is a beautiful place to be, and I feel like I'm in the same one, which is why I think we connect really well. So with Hatcher as companies are moving to the sustainability frontier. And like you said, a lot of the things that they should be doing should be the obvious choice or it should be based on. I don't want to get into any secrets of some of the things that you guys are doing, but what does advisory look like today? What are companies asking for? Or better yet, what are you telling companies that they need to do?

[00:04:59] Petra: Yeah, absolutely. There's a whole spectrum of things that we work on in sustainability, and I think that's one of the reasons that it's such an interesting field to work in. We work exclusively on projects where sustainability and innovation really converge because you can't really have one without the other in this day and age. So everything that we do, and it's a broad spectrum. But I'll try to give you some detail. It has to drive meaningfully toward a better relationship with the Earth. Right. We're literally headed for catastrophe. Everything we do, we kind of see it has to move the needle. And sustainability is really a different way of thinking about our businesses, our industries, and our future. So that's kind of the approach that we try to bring, but sometimes give you a sense of what kind of products we're actually working on. Sometimes we're prototyping new products that create differentiators through sustainable performance. Sometimes we're changing business models to make them more circular, helping our clients make more money without using more resources or making more products. And then other times we're really developing the tools and technologies to make that sustainable decision. The easy decision and whether that's for our clients internal teams or through tools and experiences that better engage their customers. So I guess I can give you a sense of the process and how we kind of walk through that. So I guess the first step is usually understanding the barriers to sustainability within a company and with their consumers. So we're not going to work with a company that's just not interested in sustainability. We don't have time for that. But everyone has unique barriers and challenges when it comes to making more sustainable products or reducing their carbon footprint. So we kind of start there, and then whether that problem turns out to be a technology gap or a customer engagement issue, a behavior change issue like we've talked about a bit, or the product experience itself can be the problem, then we start to create this kind of vision for how can we change that? And how can we really be bold and brave? It's easier to get people to buy into a big vision than it is for some incremental, small little idea. Right. So we kind of create demos and simulations, prototypes, whatever it takes to build that buy in for a new way of thinking about the product or the company. And then we're maturing and evolving those prototypes into something that our clients can implement. So one example of decision support tools that help your workforce basically make sustainable choices in product development or help consumers understand their impact through choosing your products. And then kind of all this, I guess taking a step back as part of this roadmap that we trace out as far as we can see into the future to ensure that kind of each step in the process is really bringing us closer to that goal of a sustainable relationship with the planet.

[00:07:48] Qayyum ("Q): Yeah. It sounds like just helping organizations fully integrate this. Right. Is this part of their central nervous system? It's just part of their DNA. And what was interesting is you mentioned different problems that companies might have and implemented this. And obviously, by the time they come to you, these are companies that are thinking about this a little bit more. Not like you said, the ones that you don't have time for, which I'm sure there's quite a few of those today. But I would have assumed that a big issue is cost. Would you say that's still one of the main issues or. It sounds like it's much broader than that. Right. Like the reason why a company might not be at the point where the crane, sustainable solutions, circular economy style things and everything that they do.

[00:08:33] Petra: Yeah, certainly cost is always a problem. I think funding is always a problem. And you heard me mention just now, it's like if you try to get people to sign up for a little idea, it's surprising how much you can actually get people excited about a bigger vision, even though there's often a bigger price tag attached to it. But it really runs the gamut. So we work with all different kinds of companies, and some of them are really good at the footprinting side of it, where they're actually saving money because they're decarbonizing their supply chain, switching over to renewable energy, and they're saving money, but they're not engaging their customers in that progress. So people don't know that they're actually buying from a brand or a company that's made a lot of progress on that front. And they're kind of missing that aspect of goodwill that they could be enjoying a bump from that if they were considering how to kind of properly engage their communities in their progress. And then I would say there's the other side as well, which is that there are certain companies that are really good at engaging their communities. They're creating a lot of conversation around it. They know it's important, but they don't always have the technology or the execution plan to really deliver on what they're committing to. And that's a huge reputation risk as well. So there's kind of companies that fall all along that spectrum, and some of them just say, hey, we need to just set the goals and commit and be transparent about the goals, and we'll figure out how to achieve them and others. And there's sometimes kind of interesting things depending on where you work in the world. But others are like, hey, we just need to basically put our heads down, get working, make some progress on the numbers, and then we'll figure out how to communicate with our communities about what we're doing. And really it's like you have to do all of that. You have to do all of it almost not at once. But you have to be thinking about this thing, as you said, as an integrated holistic kind of part of your nervous system and not some kind of afterthought to add on to your strategy.

[00:10:26] Qayyum ("Q): Yeah. It's all fluid. Right. And obviously what's the recipe on paper is really just like this interconnected sort of web. What's really intriguing about the EC industry as a whole or sustainability industry since I've been in it is that it's just connected to so many more places in the organization than other frameworks or other things that I don't have other ideas that might have come to light because even at analytics, like the people that use our software is like our communications. It's finance people, it's the companies themselves, it's their suppliers. It's like all across the board. Right. So that's really interesting. That's a really good response on the investment side. I'm from the markets guy and also start up in financial world. What kind of things are you looking at there from the incubation side? I mean, I imagine there's a clean tech and other elements in there, like really cool stuff happening there some cars your perspective?

[00:11:23] Petra: Yeah. There's so much possibility. I think the problem is choosing what to invest in, what to incubate and what to do.

[00:11:32] Qayyum ("Q): And on that side as well. I think what always surprises me is that how much technology is out there and exists. Right. And when you're in there and you see it, you're like, you already know the future is already here, but it's like we're somehow you can already see what is going to be implemented over the next 1020 years. Right. Anyway, please go ahead.

[00:11:52] Petra: Yeah, absolutely. So a lot of things that we're looking at are both kind of lessons I'd say we've taken from our advisory work. So I mentioned kind of decision support and tools. And so we're seeing, obviously your creative, incredible platform, credible tool to understand ESG from the outside in. Right. Instead of from internal disclosures. But there's also tools that are kind of helping companies to make more sustainable decisions. We look at the choice architecture that an employee might have to go through in order to understand the environmental impact of a material choice or a product choice or even a supplier or vendor. And these things, if you don't grow up in the world of sustainability, these are not obvious things. And it's incredibly difficult to train a massive company that has 1000 workers. So how can we make it easier for all of those workers to implement sustainable thought processes into the things they do every day?

[00:12:47] Qayyum ("Q): Right.

[00:12:48] Petra: We have to make it easy for them to do this. We have to make it rewarding and we have to make it irresistible. So I would say that's kind of one maybe corner of what we're looking into and what we're investing in and understanding how we can make those tools generalizable enough so that they would sell as a tool and also customizable enough so that they can adapt to different businesses because that's what we wanted, the scalability above everything else. And then the other side are looking kind of more transformational technologies. Thinking about carbon to value especially is a huge area where if we look at the direction we're headed and out of a mission.

[00:13:27] Qayyum ("Q): How would you describe carbon to value? To delay audience.

[00:13:31] Petra: Okay. Right. There's too much carbon atmosphere. Right. So if we're not turning it off anytime soon, which means we're going to have to figure out how to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. Right. We're just going to have to capture and sequester it. But right now, the problem has conventionally been that there's just no business case for the incredibly expensive kind of machinery and tool sets to pull CO2 out of the air. There's a whole wave of new technologies that I'm personally very excited about that are actually turning that Sequester CO2 into a product. So one good one, which is not something that we're investing in, but which I've been following avidly for a long time, is actually injecting captured CO2 into cement, and it makes the cement stronger. So it's actually creating a better product. And you're creating, obviously, a business case for why you would pull CO2 out of the air. And there's everything from that's awesome.

[00:14:26] Qayyum ("Q): That's a great use case.

[00:14:28] Petra: Yeah, right. And there's all kinds of other products. If you think about it, CO2 is really harmful if it's in our atmosphere. But carbon is the basic building block of you and me and everything on this planet. So there's people making everything from shoes to vodka to materials out of captured carbon and jet fuel as well. Looking at how can we capture carbon out of the air? And cool.

[00:14:55] Qayyum ("Q): I got this bum, like this thing about the stuff. I remember once listened to the Top Price to Me podcast, and these guys at Hyper Giant were making this refrigerator, like, refrigerator size thing that has a bunch of algae and it soaks up carbon and it powers stuff in your house. But everyone's, like algae refrigerator is kind of like hooked up to a network where you can kind of share optimization along them. You get energy and all that kind of stuff. But that one tank captures more carbon than plants and like 400 ha of trees. And it's like, well, I don't know. This stuff is like mind blowing, I think. And I can totally see like a 2050. It's just going to be incredible.

[00:15:34] Petra: I know. Yeah, exactly. That's the reality of it. We have all these incredible technologies, and sure, a lot of them are expensive right now, but the investment is pouring into them. And there's going to be a real need for this because we're not anywhere close to just turning off the CO2 smokestack, if you will. We're continuing to pollute. We're quickly kind of losing our ability to stay under that 1.5 degree Celsius number, which means we're going to have to figure out a way to pull carbon out of the air. So to me, the companies who are making and the business models and basically the creative innovators who are making products out of that sequestered Co too, it's just like an obvious yes, we should be doing this. And it is really exciting. I get a big smile on my face, too.

[00:16:25] Qayyum ("Q): It's a good segment, actually, because like I said, okay, these things are expensive, but obviously like solar panels. Right. Costs come down over time as more investment, blah, blah, blah. But I guess cost is only one part of the equation. And it reminds me of the talk that you gave at the comments where I was on the panel like a few weeks ago, where it's also driving behavioral change. Right. And making the sustainable choice the easy choice from a consumer perspective. So I know you had a beautiful presentation on that. Are you able to summarize that in a few minutes to the thought behind that adaptive behavior or however else you want to praise them?

[00:17:01] Petra: Yeah, absolutely. And some awesome comments on that panel. So that was a fun event. I'm glad we can team up for that.

[00:17:09] Qayyum ("Q): Totally.

[00:17:10] Petra: But anyway, so a lot of times the companies that we work with, they'll actually invest a significant amount of money and resources into developing more sustainable products or systems or services. And then they wonder why those products don't sell as well, or they wonder why people aren't using them properly. And there's kind of this missing link that we see when it comes to sustainable transformation, which is that we forget about human nature, we forget about our psychology, we forget about our routines, and we forget that people are busy. And really, conveniences is a top commodity today. So basically, I offered that top three strategies, and there's actually behavioral science is full of strategies and ideas that we can apply to sustainability. I'll share the three with you today, but there are so many more that I couldn't squeeze in. But anyway, how do we make basically the sustainable innovations that we're investing in? How do we increase our adoption with our customers, with our communities, and even inside our own workforce? And there's three big ways to do that to use human nature to unlock sustainable transformation. And so the first one is we have to make it personal. So if I don't care about the product, if I don't care about sustainability, then you're going to have a hard time getting me to adopt or buy the product or change my routine. Right. So there's some really interesting research in this area. I think my favorite example is probably the plastic cup. So recycling is not going to save the world. But we do have to figure out how to reuse the things that we buy if we want to have any hope of kind of creating this circular sustainable economy. So this one study found that if you basically put a flag so I'm Americans, if you put an American flag on my Cup, I am 33% more likely to recycle it than to throw it out.

[00:19:00] Qayyum ("Q): That's awesome. Yeah.

[00:19:01] Petra: So we're linking identity to a sustainable action. And in that way, we're increasing the adoption of that practice. And they even found there's another one that's great, which is that if you go to Starbucks and you get your name written on the cup, if they spell it wrong, you're more likely to throw out the cup than recycling.

[00:19:18] Qayyum ("Q): That's so interesting.

[00:19:20] Petra: I know. So there's all these little behavioral signs and cognitive psychology tricks that we can use. And they're not tricks. They're nudges right. To get people to basically care about the things that we're selling them because we want them to end up in the recycling. We want them to end up back in service for the next generation of products. And then I'll quickly go with that, too. So make it personal is a really big one when thinking about sustainable product option. Next one is to make it social. So humans are very social creatures and we really kind of abide by social norms. The example there is eating meat. I don't know if you've been to a grocery store lately. I live in Los Angeles, so maybe I get slightly more exposure to it than most people. But if you go to a grocery store, there's just an entire wall of plant based products now or even five years ago, it wasn't anywhere near anywhere near that many offerings. And that's because it's really become more socially acceptable to eat plant based, either part or all of the time. And this is tracked this is tracked both in Google search interests and the term veganism. And it's tracked in the industry as well. The plant based food industry is growing massively. It's growing really fast, which is exciting for everyone related to the industry, really. So anyway, behavior spreads through social norms. So we have to think about that when we're designing products and practices. How do we use peer to peer competition, for example, to get people interested in saving energy? Another one I shared on in that presentation was this study that found that if you compare your energy usage to your peers energy usage, you're more likely to save energy because you want to beat your neighbors.

[00:20:57] Qayyum ("Q): Totally. Right. Like the gamification of that is awesome.

[00:21:01] Petra: Yeah, exactly. And there's all kinds of interesting things that you can build into your product experiences. [00:21:08] Qayyum ("Q): Right.

[00:21:08] Petra: To make them more enjoyable, more fun, stickier, and more kind of memorable. And then that's really the last one is how do we make sustainability irresistible? So we can make it the default option. So, for example, a class example is just paperless bank statements instead of mailing bank statements. If you make it the default option, people aren't going to switch to the unsustainable.

[00:21:32] Petra: But if you can't make sustainability, the default option is not always a possibility for your product or your customer, then you can make it easier. So this is about choice architecture and how we look at what are all the different choices that we're putting in front of our consumer, and how do we make the sustainable choice, the easy choice, the most desirable and appealing choice for them, and there's all kinds of different ways to do this. And we can use technology to do this and make it really feel automatic to do this in a way that we're actually improving our customers lives in the process, which is, I think one of the most aspirational parts of sustainability is how can we make our customers lives easier and more sustainable at the same time. And I think that's really our charter as innovators.

[00:22:22] Qayyum ("Q): Totally. And it's really interesting. I love the words like choice architecture, because I think it's really important. And everything that you just mentioned for consumers and for others, that's obviously the way to do it. And when you go back to that example of helping even the internal users in a company leverage technology to make better choice on their supplier or something else, then you're right, because it's complicated ecosystem. It's a million new terms. People have entire degrees on this stuff, right? So you can't be expected to just step out of bed and be like, oh, I'm going to be like the person to create a sustainable supply chain right off the bat. So nudging people helping people invest in this technology using social psychology, it's like all of these little bits at a time to make this happen. Right? I think that's awesome.

[00:23:10] Petra: So.

[00:23:13] Qayyum ("Q): What is the utopian future look like to you? If you're like to God, like, no constraints. I think we even had a discussion like this. But if you have no constraints, like you woke up and everything you just did, like you're the most awesome sustainability innovator in the world. What did you do?

[00:23:32] Petra: All right, well, I'll give a slightly out there answer because I feel like you might enjoy it, which is that I have this vision or this, I guess I would call it fantasy at this point where we're able to grow everything we need instead of manufacturing it. So this sounds like a utopian fantasy for sure. But if you look at biocomposites and bio printing, I actually my thesis was on 3D printing for environmental purposes. But if you look at the direction that bio composites are going there's, one day we could actually print a house. We're printing houses now out of concrete, so even that's not that far off. But if you start to look at bio based substrates that are printable, then one day I could design a house and print it entirely with organic materials. Right. And if it breaks, then great, I can just print a layer over it. I envision a world we understand and we respect nature, but we also use our technological brilliance to create things that make the world just a better place. That's what I envision.

[00:24:36] Qayyum ("Q): That's awesome. And you're able to then just regenerate things on the fly. You know what I mean? Everyone self serves and the components are natural. The things are natural. It's good for the environment, good for the world. I think that's just an incredible place for the future. That's great. I think it's a really good place to end on that very optimistic utopian view. And the way you make it sound it's not even that out there which is the cool part, right?

[00:25:04] Petra: We're already printing batteries if you print circuits so why not?

[00:25:08] Qayyum ("Q): Why not? Why not? Why not? Yeah, exactly. Why not? I remember seeing like, 3D printed hearts 3D printed cells. I mean, if we can do that I'm pretty sure we can print a house, you know what I mean?

[00:25:20] Petra: Yeah.

[00:25:23] Qayyum ("Q): Or whatever. Yeah. Okay. So if people wanted to get a hold of you find out more about Hatcher as well. Where can you do that?

[00:25:32] Petra: Yeah, absolutely. So they can go to our website which is Hatcher LLC it's a little cryptic right now but there will be a new one coming in the new year. They can also reach out to our kind of contact email which is high at Hatcher LLC and just drop us a line and say hey and then they can also connected me personally on LinkedIn my name is Petra Janny I think I'm the only one but I'm not positive on that.

[00:26:00] Qayyum ("Q): Petra, I know that's for sure.

[00:26:01] Petra: Yeah. Anyway, I just really would like to thank you for taking the time and for having me on the show today.

[00:26:10] Qayyum ("Q): Well, thank you for coming on thank you for sharing your wisdom, your insight and Congratulations on finding a firm that's so built on purpose so wishing you the best and I'm looking forward to being closely connected over the next few weeks. Months. Years over here.

[00:26:25] Petra: Awesome. Thanks.