[00:00:00] Qayyum ("Q"): Thank you so much for coming on to the Real People Real Impact Podcast. You're an amazing individual who's done some really cool things in his life right now. You're the founder of Radical, which deals in carbon offset, carbon trading, all things carbon, which don't think you can be in a better position at this point in the world. We got introduced by a mutual contact a little while ago, and it was really great to meet you and some of the team. But what I wanted to do, first of all, is give you a chance to explain who you are and what you do to the audience.
[00:00:34] Alastair: Well, happy to do that. And I appreciate you inviting me onto the program. I appreciate the opportunity to come and chat with you today and talk about all things carbon. But I think we go well beyond carbon. And I think really what we talk about or what I like to talk about and what Radicals really doing is the underlying accounting that is required to talk about carbon. So functionally, what Radical really does is we quantify emissions emission reductions and emission removals, and we take those findings and we're able to convert them into carbon credits. We're able to use data to demonstrate or provide data for an ESG report, potentially a regulatory requirement report. But it really is all things related to GHG emissions quantifications, and then all of the associated outcomes of products that we can create from those from the accounting service.
[00:01:39] Qayyum ("Q"): If you will make sense. And I know you started your career in sort of the technical space, right? I think WestJet and a few other places. So what was the journey from there to Radical, and how did it kind of happen?
[00:01:56] Alastair: Yeah, the journey from the WestJet years and the years before that. I've always worked in a reasonably well technical environments. I started actually working in a forestry consulting firm many decades ago doing data analysis, spatial data mapping, sort of GIS systems, got into Web development and programming at WestJet, and it's very early years. And eventually that led me to an organization that I was on contract with that was developing software for a variety of different uses. And in 2007, somebody came along and said, well, we're really interested in this carbon. Can you help develop a software platform that's going to allow us to quantify carbon reductions in the agricultural sector? We thought, yeah, we can do that. So started down that road in 2007 and in the summer of 2008, for a variety of reasons, left the organization that I was contracted to and thought, I think we can build a better moist trap. And that led to the creation of the company that is now known as Radical. And so we incorporated in the fall of 2008 and lived the entrepreneurial journey for years, struggled through the entrepreneurial Valley of death before really sort of taking off about four and a half years later, four years later, when we really got our footing. And then since then, we've just continued to grow and evolve. And I've been fortunate enough to be able to attract some amazingly bright people to the organization, including the current CEO of the organization, Ed Alfki, a friend and mentor, and Sash Shapiro, the President, and a whole host of other people. If I started naming people, I'd have to name everyone in the company. That's awesome, because they're all fantastic, fantastic people. And today we're operating in Canada, the US and Brazil, and we're in the midst of an acquisition that will take us into another country shortly as well. So it's an exciting time to be in the space.
[00:04:19] Qayyum ("Q"): Yeah. No, that's fantastic. And the whole value of death is very real. So obviously, Congratulations for getting out of that. I mean, I have to be through that myself, but I didn't know you guys started off in 2008, so that's quite the journey. And kind of really before it's time in terms of the quantification of GHG emissions. And it's really cool to hear about the background from there. It's a dumb question. Well, not really a dumb question. Maybe a dumb question for you guys, but what is the quantification of GC emissions actually look like? We see the numbers kind of spat out everywhere on TCFD, reports on all of that. But without giving the secret sauce, what does that actually look like for a company on day to day basis?
[00:05:02] Alastair: What does it really look like? It looks complicated.
[00:05:05] Qayyum ("Q"): Yeah.
[00:05:06] Alastair: How about that? It's really hard to answer that question, because when you've been in the business of quantifying for a long time, it becomes the business. It gets misunderstanding of it. I think there's two ways to think about it. There's this issue if I can quantify emissions, and that's great. And the other side of this is I can quantify emissions, and I can provide evidence and data to demonstrate that my quantification is correct. I can demonstrate that the ownership of those emissions or emission reductions has been clearly established. I can create a chain of custody. Right. If the asset creating those emissions change his hands, and I can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the emission reductions, the emissions or the emission reductions or the emission removals, whatever it is actually occurred, and that the assertion that we're making is accurate and highly defensible. And to a certain degree, it comes down to high school or school where you got to do your calculations and you got to show your work. Right.
[00:06:26] Qayyum ("Q"): Right.
[00:06:27] Alastair: It's no longer reasonable to say these are my emissions. Great. Show me the evidence. Show me that you've done it correctly. And I think this is where it gets particularly interesting because people often overlook the complexity associated not with the creation of the emissions, but the substantiating to those calculations are correct.
[00:06:52] Qayyum ("Q"): Yeah. That actually just triggered something for me because that was the best description I've heard of how to the quantification process and the steps of validation and checking your work, as you put it. And I think when I've talked to a few other people in the space, they talk about, I guess, much more simplistic ways that companies are measuring their emissions, whether it's getting all the receipts and stuff and creating baseline estimates. And I think that's where we end up with a few problems of, I guess, a larger margin of error. So do you think that is that similar to your understanding of the space? Is there many different ways that people are approaching this? Because what you described is very robust, and I feel like that's not the case for everyone that's being measured right now.
[00:07:38] Alastair: Sure. And I think it depends what you're doing.
[00:07:40] Qayyum ("Q"): Yes.
[00:07:41] Alastair: So if you're generating carbon credits in a compliance market or a very robust voluntary market, you're required to show your work. You're required to demonstrate clear ownership. You're required to deal with issues around additionality permanency. You're required to demonstrate that the actions that made that reduction actually took place. So carbon markets or when we look at compliance carbon markets such as Alberta, which has generated a lot of emission reductions, valued it, I think it's over $2 billion. Now. You know that the work was done well, I think in the market, when we're talking about companies and companies talking about what their emissions are, their own scope one and two, or potentially scope one and two, and then scope three emissions in the supply chain, then it gets a lot more interesting because when we start to talk about scope three emission reductions, how does a company know what was really going on in the supply chain? And if you're a big company and I was talking to someone in Europe and they knew of a company that had a massive number of suppliers.
[00:08:58] Qayyum ("Q"): Any big Corporation, the chain of custody is crazy, isn't it?
[00:09:03] Alastair: Right. And it's like, well, how do you do that? A lot of these companies are using tools to estimate what their scope three emissions are. I say this a bit tongue in cheek, but I go, well, the real issue with estimating is figuring out how wrong you are. Right. And I say that because we've always been required to calculate to quantify, and there's a difference between quantification and estimation. And I think that's really important. So one of the things and what I think is particularly interesting when we think about companies or corporations so 681 of the 2000 largest corporations in the world have made net zero commitments. Right. How are they going to do that? How are they going to get into that supply chain? And it's a real problem. It's a top down approach, and it's problematic. But when I think about what the opportunities are for small and medium sized enterprises to reduce GHG emissions, I get really excited by it. And I'll tell you, why? Because it's not necessarily difficult for a small company to understand what it's scope one and two emissions are, and maybe some of its scope three. But every small company scope one and two emissions or someone else's scope three emissions. Right?
[00:10:28] Qayyum ("Q"): That's true.
[00:10:30] Alastair: And the potential for scale is phenomenal. And I'll quantify it this way. I think it was in 2019 or 2020. I'm not exactly sure. But there was roughly 200 million voluntary carbon credits developed. Let's just pretend I'm right for sake of argument. But it's in that ballpark, right? There are 212,000,000 SMEs roughly according to the Internet, according to my friend Google, 212,000,000 SMEs in the world today. If I get each SME to reduce one ton of emissions, I've already reached the total value of emission reductions made in global voluntary.
[00:11:12] Qayyum ("Q"): So if I understand it correctly, the SMEs haven't really been touched from creation of carbon credits. And we know they are the base, they are the foundation, like you do that you unlock a crazy amount of credits and more.
[00:11:30] Alastair: But they won't necessarily get credits. They might. Right. But what are they going to get? Every time you reduce the GHG emissions, you've lowered the costs associated with the combustion of the fuel used to heat your premises or the amount of electricity that you're bringing in. And if you're in Canada and you're paying a carbon tax of $50 a ton next year, going to $170, you're really attacking your cost base of running your business. Right. There's a company in Vancouver, Climate Smart Business. They calculated that the emission reduction potential for SMEs in Canada is 212. It's about the same. It's about 212,000,000 tons, 200 million tons. And Climate Smart Business as a tool and a program specifically designed for SMEs to calculate their emissions and then create an emission abatement plan. They're actually on the current on CBC Radio just the other day. And this company has trained over 1200 organizations in the GHG protocol, and they've got them on their software platform to actively reduce GHG emissions. Right. And I go, man, think of the impact and think of the impact. Just go to North America. North America has got about 31 million SMEs, right?
[00:12:49] Qayyum ("Q"): Yeah.
[00:12:50] Alastair: If you could get them on average to do ten tons, you're at 310,000,000 tons of reductions. At 30 tons, you're at a Gigaton, you're at a billion tons.
[00:13:00] Qayyum ("Q"): That's insane. That's wild. I mean, I don't think I've seen that even put anywhere. And I think it's kind of the phrase that you said earlier.
[00:13:08] Alastair: Right.
[00:13:08] Qayyum ("Q"): It's like we're at sort of the tipping point globally, maybe from the big corporations, from governments and what they're saying. But this is sort of the next frontier and I guess the biggest opportunity to capture. Right.
[00:13:20] Alastair: Yeah. Right. And again, I come down to radicals. If I distill everything that we do down into the nugget, it's this GHG emissions quantification. Right. And above and beyond that, we have technical advisory services. So we can help companies actually understand what net zero is or carbon neutral is or the carbon taxes, because there's a lot of carbon confusion. There's a lot of strange terms that are thrown around.
[00:13:55] Qayyum ("Q"): Carbon confusion is a good term, actually. Yeah. We talk about all the time, honestly. And I just feel like it seems like still a bit of a murky world for people. I think I can understand the quantification of it. But when people start talking about carbon credits, the offset, the trade and of this, I think that's where it goes beyond a small group of people. And people are just like, what does that actually mean? Right. There's carbon ETS, there's carbon offset apps.
[00:14:23] Alastair: Here's a super interesting. Let's talk about carbon markets. The markets for carbon credits. There's lots of different names. Carbon credits. Acus if you're in Australia, VRS, if you're somewhere else, CCERs, I think it is if you're in China, it's a slightly different name for Korea. But there are carbon pricing regimes run by governments around the world now. And above and beyond that, there are all these voluntary markets as well for carbon credits. But really, what is it? How do we distill a carbon credit down into something that people understand? And I'm going to talk about it from the perspective of a compliance market. Right. And I'm going to try describe what a carbon market is without using the word carbon. So bear with me. At the end of the day, you need to go home and feed your family. All right. So let's assume this morning you were talking to them and you said, you know what? We're going to have burgers tonight. I'm going to barbecue burgers tonight. And so you've made a commitment to Cook burgers. Well, the day gets long, you're late at work, and you end up going, now, I can't barbecue burgers, but I can pay somebody else to Cook them for me. So you're going to go and you're going to buy those hamburgers and you're going to bring them home and deliver them to your family. You've met the commitment to your family to give them burgers. The carbon market is similar.
[00:16:03] Qayyum ("Q"): First company. There is no way anyone has put a better layman's explanation of carbon credit trade in ever in history. Like, we're going to quote you on that. It's going to be in the blog, and that's going to be like carbon confusion. And I can see the comic strip now, so sorry, continue. But that's 100% sure that's all good.
[00:16:24] Alastair: I'm happy because you know what? I've been trying to describe what carbon credits are for years. Right. And how carbon markets work. But really, that's it. If I'm in a compliance market and this is where people get confused. So let's pick on Alberta. I live in Alberta. We have dozens, hundreds, thousands of clients actually in the province that we generate carbon credits for and that we sell carbon credits, too. In Alberta, large emitters are required by law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Alberta. Right? In Alberta, not necessarily at their own facility, although that's ideal. But they have a compliance obligation to reduce GHG emissions, and if the same thing applies. So these organizations are looking at investing in equipment or undertaking activities to reduce emissions. And sometimes it takes a long time or it's really expensive, but these organizations can go, well, wait a minute, I can go and I can see someone over here that's got a piece of land and they can put up a renewable energy facility or let's say a renewable natural gas facility, and they're going to reduce emissions by doing that, man, I want to make that easy for them to do that. So I'm going to buy the emission reductions off of them. I'm going to buy those carbon offsets. So it's almost like investing in an activity that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. You're not really investing in it, but you're supporting that activity by choosing to buy those credits from that particular project type. And when you've got these credits, just like you take your hamburger home to your family here, you're taking these credits to government and you're saying, look, I actually paid somebody to reduce these emissions on my behalf, so I've met my compliance obligation. And the whole purpose of the carbon market is to create low cost abatement options for emitters so that they can transition. And I'm going to add the word successfully to a lower emission operation.
[00:18:35] Qayyum ("Q"): Makes sense.
[00:18:38] Alastair: That's the way it works.
[00:18:39] Qayyum ("Q"): And that has all kinds of long term benefits. That's great. So I'm a markets guy. I kind of grew up in the financial world, trade in asset management. That's just always where my brain goes, where I always get lost is. Okay, so what is the actual process of buying carbon credits? Is there exchanges for this? Is it paper based process? Is it fragmented globally, futures contracts, what does that actually look like if I was a company to actually do that?
[00:19:07] Alastair: Yeah, it's a bit more complicated. So we need to recognize that there are a multitude of carbon markets around the world, and these carbon markets can be a closed market. In other words, the credits have value within a jurisdiction or an instrument. So Alberta's credits, most of them are only good in Alberta. There's a few that are good in other parts of Canada under the federal government's program. So if someone's going to buy credits, if the company is going to buy credits to meet an obligation or a commitment to reduce, then they're going to want to look for credits that meet the criteria based on where they're operating. Right. But there isn't always clarity on where I can go to get those credits. So in Alberta, there is no exchange. There's been a couple of that have been started, but early days work particularly well globally. There are exchanges that are coming online globally, CBL markets, CTX or two that I know of. There's others. So you should take that out, because I shouldn't just talk about too. But there are multiple platforms that people can trade carbon credits through, but they tend to be large volumes. Right. So as an individual consumer, you could go to Climate SmartTravel.com, for example, and you could buy a carbon credits offset your flight. Right. And there's probably other sites like that as well. But if your company needs to buy lots of credit, you're likely going to hire someone to help you do that, to help you manage your portfolio. Are you going to have a team to do that internally? And right now, getting the team or finding the people who know the markets really well can be difficult.
[00:21:11] Qayyum ("Q"): That's somewhere you guys play a big part in, obviously, then as well?
[00:21:16] Alastair: Yes. With the exception of Shell, we're the biggest developer of Alberta compliance credits. We generate well over a million tons a year. We might crack at 2 million tons this year. I don't think so in Alberta. And we're developing credits in South America. We're helping others develop credits in the United States. But not only do we help in the development of those credits with the software that we've got, we also have what I would call a trading desk or portfolio management team. And we're investing in carbon credits around the world now.
[00:22:02] Alastair: So we see this as an investment opportunity. We see it as a way to derisk elements of our business. You take on risk. Right. You're buying a commodity, there's no price guarantee, but it helps us provide a really end to end suite of services to our clients. Right. Because we can help clients quantify what their carbon footprint is and determine whether or not they need credits. So we can help them acquire those credits to determine whether or not they can generate credits. So we can generate their credits and then broker those credits or sell those credits to another party that needs them.
[00:22:43] Qayyum ("Q"): It's really kind of a full service system and the actual certification of the credits. I've understood that to come from organizations like South Pole and a few others who do that. But where I was going with that is that seems to be focused on the consumer side of things, creating these carbon offset apps and things like that at a different scale. And then you have large volumes like you mentioned. But again, it seems like this SME in the middle is this crazy opportunity that's out there.
[00:23:11] Alastair: Yeah. And again, that's part of what we're trying to address. Right. Again, is how do we help SMEs access credits? Because it's really hard for them to do it on their own. And I will point out South Pole doesn't necessarily certify carbon credits. Typically, the carbon credit development process is there's a project proponent, someone who's undertaking emission reduction activity, and that project proponent could also be a project developer, so they could manage the entire quantification process. In other words, think about it. They could manage the creation of their hamburger themselves. They could Cook it themselves, all everything else that goes onto it. Or they can work with a project developer like Radical, and we'll actually manage that process for them. But before the credits are real or serialized, they have to go undergo a third party verification, sometimes a third party validation. And this is where an independent third party operating to a variety of standards. They could be ANSI standards, ISO standards or standards created by Registry. These qualified individuals or companies will come in and verify that the credits have been developed following the rules of the market in which they are being developed, and that all the evidence and data is there.
[00:24:39] Qayyum ("Q"): That makes sense in my world, it's a little bit like the ISO and kind of stock compliance, where you do all the security, you do all the things, you follow the processes. But to get that serialization stamp, whatever you want to call it, you go through a third party external verification process and it's going to be different in every market, right? It's going to be the different rules, procedures, et cetera, et cetera.
[00:25:00] Alastair: Correct? Yeah.
[00:25:01] Qayyum ("Q"): Interesting.
[00:25:02] Alastair: Fundamentally, that's very cool.
[00:25:05] Qayyum ("Q"): I've always wanted to know the ins and out of that world. So much for my audience. That's great. But for myself, that's really awesome. I know we want to talk about some other stuff on get to that there today. But what I want to talk about is what are the sort of the next steps in the world right now around this? I know there's a lot of products that are coming out to there's a lot of consumer carbon offset apps that are a result of this kind of thing. What's the future of this space?
[00:25:37] Alastair: The future of this space is mind boggling is the way I would describe it. We've been doing carbon since 2008. I've been doing it longer than that. And there are more and more people coming into the market now to try and figure out how to develop these credits. I'm excited by that because I think all of those companies that want to come in and create credits could be potential clients of Radical when they could license our credit development software to make their lives easier. And it also terrifies me because we don't need people that don't understand what the credit development processes or how to develop credits that are going to come in and make a bunch of mistakes and potentially undermine the market. Right. Everyone makes mistakes, no question. But it's still a concern that people who are buying credits, if it's a consumer buying a credit, how do you know you got a real credit? Right. How do we arm consumers with the information so they understand that they've got a real credit? But when I think about this now. And I think about it from my own personal lens. And we talk about this transition to a net zero economy or a low emission economy. People hear a lot about the cost. So the Royal Bank of Canada has estimated that the transition to net zero in Canada is going to cost $2 trillion. That's one year of our GDP. And a lot of people go, Holy cow, 2 trillion, how are we going to pay for it? Well, my side is 2 trillion. How am I going to provide the goods and services so that people pay me that $2 trillion. Right. Because this transition that we're on is going to create winners and losers like every economic transition does. And it becomes a question from a business perspective. And this is what we're starting to see is we're starting to see businesses large and small stop talking and start taking action. And we're still way behind it's.
[00:27:54] Qayyum ("Q"): My favorite quote in my life is stop talking and start building. Right. And that's also sort of the subject of this podcast as well. Right? It's like stop talking, start building. That's why people like yourself are actually building the future and building the things that actually need to get done.
[00:28:12] Alastair: Yeah, well, I hope so. I look at this and again, I go, man, the opportunity. The team at Radical is I can't say enough about the people that have chosen to work here. And I do mean they've chosen to work here. Right. And we pride ourselves on attracting bright people that want to make a difference. And we need to give them the tools and the resources to make a difference and then get out of their way. Because this transitions here, it's important. And from a business perspective, there's a big opportunity and there's a lot of people who want to get in on it. That's what really excites me. And I think we're going to see a lot of innovation. I think we're going to start to see some transitions happen much more quickly than others. I wonder when we're going to start to see the carbon footprint of SMEs show up in their Google ratings. I'd love to see that. I'd love to be able to power that. So if I'm going for a cup of coffee, I'll go an extra two or three blocks if the coffee is good, but they're more sustainable shop. I look forward to the day when I can buy what I would call a green tire for my car, one that's made from revolcanized rubber or one that's been offset. And I pay a bit more for that. I'm willing to do that.
[00:29:38] Qayyum ("Q"): Consumers are as well, the value based alignment of the future.
[00:29:42] Alastair: The consumers have the power to drive the change. Well, the people with disposable income have the ability to make the change. But I think we need to be very mindful of the fact that even a country as blessed as Canada there's still a lot of people that don't have the money to make those discretionary choices. We need to be careful about how these transitions occurs so that they don't get hurt by it. They're not left behind by it.
[00:30:16] Qayyum ("Q"): I was on a panel recently and sort of the whole team was the behavior that's needed to drive this. Right. And it's not having one that here is a good sustainable thing and here's the alternative, but rather designing for humans and making the sustainable choice, the JC neutral choice, the easy choice, the obvious choice is more to it than just paying more for this, right?
[00:30:40] Alastair: Absolutely. It's actually about creating a better or an environmentally friendly product that can compete on a lot of different factors with the ones that are less environmentally friendly. It's interesting. I was presenting this morning to the standing committee of Alberta's Economic future, and I was talking about the transition and the opportunity within the transition. And one of the members of the committee said, well, who's going to pay for it all? Isn't it all going to be very expensive? And I'm like, yeah, right. It's going to be expensive. But I pointed out to them that when Alberta started developing the oil Sands, it was super expensive. And what happened is over time is that they became better at it, they became more efficient at it, and they were able to actually drive those costs down, those operational costs down, and they're able to compete in the market, although they may not be viewed particularly well today. My point being is that these very high costs that were a burden at the beginning became manageable over the long run. And we're seeing the same thing happening with electric cars, solar panels.
[00:32:06] Qayyum ("Q"): Right. It's the natural admin flow as you get investment and things come up and marks get created and the dollars get to work. Right?
[00:32:14] Alastair: Yeah. And it will drive those costs down. And what's particularly interesting, again, I'll come back to climate smart business and their clients. Not only will they tell them what their GHG emission reductions are, but they'll tell them what their cost savings are.
[00:32:31] Qayyum ("Q"): Right.
[00:32:32] Alastair: So you start to tie these two together and send them like, wow, I just saved $10,000, $1,000, whatever. Any money you save on your cost. If your business drops right to your bottom line, why wouldn't you want it?
[00:32:47] Qayyum ("Q"): This conversation has helped me realize that a lot of the stuff is in early innings and there's a lot to come. The future is quite mind boggling. I think that's like a very good natural place to leave it for today. In fact, my Burden snowboarding jacket is made out of recycled Mountain View bottles, and it's my favorite jacket ever. Right. It's the easy, convenient and most awesome choice. Right. And it looks good. It looks great. So before I let you go, I want to give you opportunity for the audience. Like any closing comments and also where can they find you? They want to get in touch or want to understand a little bit more about dragical and what you guys do.
[00:33:23] Alastair: Sure. So for people who want to find me, they can certainly find me on LinkedIn. I'm definitely there. Reach out with a messenger request. You can also come go through our info at our radicalbalance.com. You got to spell radical the right way, not radical. Get the spelling right. Yeah. I'll tell you what, the people who any of your listeners that are in the space that are studying sustainability or studying GHD accounting and are interested in working in the space, I'd love to hear from you. I tell people this and they're a little bit stunned by it, but we've got massive plans to grow and in fact, we have a vision and I tell people this and I'm still amazed by it, but we expect to have over 2500 people working in the radical team by the end of 2026.
[00:34:28] Qayyum ("Q"): That's amazing.
[00:34:29] Alastair: And it is amazing. So, you know, we're always looking for super smart people with a high degree of emotional intelligence. I think that's the number one thing companies need to survive today highly intelligent, skilled people that want to make a difference. And I tell you what, you don't have to come and work for radical. There are so many jobs right now in this space. Again. It's staggering. I think the opportunities are massive for entrepreneurs. $2 trillion opportunity in Canada loan $130,000,000,000,000 globally. Go grab it.
[00:35:06] Qayyum ("Q"): Go grab it. I love that. Well, thanks so much for coming on. It's been an absolute pleasure and I look forward to sharing this over in.
[00:35:13] Alastair: Yeah. Thanks. Q and enjoy your hamburgers. Maybe a veggie burger?
[00:35:20] Qayyum ("Q"): I'll meet you transition into veggie burgers over time, but we'll make that transition as it goes on.
[00:35:29] Alastair: All right.
[00:35:30] Qayyum ("Q"): Awesome recording stuff.