#102 Rob Niven, Founder & CEO of CarbonCure Technologies
Rob Niven is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of CarbonCure Technologies, the global leader in carbon dioxide (CO₂) utilization technologies for the concrete industry. Rob has the simple goal of making concrete sustainability both profitable and easy for industry. Under his direction, CarbonCure and its partners are achieving their mission to reduce 500 megatonnes of CO₂ emissions annually.
Rob has received countless international awards recognizing his leadership in sustainability, innovation and technology development including the Canada’s Top 40 Under 40, the 2016 Ernest C. Manning Innovation Award, the Cleantech Group’s Top 100 Global Cleantech Companies and the BloombergNEF New Energy Pioneers Award.
Bigger Than Us Episode 102
This transcription has been lightly edited for readability.
Host Raj Daniels 02:41
If you were asked to share something interesting about yourself, what would it be?
Rob Niven 02:55
I used to be a forest firefighter. I paid for my way through school that way. I look back now and sort of laugh because I think my journey on fighting climate change was even happening back then it was just that, at that time I was dealing with the other end of it after climate has had taken its effect and lead to bigger and more abundant or frequent wildfires in British Columbia. Now I’m trying to work on the same issue. But from the other side of things by stopping CO₂ from getting into the air in the first place and climate change from happening.
Host Raj Daniels 03:33
While being a forest fire fighter is interesting. I have to ask about the kayaking.
Rob Niven 03:42
I think it’s all the same wiring if you are of the mindset that you think it’s a good idea to jump out of a perfectly good helicopter into a raging forest fire without an extraction pad, you’re probably the same kind of person that would jump into a glorified Tupperware or plastic kayak and send yourself over a waterfall. So I look at it as similar to entrepreneurship as well. And taking a calculated risk, don’t look back, just paddle hard. Keep your head down. Look for those eddies on the side of the river where you can take a breather, but there are times when you just need to believe in yourself and just go for it. And hopefully, you have some good people around you to help you if you get into trouble.
Host Raj Daniels 04:38
I have jumped out of a plane and bungee jumped. Can you share what it feels like to go over a waterfall?
Rob Niven 04:45
It’s awesome. Actually. I’ve never had that question. It’s something where you have to stay in control the whole time because there’s a lot of small movements that you’re making, and you’re actually working with the falling water and moving yourself with your paddle so that you land right. And you land where you want to go. So it isn’t as though you were just jumping off the edge and closing your eyes and screaming. There’s a lot of control and focus that goes on and to make it look easy, it does require a lot of hard work and probably a few failures along the way.
Host Raj Daniels 05:33
You know, my imagining that scene from that Harrison Ford movie when he jumps over with Tommy Lee Jones.
Rob Niven 05:39
Oh, it’s that one with the convict? Forget the one the I know the one you mean.
Host Raj Daniels 05:45
Yeah. But those scenes, I mean, the adrenaline rushes just watching those movies.
So, you started CarbonCure in 2007. Can you give us an overview of what CarbonCure is?
Rob Niven 06:04
Yeah, just to be correct, actually, I started a prior company called Carbon Sense Solutions in 2007. And CarbonCure was started in 2012. And I say that because the prior company is one that was actually blended into the current version, but it was focused on carbon finance for the spin concrete sector. CarbonCure was created in 2012. And that was a technology business that had developed a way to use carbon dioxide, a harmful greenhouse gas, to make concrete.
Considering the scale of concrete, being the most abundant manmade material on earth, second only to water actually, it is a huge industry. If we could take the CO₂ problem, and try to solve that, with this enormous industry, by actually making the concrete product itself with CO₂, felt like there was a lot of potential there, at least from the science and numbers perspective.
But I think that the fire really was lit for me when I attended the first UN Climate meetings that were held in Montreal. At that time, I was an academic and it was a very important time for me, because I was able to meet some of the people that had nothing to do with technology, but who were really living at the front lines of climate change, and people who were being exposed to some of the early effects and having their livelihoods or even their heritage being wiped out by things like sea-level rise or, or glacial melt. And really were looking for help. And I felt empowered that I had actually something that could help with this, and I could help people. And this is only going to be a problem that was going to get much worse. So I’ve never looked back since then. And I think it’s still something that really propels me forward.
And in fact, it’s gotten even more important now with having kids and we share it with each other that we both have kids. And now I want to leave behind a good world as well. I’m just so darn excited to be able to actually do something about it.
Host Raj Daniels 08:27
So feel free to get as technical as you need to. Can you describe to the audience how it works? And I’m going to add a question before that is where do you source the CO₂ from?
Rob Niven 08:40
The CO₂ today can come from any number of emission sources. It can also come from direct air capture. At CarbonCure, we are agnostic on where the CO₂ comes from. But it does have to be post-industrial so that there is the maximum climate benefit. So today, most CO₂ that’s used for concrete production at any of the nearly 300 plants using this technology is it’s from typically ethanol and ammonia plants. So these are industries that have high purity CO₂, and that CO₂ is captured at the mission stack, then bottled and typically used for the food and beverage industry to give you fizzy drinks or whether that be beer or, or soda, and it’s also used for cooling and refrigeration applications.
Now it’s being used for concrete, but unlike some of those other applications, once you open up that can of whatever you’re drinking, that CO₂ is released, or once that product cooled is that CO₂ is released. And in this case, it’s permanently mineralized as a nano calcium carbonate within concrete provides concrete a performance benefit. So if you were to go to any of the hundred thousand concrete plants around the world, they would all actually look about the same from basic observation. You would see large piles of aggregate silos of cement and sometimes fly ash or slag, and a large mixer. And a lot of trucks nearby that are collecting this mixed concrete, which comprises water cementitious material and aggregates a few chemicals that get loaded into a concrete truck and sent to a job site where it’s still in its fluid form. And it’s poured into forms where it hardens with rebar and gives it its strength. And that’s how the built environment is created.
What we do is we add another ingredient into that so so next to all of those silos of cement is you would see a tank of CO₂. And we retrofit existing concrete plants so that CO₂ is injected into the process as it’s being mixed. That then creates a chemical reaction, where the CO₂ enters into the aqueous solution, and precipitates as a nano calcium carbonate, where the calcium comes from the cementitious material, and this carbonate half comes from the CO₂. And that all happens in mere seconds. This nanomaterial is then spread through the concrete. And then it allows the normal hydration reaction of concrete, which is how all concrete is formed and strengthens to occur at a more accelerated rate. So you get higher strengths. That higher strength then allows a concrete producer to use less cement to provide concrete of equivalent performance at the same price.
So that gives you the soup to nuts version of most things you need to know about the technology, I would say that there’s a very strong AI and digital component to this as well, where all of the data from these plants are continually being processed so that it’s optimized for maximum economic and environmental and performance benefits.
Host Raj Daniels 12:18
So the AI part is very interesting. What do you use the AI for?
Rob Niven 12:22
We’re just starting on that journey, and we’ve done a lot. When we first started along this pathway, we looked at how this technology was going to scale. We’ve always had a high ambition. Our mission as a company is to reduce 500 million tonnes of CO₂ per year by 2030. So if you do the math, that’s going to meet a lot of concrete plants that we need to work with. And there was just simply no way that we were going to be able to build a company the old way that is typically done in this industry, which requires a lot of people and a lot of equipment and a lot of capital.
So we decided that for us to be able to have the most robust equipment and be able to operate it remotely and optimally is we need to have an AI component. Early on when we were doing our hardware work, because we were also building in the telemetry in the cellular, the net networks, the edge computing capabilities, so that this equipment would be able to collect all this data to be able to run optimally, off of inputs at the production site. It also helped us with preventative maintenance issues, any supply issues with CO₂. So these are all some pretty basic things.
Now as we look to the future, and following our investment that was just announced last week by some of the world leaders in AI, like Amazon and Microsoft, is that we are going to be applying some of the best practices from other industries with these large data sets that we’ve been collecting from concrete plants, and then even collecting more data so that we can help them on performance and production. And also even engaging with the downstream construction community who are looking for more transparency on the environmental attributes of products that they’re using to design and then ultimately build projects. So that could be a roadway or, or vertical structure like a high rise or a school or what have you. So, I think you’re someone that also appreciates the enormity of what AI can unlock. And I think that we’re in a position right now where a lot of that transformation has not happened in this industry is that we have the data and the partnerships and the technology to be able to contribute more benefits to the concrete industry that also provide more decarbonization.
Host Raj Daniels 14:53
Earlier you mentioned retrofitting, can you perhaps share how long it takes to retrofit a batch plant, does the plant operate after shut down, etc?
Rob Niven 15:04
I would point people to come visit our website and download our ebook which we call our 500 Megatonne Roadmap. It really lays out a lot of the principles on how we design technology so that it really works for the needs of concrete producers. And one of the things that we talk about is retrofits. In fact, that’s one of our key tenants is that this industry doesn’t have an appetite for high CAPEX expenses on new plants or just even high CAPEX retrofits. And certainly not any impacts on the productivity of the plants or downtime, whether that be from the installation process or just issues with equipment. So these are things that we had a lot of insights on since many of us did come from the industry. We knew how important this was for this industry that is extremely low margins and high volume. So our retrofits today are done in less than a day. We don’t even disrupt production. So a lot of the equipment is all installed on-site without disrupting day to day production. And after the shift is over, there would be the final hookups, including the electrical and telemetry hookup. But all that can be done very easily, which allows us to scale at the rate that we need to scale to meet our 500 Megaton Challenge.
Host Raj Daniels 16:34
You mentioned telemetry earlier, AI. Are you looking into or have you worked with smart dust?
Rob Niven 16:47
Host Raj Daniels 16:49
Smart dust are actually nanoparticle transmitters that they’re saying can eventually be put into concrete. They send signals at certain periods of time to essentially prevent, obviously, catastrophic events, but also maintenance requirements. And should there be any kind of problems within the mixture itself. So I didn’t know if you were doing anything in that area?
Rob Niven 17:16
I think it’s certainly interesting, I’ll look into that. It would be complementary to the direction that things are moving in the industry where there’s certainly a need for in situ data of the concrete itself. There are companies that are doing sensors to be able to track some of the material changes of concrete as it matures. And this would certainly be within that space. We know some of the other sensor companies in the area. And we think that it’s definitely interesting. I’m not familiar with smart dust itself, but this would just be taking that downsizing even further, which sounds really cool. I’d like to learn more about that.
Host Raj Daniels 18:01
Absolutely. And also, I want to congratulate you on the recent investments. You mentioned Amazon and Breakthrough Energy Ventures. I think there’s a phenomenal opportunity for you going forward that obviously not only from their building perspective, but like you mentioned the data management, so congratulations on that.
Rob Niven 18:18
Yeah, thank you. When we set off on this path to do this fundraising round, we were admittedly in a good spot. Fortunately, COVID had not impacted our business negatively. We had actually accelerated in growth and, and the construction industry as a whole had maintained its activities. So those put us in a good position. So we decided to continue to go through our fundraising program, but we set ourselves a very high standard. And not looking at how much we raised as much as who we raised it from.
There is so much strategic value packed into this round that includes some wonderful investors that go beyond Amazon and Breakthrough and include Microsoft and BDC. And Thistledown, the family office of Shopify, and some very important prop-tech funds that represent some of the leading property developers from targeted markets that we’ll be expanding into, such as Asia and Europe, where they’re able to create that type of demand-pull dynamic for that early market entry activity, and who are seen as leaders. All of these are seen as leaders, and not only things like construction and digital, but on climate. And that was the overarching theme is we wanted everybody that was coming in to be sharing our mission and to have tact with the same ambition and urgency as we have. I couldn’t have dreamt of a better round of investors to come together.
I’m so excited to get to work with these groups and put our heads together on how we can collectively accelerate the decarbonization of the concrete industry.
Host Raj Daniels 20:06
Well, speaking of being in good company, you also entered a team into the Carbon XPrize, didn’t you?
Rob Niven 20:11
Yeah, that’s right. It’s been a long time coming. Geez, I think it’s five years that this process has been going on. It felt like just yesterday, I was at the launch event and in Manhattan. The Carbon XPrize, for those of you who don’t know, I believe the XPrize is their largest competition. From a prize purse perspective, it’s a $20 million prize purse. For the two winners, they select that are able to create the most value from turning CO₂ into products. There are two sites, two final sites that were these competitions will be occurring at a certain scale. One of them is in my home country of Canada. So Calgary, and the other ones happening in Gillette, Wyoming.
There was a semi-final stage a few years ago. So it’s an exciting time, you’ve caught me at the very end of the process. The winner will be selected in November, all of the teams are, are operating right now. So they’ve built out their sites and installed all the equipment and are sucking up CO₂ off of power plants in here and in that the other end of the line into real products that can be used in the economy. In our case, that’s concrete. But it’s other things too, like nanomaterials and chemicals, and things like fuels, and even vodka
Host Raj Daniels 21:49
And just tip of the hat. I think your team is a woman led team, is that correct?
Rob Niven 21:55
Yes, Jen Wagner is our company president and also leading our Carbon XPrize team. She is a huge part of our success as a company. She leads a lot of the critical initiatives within the company, as well as overseas, a lot of the operations to continue to create that high-performance culture that we have a CarbonCure and, and one that we prize so much.
Host Raj Daniels 22:24
Well, I’ll be sure to check back in in November and see where you landed.
Rob Niven 22:27
Yeah, Wish us luck. We’ve got some great teams that we’re up against. And it’s one of those things as well, as you know, at the end of the day, it’s the climate that wins. All these companies, I’m sure will be tremendous successes. And it’s just nice to be having a friendly competition with some of these great companies.
Host Raj Daniels 22:48
Absolutely, I wish you luck. You know, we were speaking before we started recording regarding concrete and my interest in concrete, actually my interest in rebar, the nerdy interest that I have, and the relationship between rebar and concrete. So I’m rooting for you 100%.
Rob Niven 23:02
I appreciate that. And just on that note, as a follow-up, I would suggest that you get Boston Metal on the show. They’re your rebar fix. They’re a super exciting company that are also part of the Breakthrough Energy Ventures family, and they’re just a great team. So I would recommend to get them on.
Host Raj Daniels 23:24
I will reach out to them. I know our CEO will get a laugh out of this because he’s often teased me about the photo album I have on my phone for rebar. So I’m a big fan of rebar. So I will definitely reach out to them.
Rob Niven 23:36
Well, steel and cement are those two, what they call hard to decarbonize sectors. And yes, for some people, unlike you, and I that don’t find this to be sexy. But it’s extremely important with all of the gains that we’re making right now on energy decarbonization. They’re not going to have as much of an effect on these industries, which have so much process emissions from these inherent chemical reactions in the case of cement called calcination. So two-thirds of the emissions from a cement plant have nothing to do with energy. They’re from this chemical reaction. And the same thing would apply for steel. So it’s a very important issue within the climate change context that doesn’t really get enough airtime. And it really has an effect on carbon accounting in the area of embodied CO₂ emissions, which are the emissions of products that are used or the building’s perspective from the actual construction materials in the construction process before that first tenant or resident occupant steps into a building or before the lights turn on and the HVAC is turned on. Very important topic that accounts for about 50% of the GHG emissions of a building over it entire lifecycle, but all of those embodied CO₂ emissions are front-loaded.
Host Raj Daniels 25:05
In my mind, the relationship between rebar and concrete, it’s the fabric of our society. It’s the base, the foundation, pun intended, what everything is built on what the entire society is laid on. So, I agree with you wholeheartedly there.
Rob Niven 25:19
Yeah, but you know, like the air we breathe, we pay no attention to it and take it for granted. It’s a really important industry, but it’s also one that has a very consequential impact on the climate. And it can’t be overlooked any longer. We certainly need concrete. It’s a wonderful product, it’s resilient, but we need to make sure that it’s being decarbonized at the extent that’s necessary for us to meet our climate targets so that we can live this wonderful life that we have of certain standards.
Host Raj Daniels 25:52
I agree. So I’m going to switch gears here, get to the crux of our conversation, which is the why behind what you do. You mentioned the firefighting and your interest in the environment. But what drives you what motivates you to keep going on this journey?
Rob Niven 26:09
A lot of things. Without any particular order. It’s deeply personal. This is not a job. It’s something that I love. And in some ways, I feel like I have the best job in the entire world. And I mean, that from the bottom of my heart. This was based on my thesis. So that’s important. I’m a very competitive person. I like to win. I hate to lose. There’s that. That would apply to things like board games. But this, of course, is bigger than that.
Now, I look at this as a way to help solve a really big and important problem—climate change. This technology is within a class of technologies called carbon removal, which is one of the very few technologies that can actually reverse climate change. So I don’t wake up in the morning looking for reasons on how to give it my best every day. I have any number of them. I mentioned my family before in the future. And there’s a great commercial opportunity and creating value for my shareholders. So there’s any dozen reasons why, and I don’t think I could distill it down to one. But they all play their role, and maybe one more than others on any given day. That also, I hope, translates into some of the partners that we work with. Because we’re a small company, we’re only about 60 people. And we have the right model that allows us to have a much bigger impact. But we definitely can’t do this alone. And I hope that some of the reasons that I have that drive me forward can also be used by our partners, whether that’s customers, or the tech community, which we’ve grown so close with of recent, of policymakers who have come to this construction industry. Media, there’s any number of groups that all have to play a critical role and seeing this being a success and having a benefit for all society.
Host Raj Daniels 28:32
It’s beautiful, I love the idea of it not being a job feels like it’s just part of you, I feel the same way about the work I do. You know, you mentioned not putting them in a particular order. And I can really see that in my own life between my children and wanting to build a better planet or have a better planet, climate change, etc. So Rob, let’s say 13 years or so, on this journey. What’s the most valuable lessons that you would say you’ve learned about yourself?
Rob Niven 29:02
I think it sounds a bit cliche, but you do learn to trust your instincts. I think earlier on, I relied too much on people that were seasoned, or came from the industry, or this is how it’s done. And I’m sure that there were some lessons there that saved me some scars. But I also think in some ways that can hold you back. And I think the sooner that you can trust your instincts more and to make those decisions and make your own decisions, they usually are the ones that come back and are end up being right anyways. Yes, there’s always a role for being coachable, and having great advisors around you, but being the CEO and the founder, you have to own your own path.
The other thing I’ve learned is, this is something that actually Jen Wagner President and I have really have learned to recent is that there are, it’s the sort of Simon Sinek narrative. There are companies out there with much more resources than ourselves, or history or whatever it might be that may not have been as successful as us. We are the world leader in this space. And I think that really boils down to having the right culture in your organization. And that’s not an easy thing to do. It starts off by having the right values and mission and vision and building up from there and demonstrating leadership every day. But to me, that’s been something that I’ve learned is just to be able to foster that right culture in an organization, no matter what you’re doing, has really been something that I may have overlooked, and not really appreciated how important that was until recently. And once you see what really good culture looks like, it’s a beautiful thing. And you really prize how important that is to drive the tangible things that you get measured on, on a day to day basis, whether that be financial or something else. But it all comes from a bedrock of trust and culture.
Host Raj Daniels 31:14
You know, you brought up Simon Sinek. And he released a book, I think, earlier this year called The Infinte Game. Are you familiar with it?
Rob Niven 31:25
I’ve heard of it. But I haven’t read it. But please remind me.
Host Raj Daniels 31:29
It’s a great outlook on taking a long term view, which I feel that we both are regarding, you know, it could be climate change the planet, our children. But not thinking about it from a quarter to quarter or a year to year, to bring Amazon up in the conversation, again. It’s the kind of view that Jeff Bezos took when he first started Amazon, that we are not going to be reporting to quarter to quarter quarterly profits, we’re taking a long term view. So I highly recommend it to you and people in the audience, that it’s a phenomenal book. I think it speaks to a lot about what companies are doing in this day and age regarding a longer view, and perhaps even from an employer standpoint, the kind of individuals that they’re trying to attract to their companies.
Rob Niven 32:13
As the guy who is where the buck stops, it’s an interesting concept. And I do remember now that concept here, I’ll have to give it a read. But it does take courage to be able to say things like that, where there is always this demand for that continuous validation that you’re on the right track, especially if you’re not profitable. And that there is investor money, and people are looking for progress. It’s an interesting thing. And I think that all CEOs have to find that balance, somehow. There always has to be a portion of the long game, otherwise, you’ll be redundant before you’re meaningful.
Host Raj Daniels 32:59
What does the future hold for CarbonCure?
Rob Niven 33:06
We look at the future in two pillars. And they all point towards our mission, our 500 Megatonne Mission by 2030. So we have to be by that time about halfway there. What that will look like is us having a very broad adoption of CarbonCure in plants and all of the main economies. We’re already on three continents today, and we still have a lot of growth to do. We have to have developed and nurture those right partnerships that are allowing us to scale up our reach.
But just having our existing technology and more and more plants isn’t going to be enough. So there are other pillars about innovation. We have four products that are in our development pipeline. Our reclaimed water technology was just installed, our first commercial unit was installed a couple of months ago. It’s also the technology we’re using for our Carbon XPrize. So we need to have more and more of these systems installed. We need to have policymakers and regions that we’re supporting putting in place the enabling policies for accelerated growth of low carbon concrete, just like what we’ve we’ve seen happen in places like Hawaii, and most recently happening in the state of New York with the Low Embodied Carbon Concrete Leadership Act, when you see a lot of that blueprint being adopted by other economies. And I would certainly look for other innovators to be finding other compatible technologies that can be used in conjunction with what we’re doing. I don’t know if that’s enough detail but it does in my world fall into innovation and deployment.
Host Raj Daniels 35:03
It absolutely does. Can you speak to your reclaimed water technology?
Rob Niven 35:08
Along the journey of developing this technology at the start from scratch. We weren’t following anyone. We were creating what we were doing from fundamental science. I’m originally a chemist, and then this was my engineering thesis. But I think developing all these sorts of first principles, understanding of how CO₂ reacts with cementitious materials and looking at it from the lens of that’s great that you can create environmental benefits. But that’s almost worthless unless you can create the economic and performance benefits as well. It’s easy to drive a lot of CO₂ into concrete, but it makes the concrete poor quality. And it costs more money. No one cares.
So I guess what I’m saying is that we’ve developed ways and understandings about how we can use CO₂ and other ways. And in this case for the reclaimed water unit is that we looked at concrete plants and all the producers that we’re working with, and we listened to them. Everybody was complaining about how do they treat their reclaimed water. If you fly over any concrete plant, you’ll notice these big ponds, these settling ponds. Or sometimes it’s a mechanical system, called a reclaimer. But at the end of the day, they have all this slurry they have to deal with.
Believe it or not, some plants that just dump this into the environment. It’s super high pH and destructive. Obviously, that’s not going to last. And a lot of them just treat it for pH and then dump it. That’s kind of in the practice, then the rest of it sent off to landfills. Then we looked at it and said, “Well, hold on, this is all full of cement, and water that you paid good money for. Why are we throwing this away?” There’s reasons for that. There’s performance limitations, there’s things like set time and water demand and variability. Those things were not operable. But we found a way, from our understanding of CO₂, that we could actually use one waste product to treat another waste product so that it could be used to make concrete so that you need less virgin material. This is the hallmark of circular economy thinking.
It took us about two years to develop this, did a lot of pilots in the field. And, and now we’re really excited to be deploying this. But what it allows us to do is, is expand our CO₂ impact and an individual concrete plan, but then also tackle this water and solid waste issue that is persistent, and a really difficult problem at every concrete plant around the world. So it really allows us to expand our impacts. And at the day, also help our concrete producers lower their cost of operations. So it does check all three boxes again. So we’re really excited to continue to build that out. And we have other technologies that follow a similar narrative. And then there’s the digital expansion of products as well. But all this comes together to drive CO₂ reductions in cost efficiencies, and resource efficiency for concrete production.
Host Raj Daniels 38:15
That is really interesting, adding new technologies to the mix. You mentioned earlier, you’re on three continents, which three continents and the business model to enter new continents, is it through channel partners? Is it licensing? Is that your own offices?
Rob Niven 38:30
Great question. We use a direct sales model in North America. Right now in South America and in Asia, we use channel partnerships. Typically, what we do is when we first enter into a market, we directly sell, we do our homework to determine who would be the best fit to be that pioneering local market partner, a lot first customer. We support them and really wrap our arms around them to make sure they’re a success. And then at that point, bring in channel partners to scale it up once they have had that initial plant in the local market that they can use, as well as all the other installations worldwide, mainly the US.
We are expecting to be in Europe very shortly, we have a number of very exciting things that are developing there. And with these new investors that that have come on, as they’re all building very significant projects in markets all around the world. And we expect to be working with them to be driving through the specification process, CarbonCure for these projects. We have the same kinds of discussions happening with governments, where they’re building that into their public procurement specification documents, and then that allows us to have that demand pole to accelerate our entering into some new markets, as well as working with some of our international concrete partners that may be working with us in places like San Francisco. But then they also have thousands of operations in many other markets too. There’s a lot of different ways that we can do it. But ultimately, overseas, it will be a channel sales model.
Host Raj Daniels 40:17
Well, the opportunities seem endless. And I look forward to your success.
Rob Niven 40:21
Thanks very much.
Host Raj Daniels 40:22
You’re welcome. So Rob, last question. If you could share some advice, or words of wisdom with the audience, what would it be?
Rob Niven 40:31
There’s a lot of different communities that we work with, that are looking to join, and to be able to see this kind of decarbonization of the built environment. Let’s just start off in an order of if, if you’re in the public policy space, there are some very simple and zero or low-cost policy measures that can have a profound impact on the decarbonization of the built environment. So I would look to models like the Low Embodied Carbon Concrete Leadership Act in New York, or come visit our website for some ideas on policy. But I think the idea there is to use your purchasing power. You are a very, very important customer, and certainly, things like concrete should be signaling the market and aligned with your climate policies.
In the construction industry, the same would apply for procurement and specifying low carbon concrete. Maybe CO₂ is a way that you can affect change, not only for your project but once that project is supplied, that concrete plant will be transformed for all projects afterward, whether that be public and private. That one project can have a lasting effect on driving decarbonization within your community. And for entrepreneurs, what would I say is, just go for it. I think now is a great time to be in the cleantech space. There’s a strong appetite by investors. There’s tremendous talent of people that are looking to join companies with an environmental mission. And it’s a great time to be starting a company in the space. Certainly, the need is there for more entrepreneurs with a diverse set of backgrounds to be able to drive change.
Host Raj Daniels 42:29
As you were speaking, my mind was churning. And the reason it was is because we are part of this organization called CleanTX, and they have a webinar coming up here in October, they had one earlier this year. Essentially, it was the cities of Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, sharing their recently released Climate Action Plans. And the idea about procurement is a very interesting idea where perhaps a city is going to put an RFP for a project, and they are going to decide which vendors they used based on their climate action commitment.
Rob Niven 43:09
Well, you don’t need to look any further than Austin. They’re already on this. Specifically even on concrete and low carbon concrete. We work with Lauren Concrete as well in the area, have a relationship with the city. There’s been some great work there. They had a resolution to this effect earlier last year. So there’s a lot happening in Texas. It’s I believe the largest concrete market in the US. But there’s not enough that’s being done already. So there’s still lots of room and not enough time. So please reach out to me. This is probably one of the top two things that can drive decarbonization and it can be done without any cost and no impact on performance. It’s just showing a little bit of political courage and creativity. But fortunately, there’s a lot of other jurisdictions that have already blazed this trail. And you just need to be able to speak to them and I can put you in contact with who they are, or come to our website. It’s all listed there under our Government page.
Host Raj Daniels 44:22
Is there anything that I have not explored, or you’d like to talk about before we go?
Rob Niven 44:27
I think there’s any listeners, I’ve mentioned it a couple of times that are tuning in from New York State or have some kind of relationship there is that there is some very important landmark legislation coming out. This LECCLA act that was brought forward in the senate side by Todd Kaminsky and the assembly member, Robert Carroll, we really need to make sure this is a success because I think that there are a lot of other jurisdictions that have a close eye on this and are yearning for some kind of a policy tool that they could use so. So please reach out and support that process if you have a voice in New York State.
Before we go, I’m excited to share that we’ve launched the Bigger Than Us comic strip, The Adventures of Mira and Nexi.
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- #110 Russ Mallen, Head of Sustainability & Science at MUSE Virtual - October 30, 2020
- #109 Lisa Jacobson, President of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy - October 27, 2020
- #108 Gary Cocke, Director of Sustainability at the University of Texas at Dallas - October 23, 2020