Go Neutral Website: www.goneutral.com.au
Go Neutral Instagram: @goneutralnow
Tony Corrales (Host) Instagram: @tony__corrales
Producing with Purpose Instagram: @producingwithpurpose
On this episode of Producing with Purpose, presented by Noskin, I have a fascinating chat with Casey Whitelaw of Go Neutral. Casey’s also the CTO of GreenCollar. It’s been awesome to have him on the show!
The Vision Behind Go Neutral
“I did not want to start a start-up. It was kind of a surprise to me that’s where I ended up. My history at Google was in technology. When I quit, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to work in climate. I quit with that goal.”
Casey has a background in technology, specifically a range of innovative and progressive positions at Google. He founded Go Neutral because he wanted to have the biggest impact possible on climate action. Go Neutral makes it really easy for everyone to take meaningful climate action. The company’s goal is to turn carbon offsetting from a niche product into something mainstream that can help millions of people make a difference.
Go Neutral was founded by Casey on his own, after he left his tech job at Google. His wife was a big help in getting the whole thing off the ground; he also worked with a branding agency to launch the company.
The point of Go Neutral is that the driver of a vehicle can purchase a sticker to put on their car which effectively says that that vehicle is carbon neutral for the next twelve months. The money you pay Go Neutral will be used to balance your carbon emission in that time period.
Casey likes to think about it as a consumer product. Every time you drive your car, you get to feel good about it, knowing that you’re carbon neutral. It also displays to other people that there are changes they can make in their lives to help the climate.
The Importance of Climate Action
“Right now, the best way we have of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is through natural methods. People might say it’s through planting trees; but really, it’s through growing trees.”
One thing I wanted to ask Casey to explain was why it’s crucial to work towards net zero emissions, and how Go Neutral fits into that. I already have a strong commitment to that cause, but I think education around the topic is hugely important.
When Casey did his research into the array of climate solutions, he found there is no one magic bullet. We have to do many things as quickly and effectively as possible to limit global climate change. The thing that got Casey really excited was carbon sequestration: pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and locking it up in some form to reduce atmospheric CO2. That is really the heart of global warming.
Because of its copious amounts of sun and wind, Australia can be regarded as a renewable energy superpower. It also has the potential to be a carbon capturing superpower. By adhering to these policies, we’re actually making our land better at the same time. It’s also an economic win; it generates money and has international potential. This really captured Casey’s imagination; he asked himself, “How can I contribute to this and drive that vision for the future?”
How GreenCollar Fits In
“If we could turn these into products that people wanted, then that money would go into funding more of these projects, and the right things would happen.”
GreenCollar is a company that manages carbon removal projects – things like regeneration, avoided clearing projects and so forth. These are the actual mechanical processes behind carbon dioxide capturing. The work that was being done on those projects ended up being the backing for the work Casey was doing with Go Neutral, which focused on the consumer side.
I was interested to know if it was more or equally profitable as a landowner to use your land for pulling carbon from the atmosphere rather than growing something or grazing animals. Casey says you don’t have to choose between the two – you can actually do both at the same time. The only thing that changes are the methods, which allow you to facilitate regeneration. In fact, the net result is that both of these activities complement each other.
From Idea to Business
“I really believe that for most people, taking positive climate action is desirable. Most people think this is a good thing. But it’s something that’s very hard to share and be proud of because of the complexities around the conversation. I wanted to make something that was an easy action for people to recommend, and build on that.”
Go Neutral was sort of a lockdown story. As Casey researched carbon sequestration, he struck on consumer offsetting as a way of generating demand for Australian carbon credits. Casey was unimpressed with what he found in the consumer offsetting market; it was too complex, and this complexity drives people away. Casey wasn’t interested in getting people to seek perfection. His goal was to generate scale, influencing as many people as possible.
I totally agree. A business working towards a lifestyle change has to be scalable. Casey wants to stress that he doesn’t think that offsetting your car is the key to climate change. It’s a small piece of the puzzle, an action that people can take that really makes a difference. It’s a stepping stone that can make people think of themselves as someone who can take climate action.
Looking at Go Neutral from a Business Perspective
“I am not interested in micro-offsetting. We need to be thinking in terms of tonnes. That means designing big products. That’s where I think the opportunity is.”
I was curious as to what the marketing strategy is behind Go Neutral; how exactly are they going to get these stickers onto cars? Casey believes that most people want to take positive climate action, it’s just that the messaging sometimes gets lost or is hard to communicate.
Casey wants Go Neutral to be the KeepCup of carbon. KeepCup hits the sweet spot of being visible and convenient, as well as being a well-designed product. At its heart, Go Neutral is a similarly direct-to-consumer business, which is easy for the marketplace to understand. Casey believes there is an opportunity for the business to appeal to a very broad audience. It’s easy to understand and easy to do.
Go Neutral was recently acquired by GreenCollar, which Casey sees as a great alignment of values and opportunity. Essentially, Go Neutral will be the retail brand of GreenCollar. Casey is also aware that there are so many channels in the automotive industry for expansion and collaboration opportunities. From car rentals to car mechanics, the potential scale is huge.
The Future of Go Neutral
“All of the incentives are lined up in Go Neutral. The impact that I want to have on the world is to drive carbon removal. For that to happen at scale, I want to sell lots of offsetting services to lots of people. And yes, if I do that, Go Neutral will become a successful and profitable business, and I think that’s the right way around.”
I was excited about the potential for Go Neutral and wondered if the limit was the automotive industry. Maybe the company could potentially expand to offsetting entire businesses in the future?
Casey agrees it absolutely doesn’t stop with cars. He’s really interested in building a consumer brand, a brand that’s known for its climate change work without being political or environmental. Cars were the place to start, as they make an easy story – they’re something that people can understand immediately. The plan is to expand into many other products.
Not-for-Profit Vs. For-Profit
I’ve worked extensively in not-for-profit organizations and for-profit companies, and I advocate for the latter. I think to actually make an impact in an aggressively capitalist landscape, for-profit is the way to go. I was wondering why Casey also made the decision for Go Neutral to also be for-profit when the option to go the other way was there.
He says there are two reasons. The first is simple; it was much less work to establish a for-profit business than a not-for-profit one. And the second is that building successful businesses that have positive impacts on the world shouldn’t be relegated to not-for-profits.
The acquisition from GreenCollar will provide a way for Go Neutral to go to the next level. For the first few months, Go Neutral was self-funded, but to make the next stage, the company needs more resources.
The Next 6–12 Months
“I believe our obsession with perfection is really getting in the way of climate action. When you want to do something about climate, please don’t start by believing that you have to do everything all at once and you have to become a climate expert. It doesn’t need to be offsetting; you find the right ways for you to start making a difference.”
The next six months will be about learning how Go Neutral can operate at scale and beginning to build that consumer brand. Over the next twelve months, Casey’s goal is to have it become the best-known offsetting brand in Australia. Growth has to be quick, because we don’t have much time to make a difference to climate.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Casey and Go Neutral, you can visit their website, or check out their socials with the tag @goneutralnow. Info on GreenCollar can be found on their website. If you want to get in touch, Casey and the team would be more than happy to chat.
I want to say a huge thank you to Casey for coming on the podcast and chatting about his awesome business venture. I look forward to following his efforts and chatting to him in the future!