Toasted Earth

Handprint: Simon Schillebeeckx

September 22, 2021 Michelle Cunningham Season 1 Episode 17
Toasted Earth
Handprint: Simon Schillebeeckx
Show Notes Transcript

This episode features Simon Schillebeeckx, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Handprint.

Handprint aims to integrate positive impact into every business transaction. Their team has built a platform that connects companies with curated environmental causes and integrates these causes into the company’s e-commerce website or other digital presence. They make it easy to automate, report and visualize each company’s positive impact actions.

Michelle and Simon discuss why having a net-positive impact is a necessity beyond offsetting footprints, why regenerative solutions are the answer and how Handprint enables businesses to go net positive easily.

Relevant links:
https://handprint.tech


Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/toastedearth)

Michelle Cunningham:

Hello and welcome to the Toasted Earth Podcast, a show about founders, visionaries and environmentalists pursuing novel ideas in sustainability to, ultimately, save the earth. Im your host, Michelle Cunningham and for todays episode, we have Simon Schillebeeckx, the Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Handprint. Handprint aims to integrate positive impact into every business transaction. Their team has built a platform that connects companies with curated environmental causes and integrates these causes into the companys ecommerce website or other digital presence. They make it easy to automate, report and visualize each companys positive impact actions.

Simon Schillebeeckx:

I became very motivated to do something about the environmental problems we're facing as a planet back when I was doing my degree in Corporate Social Responsibility and Ethics in 2006. So I majored in in that field. And they learned a lot around like environmental issues that we're facing. And this became kind of my passion. And so I returned to work afterwards in consulting, focusing on sustainability and innovation. And then got bored of consulting ended up doing a PhD and then moving to Singapore to start as an academic. So I'm still a professor here at a business school, but I'm focusing on digitization and sustainability. And back in 2017, I was working with a postdoctoral researcher on projects in Southeast Asia that had done really innovative things to protect the natural world. And we ended up traveling to Myanmar of all places to spend a week with an NGO that was using drones to plant mangrove trees, and had used blockchain and an Ico at the time to fund a million trees. And so that became a very big inspiration for us. We came back from that trip roaming into forest for a couple of days and set up the global mangrove trust, which is an NGO that still exists that works towards improving access to carbon markets for coastal communities that are working on reforestation projects. And then two years after that. So this is now 2019, we started working to my co founder and I Ryan and I started working with Mateus, who was a long term friend of mine here in Singapore, on an r&d grants that we were trying to get for global mangrove trust. And that work itself was so enjoyable, that we realized, Hey, there is more that we want to do together. And that's really how Handprint started.

Michelle Cunningham:

Tell me about this blockchain part of it and the drones. How does this work with the mangrove forest?

Simon Schillebeeckx:

So back then, that project was actually a very simple ICO, right? So the NGO had worked with a group called liquor out of Switzerland to create a token, a tree token, you can still buy that it's called the tree coin. And that one token represents one tree, and it was basically an asset backed token that people can buy in order to support reforestation. So it's pretty much a philanthropic approach to this. But back in 2017, when the whole Ico market was hyping, you could basically sell anything. And so this became quite successful. I think they sold about a million of those tokens, and so funded just over a million trees.

Michelle Cunningham:

Oh, that's very cool. Just curious. I know, this is like a little bit away from Handprint, but why does that need to be on the blockchain versus just like selling a token, go on a website, buy, like, you know, give $1 and that like buys you a token?

Simon Schillebeeckx:

Practically, there is no good reason for that to be on the blockchain. I would say that back in the day, that was just an opportunistic approach to use new technology in order to raise funds. And so lots of companies were doing this, obviously, there were lots of scams in the ICO bubble. But the benefits of creating a token, like TreeCoin, and I wouldn't say that TreeCoin in itself succeeded really in doing this is that you could create much more transparency, you could create, like right right now with NF T's. Or you could create a unique proof that this token represents a single tree, you could embed geographical coordinates in there. And then you could potentially have a website that shows that you type in the coordinates, you can actually see your tree using satellites. So you create that transparency and then it's a way of verifying that this impact is real. The benefit of the blockchain is really in making it much harder to sell the same tree to people, right. So this is where blockchain always comes in as like, how do we solve the double spend problem on the one side and really how do we solve environmental space? The double claim problem, right? So if you're what Handprint is doing as well, we sell impact. So positive impact, which could be reforestation, it could also be coral reef reconstruction, it could be some kind of social impact. It could be ocean plastic cleanups, and a key challenge that any organization that does this faces is how do you make sure that if I sell to you 100 kilos of plastic that some organization removed from the ocean, that another company is not buying exactly the same? 100 kilos. blockchain creates a public architecture, a transparent database that makes it virtually impossible to double sell the same amounts to different actors.

Michelle Cunningham:

Got it? Okay. Yeah, that totally makes sense. Yeah, I always wonder like, because there's a lot of companies out there that do this now, like, put things on the blockchain, like, what are the reasons behind doing that? Which I totally understand for Bitcoin and stuff. But this is cool that that makes sense. Okay, so how did you and Matthias and Ryan, were inspired, you decided you want to start Handprint? What happened from there, how'd you go from that to actually like starting the business, launching your site, making a product.

Simon Schillebeeckx:

I mean, first, we had quite a few bottles of wine to celebrate. And so we we kind of tossed around the three of us just like ideas in terms of how we would want to get started. So the goal was to create a solution that would make it easier for people or companies to contribute to reforestation, that was really the original goal. And so we were thinking about things that are very different from what we are doing now, for instance, a kind of mobile phone charger, that would for every time you plant it, if every time you charge your phone would link to some kind of website that would also plant a tree. So via some kind of IoT device, or we were talking with a company that was building luxury boats, they were thinking, what if we can create some other IoT device that we put into the tank, and every time the boat gets filled up, we measure how much petrol or bunker fuel is being put in that boat. And then we link that again to some kind of reforestation project, so that you make very, your automated process to eliminate the complex behavior that people potentially want to do, but don't always want to, don't always have the time for or just forget about. And so we wanted to create these kind of simple automations to create positive impact. And so we were thinking about hardware. And so then, we ended up choosing to start with a software platform. One of the reasons was because of COVID. And that we were working initially with a group here in Asia, that's also quite big in the UK called Green is the New Black. And so they had asked us like, Oh, can you guys built a carbon calculator for us? So for all of the companies in their, in their network, that are mainly in cosmetics, fashion apparel, and so we wanted, they wanted to build like a simple tool that would help these small companies to estimate how much carbon they were putting into the atmosphere. And so because of my background in consulting, and I had done my carbon audits for companies before, we said, okay, fine, we can do this. And we started working with them. That was our first official project. Of course, we didn't have money, they didn't have money. So they paid us by making a video for us. That became our launch video, which is still available online. It was a bit of a barter economy. And then we started working Mateus, our CEO has some coding capabilities. So we built the first website and started kind of talking to some other people in our network of friends here in Singapore and also in Europe, about what is it really that we want to do and we quickly relatively quickly, it's probably like a five month process settled on Okay, we're going to build a solution for ecommerce. Again, we were inspired, of course, by COVID. And being stuck indoors since February 2020, which is really when handprint started kicking off, we decided okay, let's build a plugin for ecommerce that just makes it very simple for any kind of ecommerce company to integrate some kind of positive impact at the time it was only reforestation into their checkout process. And that's that became the first product and ever since of course the company has been evolving.

Michelle Cunningham:

An e-commerce business wanting to use your plugin, how would they use it? Is this like code they need to put on their website, does it integrate straight into Shopify or like what were they doing to actually use it?

Simon Schillebeeckx:

So we have plugins now for Shopify, for WooCommerce and for Magento. So that gives us access to about 2.8 - 2.9 million different companies globally that could, in theory, integrate the handprint plugin in two or three minutes, it's now very simple. So you can go to our website and brindle tech, and you click on the Get Started button. And you're going to be taken through an onboarding process that also involves if it's Shopify, you'll need to download the Shopify app, from the handprint app from the Shopify store. If it's WooCommerce, it works a bit differently. But you go through that onboarding process. And eventually, you'll end up on an enterprise grade dashboard, which is what we've made, where you can configure the plug in, in the way you want. So you can change the text, you can change the color, you can choose which project you want to support, you can set a daily budget limits about like, okay, I don't want to spend more than this much per day. And then you can choose how you're going to contribute. So most of our competitors in this space, kind of default to default to carbon neutrality for transportation, right, so they make an estimate about, okay, the person, the buyer is, whatever, in Seattle, the The shop is in San Diego. So this is how much transport This is going to take. And then what is the carbon emission associated with it. And then we create some kind of offsets to compensate for that. That's what most actors in this space are doing. But we didn't want to do that approach. Because we understood that, look, for some companies. carbon neutrality is the goal, right. But for other companies, they just have very different values. And they're like, we Okay, that's important, but we really care much more about biodiversity, or we really care about like female empowerment. And so we wanted to create something that's a bit broader. And that enables companies to choose a project that aligns with their values, and then integrate a micro contribution to these projects into their processes. And so the way we've set up our, our plugin, is that companies can choose how they contribute. So they can say, for every sale, we're doing a discrete impact, like 20 cents, or for every sale, we're doing 1% of revenue, and then it's obviously more scalable, or we're linking it to a specific condition. Like, if the customer chooses to go packaging free, then the money we save from not having to package the product can go to a specific product. So we have a variety of options that allow our clients to just give a bit more flexibility to heparins clients to use the plugin in a way that suits their business and gives a bit more choice.

Michelle Cunningham:

That's really cool. It just gives it yeah, it gives them like a ton more options aside from just like, let's offset the fact that someone made a purchase and we now need to send that item to them.

Simon Schillebeeckx:

And also just like because we have clients that go way beyond that, like we have a client that goes 20 times carbon positive, rather than just getting neutrality, right. I mean, if we all if we're neutral in the face of adversity, we're technically siding with the oppressor. So neutrality isn't going to get us very far. Even if we stop emitting all carbon now, for the next 30 years, we're still going to have massive problems, at least at least 30 years in terms of climate. So we really need to go beyond carbon neutrality towards planet positive organizations. And that's really the core ambition of Handprint.

Michelle Cunningham:

So is that is that something that these businesses understand? Like, is that why they would want to use a plugin like yours is like they understand that by having a really positive impact, they're making a dent against climate change? Are there other motivations there?

Simon Schillebeeckx:

It's hard to speak for for clients in general, I think that the companies that are really pioneering in the sustainability space, do understand that carbon neutrality isn't good enough. But for many other companies, that's a very long process of awareness, building realization of what's going on. And what's interesting for actually, the vast majority of companies, if we think about the US, if we think about Europe, even Singapore, and like Australia, to lesser extent, the vast majority of large organizations, and the last, and virtually all smaller organizations can't really do a lot when the question is, can you become more sustainable? And especially because that means in the current understanding of sustainability, that means Can you reduce the negative externalities associated with your business? Right? And so if you're small, like a small company, it's very hard to do that because you don't have power. You can't necessarily say, we're going to change electricity supplier because let's say in Singapore, there is no green electricity. So you You can't really do much about that. You can maybe do something about packaging if you're in a product space. But there's not that much you can do in terms of reducing negative impact. And that is especially true if you think about the services, business services, consultancies, law firms, governmental organization, academic institutions, like, what can all of these groups do in order to reduce negative externalities? Yes, they can switch off the lights, and they can print a little bit less paper, but it's almost it's it's almost meaningless. These kind of small scale impacts that they can have, do not correspond to their real impact that these organizations have, like, if you have a hedge fund with 10 people, they may potentially makes millions and millions of dollars, their carbon footprints are the negative environmental impact is very small, if you just look at your organization. And so how do you get organizations like that to actually do something for the environment? It's not by telling them, you should neutralize your carbon footprint? Because they'll say fine, that's gonna cost us $20 a year. Right? Yeah. So what we're trying to do is create all of Australia bring all of these types of organizations into this regenerative economy, by enabling them to link a process that they do on a daily basis, to some kind of positive outcome. And so we started with this ecommerce thing. But now, what happened is doing is much broader than that. And so we've integrated with outgoing emails, we've integrated with RSVP to events, we've integrated with online advertising. So the scope of our toolset is expanding, but always around the same idea. Like if we have any kind of digital interaction, any kind of business transaction, we can link that to a positive outcome, and bring any kind of company into the regenerative economy.

Michelle Cunningham:

That is really, really cool. It's much broader than I expected that, like you're already integrating into all these other things. So you're basically you're not an e-commerce plugin, you're a company that is integrating regeneration into business processes, I guess, or business flows, interactions, anything?

Simon Schillebeeckx:

Yeah, because I think also the scalability of such an approach is very big. Now ecommerce is massive, right? So ecommerce is a $4.2 trillion industry. So only getting ecommerce is going to be pretty substantial. But if you look at digital advertising is about $450 billion industry, if you can get a small part of that to actually say, hey, this ad, plants trees, or this adds cleans the oceans, and you add a little batch to the advertisement that appears on your phone or in your when you're browsing, it creates a very different and additional brand message, it may be very valuable for the brand, it may create a higher click through rate. So you have all of these potential benefits, but it actually becomes an agent for good. And right now in advertising that just doesn't exist. Well, it didn't exist until we build it together with with teats. And so I think it is really about bringing all of these other organizations that are now increasingly being challenged to become more sustainable. Right. So we've been talking with lots of the big advertising or companies and agencies, and their clients are asking them like, hey, what is the carbon footprint of putting an ad on a mobile phone? And so they're like, Well, I have absolutely no idea because they've never been confronted with this problem. But now what we can offer them is, is a solution to this problem by saying like, not only can we estimate the carbon footprint of an ad, if you think that is relevant, but you can actually turn ads into agents of change. And that's just one example. It's a I think it's an it's an appealing one. But you can do this with any kind of process.

Michelle Cunningham:

Yeah, it's interesting to see how the public perception has shifted, where now people want to know that you as a business are doing good, making sustainable choices. I'm curious from the consumers perspective, how are they interacting with this? Like, is this something that they're, they're typically having an interaction with throughout their e-commerce checkout process? Or, you know, seeing an ad, like you said, and how are they responding to it?

Simon Schillebeeckx:

So from the consumer, if we look at the e commerce approach, so consumers normally, they will see the plugin appear at the moment of checkout? Right, and they will see for instance, thank you for your purchase. 1% of the money that you spent here is going to be rerouted to this project. What we've seen in some of our preliminary research, is that for parallel companies, fashion companies is that you create an increase in cart conversion rates. Now for companies that are in this business, they understand how important that is right about what is the Number I think it is 80% of products that are put in carts are not bought. Right. So that's a lot of kind of, okay, maybe we'll buy it. And maybe we'll come back next week. And we'll see. So lots of people do this continuously, I may, I may be wrong about the percentage, but it's a very high percentage. So if you create even a 1% increase in cart conversion, because you have this plugin that says, hey, we're doing something good for the world, and people say, Oh, that's cool. And then they are more likely to click and actually buy, you have a very positive effect on a company's bottom line already. So that's one way of course of interacting now for impressions in advertising, it's going to be different. I mean, consumers can click on the ad, and then they will see impact page popping up. And so there are other ways to interact. But what we see really is that the consumers are increasingly looking for brands that are regenerative, there's quite a few interesting publications published the last couple of years from wunderman, Thompson and, and a few other organizations that have done this research in the USA, in China, in Europe, and consumers increasingly want brands to be regenerative to go beyond carbon neutrality, and are actively looking for brands that are doing these things are willing to pay more for those kinds of services, which is obviously also very important, are more loyal to those brands. And so there's a lot of reasons why a brand may may want to do this, or may want to give this option. Now other brands in our portfolio, they will just say like, Look, we want to enable this as well. But we can't, I don't know spend the 2% of the 1% of money. So we just give our consumers a choice, they can then choose to pay for themselves for the carbon neutrality or for the tree. And in my opinion, that's typically not as effective. That's also what we see. But the benefit of the handprint approach is that the consumer becomes the owner of the impact. Right. And that's so we are working on a mobile app that will enable consumers to keep track of their positive impact across all platforms that use handprint. And so you get, you get a stronger sense of ownership, which you otherwise don't have in with most of our competitors. For as far as I know, that idea that consumers actually become owners of impact isn't really present. And I think it's a big competitive advantage. But we'll have to see,

Michelle Cunningham:

That could be really fun and have some cool benefits for the businesses who are integrating Handprint, because now if you're keeping track of all of these regenerative projects that have been contributed to because of what you did online, you're now like, more incentivized to want to use those companies again.

Simon Schillebeeckx:

So it may enhance loyalty to the Handprint ecosystem, which obviously is in the future, something we hope will come through. But also I think what it does is it creates a creates a permanent account of kind of your positive impact. And it doesn't exist, right. So we started out and this was part of our original pitch to to investor saying that look, in the next few years, when you're going to apply for a job companies will ask you three things, what's your experience? What's your degree, and what's your handprint? Because if you're going to apply for a job for a company that claims to care about sustainability, they're gonna want to know, what have you done in your life that actually supports the view that you indeed care about these things as well. And right now, people have no metrics of this. They can do donations to NGOs. And so but all of that kind of disappears. There's no central accounting system for this. And I think it would be very useful. So we hope that this is going to be a standard question in talent acquisition in the next couple of years.

Michelle Cunningham:

It would be very cool, I mean, it would mean you've had a huge impact if people are asking that question, right? Are you able to tell right now that what your impact has been so far?

Simon Schillebeeckx:

Yeah, I mean, we we can potentially fully disclose this. But so we kind of measure our impact is the amount of money we sent to all our impact partner. So NGO social enterprises that are active in regeneration, social impact creation. And so we see that month by month that's going up by about 10 12%. So at the moment, we are still quite small, but we're a team of 18. And we are really just starting to talk with larger organizations that can obviously scale our impact much faster than smaller ecommerce brands, but the trend is is quite positive. And so one of the things that we are working on is instead of thinking about like, what is the return on investment for a product or what is the return on investment for a company. So what we are communicating with our investors is what is their carbon return on investment If we would compare putting all of the money that they've invested in us into a reforestation project, now we can perfectly predict how much carbon that is going to absorb over time. And so what we are trying to get at is this internal rate of carbon return, that, within two years, the money that they have invested in US has actually enabled the absorption of more carbon, then had we put all of that money in a forest, and then from the rest of the time, we will become a carbon positive organization. So this is how we measure impact, but I'm not sure if I can disclose exactly how much money on a monthly basis we are sending up?

Michelle Cunningham:

Well, it's a very scalable solution. So I would hope that, you know, someday, that amount of money that you've taken as investment will, could have a huge impact compared to what you could do going directly towards reforestation.

Simon Schillebeeckx:

We hope that it's going to become millions a month soon enough. And so we've been talking now with much bigger nonprofit organizations in a variety of areas that have heard about us via I don't know, like inbound marketing, or, or clients coming to them and say, Hey, we are normally giving you at the end of the year, like donations, we want to keep on doing this. But can you potentially organize this via handprint? Because then we can integrate this in our sales process. And so and that's interesting, because then now we're getting bigger organizations that are approaching us saying, like, hey, let's have a conversation. Let's see if we can put one of our projects on the handprint platform to get it funded. And that would of course, be be great. The more money we can ship to handprint to all these projects, the higher the likelihood that we're going to win the Nobel Prize for Peaceman. As a company that as an individual that is my goal as a company, it's everybody knows in the company that is my stated goal. But so let's see how long it takes.

Michelle Cunningham:

Awesome. Love it. So about the projects that you know the money goes towards, what are they like what what different types of regeneration is happening?

Simon Schillebeeckx:

Because Because of our history, as with global mangrove forests, so we have mangrove projects, mangrove reforestation in Myanmar, but that came to a halt after the coup. So now it's primarily mangrove reforestation in Indonesia. Then we, for which we have two different reforestation partners that have projects in separate areas, then we're doing ocean plastic cleanup with a Singaporean social enterprise, but they are working in bintan. It's also in Indonesia. So they are removing plastic from the ocean and then recycling the plastic. We're talking with a group in the US now about coral reef reconstruction. We're really excited about that. Because it's like for lots of the brands that are in swimwear, surfing brands that we've been talking to these kinds of things that are in the ocean, obviously very close to them. And so bringing a project like that on would be very exciting. We have clean water projects, we have a project that in Cambodia, about supporting women who escaped from sexual slavery, that's a bit harder to market. It's part of that planting one tree that sounds good, but like, how do you package that so that it becomes something appealing that you actually want to put on your website is harder, but it's something we're working on. We're talking to groups about about bees, bees are very important for ecosystem. So the integration or just the implementation of bees in ecosystem is something I'm personally quite interested in. And then we're looking also to expand towards, like refugee aid. This is something that I think is a very big potential market, but it's highly complex, because all the political considerations that come to come with it. And then and disaster relief is also something that I think in the future would be super interesting for just look at what happened in Haiti the last couple of weeks, if we would have an organization there that indeed has this potential to organize people on the ground and get people going again, and we know that they're trusted, and they're capable, that it would be very interesting to go to all of our clients and say, Hey, we all know what happened in Haiti, what about everyone for the next week switches from whatever their plugin is to disaster relief, so that we can actually send some serious money to that group. So this is x things we're working on for the future. But at the moment, we have like five or six different impact partners in in Asia, one in Africa. And it's mainly reforestation, ocean plastic cleanup, and then some social impact.

Michelle Cunningham:

I'd love to ask you some questions about the mangroves because I've been learning well, not really learning so like, this is why I'm asking questions right. But have heard more about mangrove forests and those being an important part in the fight against climate change? Why is that different from from normal trees?

Simon Schillebeeckx:

Oh, gosh, there are a lot of reasons. So let me give you like the headlines, right. So firstly, mangroves grow in coastal areas, right, so they don't displace agriculture, that's a big issue. So they don't, they don't really displace food production. Secondly, they absorb between four to 10 times more carbon than terrestrial forests. So as a sink of carbon, they are much more effective. A third part is that while many trees, all trees are great, I love all trees, but many trees store a lot of the carbon in the trunk. And in everything that's visible mangroves store a lot of the carbon in the soil much more than other trees, which means that even if you would cut mangroves after 20 years, and then kind of regrow new ones, a lot of that carbon that has been sequestered remains in the soil, because of that property. So they they have very long kind of root canals under in the soil that are underground, that are heavily entangled. And because of that property, they have a very strong function in the, to prevent erosion. So the soils become are becoming stabilized now for small islands. And even for bigger islands like, like in Benton, this is one of the key reasons why local communities are interested in this because they see their island is sinking on a yearly basis. So they're losing. And it's not just the water rising, of course, the sea level rising, which is another problem, but it's really that the island is sinking because of the soil instability. So mangroves help prevent that, which is also very crucial. And then potentially the the main reason I would say that governments in Indonesia, Myanmar and other countries are so interested in mangroves is because they create a green shield that protects communities against adverse weather effects. So the in the 2000, for the 2004 tsunami, we found that coastal areas where the mangroves had been cut had much higher death rates than coastal areas where the mangroves had been protected. Similarly, in 2008, there was a big Cyclone in the Bay of Bengal that hint, Myanmar, and 138,000 people died. And the the effect also there, if you look at the maps, they look at where people died versus where people survived, it's very clear that the mangroves protected and kind of slow down the wind slow down the cyclone enhance protected the communities that were living there. And so all of these kind of advantages. And then you still have like fisheries and crab farms and local livelihoods basically mean that, like one hectare of mangroves, provides ecosystem values and ecosystem value of about 190,000 US dollars, according to some, the most quoted number is that and if it and it costs probably between four and 5000 US dollars to plant it mangrove, that one Hector, so the returns in terms of ecosystem value that you create are enormous. And of course, if you look at foreign money, they really care about the carbon sequestration, which is a great part. But from the local perspective, the real advantages are in terms of coastal protection. This is really where the why they're so important.

Michelle Cunningham:

Yeah. Wow. Yeah. That's amazing. I'll have to read more about it. Now. Now. I'm like, very curious. Okay, similar question with the coral reefs, the regeneration project that was it, is it trying to make more coral reefs or just protect them?

Simon Schillebeeckx:

So it can be both. So the the organization we're talking to in the US is called the plants a million corals. So I'm definitely not an expert in in coral. So that's, I'll have to caveat that. But so they have developed an approach to, at scale, grow corals in some kind of mobile lab, and then implant those corals in areas where they used to be more corals, but then they'd have kind of died because of the increasing acidification of the ocean. And the benefits of their approaches that the corals that they are creating are more resilient against changes in the pH levels of the oceans, which is also a consequence of climate change. So their survival rates are going to be higher. And of course, this is important because corals are arguably one of the most crucial ecosystems in oceans that are really at the bottom of the well not only at the bottom of the food chain, but also up until the top we see that if corals disappear in regions that well that lots of fish that normally live there, they're going to die but then the bigger fish that feed on them and the bigger feeds that feed on those hunting fish, they all die. And so you create a complete ecosystem collapse when these corals are, are bleaching or and die, which is what we see in the Great Barrier Reef, which is what we see in lots of other areas where corals are dying. But the benefit, on the other hand of the underwater world in general, is that its ability to rebounds. And rebounds quickly, if you remove some of the adverse impact of that humans have on those ecosystems is very impressive. So we hope that by supporting these kinds of coral reef projects that they could also create a very like a positive. Typically, we talk about negative feedback loops, but this would potentially be a positive feedback loop. And so that's, I think, why it's so important. And on top of that they absorb carbon. So it's also good to stop climate change, just read it. So these are really solutions that are very important in the mitigation of, of negative climate effects. But also, importantly, the adaptation to climate effects by the mangroves that are creating these shields, green shields that protect against cyclones, for instance, the corals that are becoming more resilient, and as a consequence, can potentially survive in slightly warmer water. So it's nice when you have those two things come together. There's not too many projects that can really do this. But corals and mangroves are very good examples.

Michelle Cunningham:

It's really neat. And like, yeah, cool to learn a little bit about the science behind it. As your donations go to these organizations that are working on these projects, how do you verify that they're having the impact you expect?

Simon Schillebeeckx:

That's a very good question and a very tough one to answer. So a lot of the A lot of what we do, kind of relies on trust, right? So we we know, the organizations we work with, they go through a due diligence process, and we built a relationship with them that has a very unusual way of working for most NGOs. Most NGOs are funded by government grants by large philanthropists and and essentially get some money from from people. But the core of their budget comes from third parties, and it's typically big chunks of money. And then they kind of do something, right. So they do whatever they do. And hopefully they do it well. Our system works very differently. We are an economic drip trading system that on a monthly basis gives them a little bit of money, or hopefully in the future, much more money. But in exchange for that we ask for impact we ask for reporting. So on our platform, we have social verification, which means that the partners are sending us pictures through a mobile app that we created, are uploading pictures to the platform that see so that we can have a visualize a visual effect of like, okay, what's actually happening on the ground, then for other equipment, say for the reforestation projects, we are working with remote sensing machine learning partners to that use satellite images to analyze what is changing in the canopy? And to what extent do we see over time an increase in density in the canopy, and then we can translate it into an estimate of how much carbon has been sequestered over time. So we are trying to build these technological tools. Some of those will be built in house within handprint others will be in partnership with organizations. But for other projects, like especially social impact projects, this is highly complex. Yeah, how do you measure the impact of you some some person that like in Cambodia escaped from sexual slavery, and then we can provide funds for those people to kind of restart their lives. But then how long do you keep on bugging that person? We'd like, Oh, can you provide some updates on your process? Because also there there's really a social question like, you don't necessarily want to keep on reminding them about, you've escaped this thing. And so now you're need to provide updates that your life is so much better. So there are really difficult choices there to be made. But we're trying to use always a combination of technology to verify impact, social, so stories and visuals and visuals to demonstrate impact. And then we have an economic approach so that we provide this long term incentive system for NGOs, because if they don't provide this reporting, they will not receive funding in the future. That kind of reduces the risk of opportunism. So we try to combine all of those things in order to ensure that the impacts are real. But any organization that's that tells you that they can guarantee this without any doubt is either Lying or just overconfident

Michelle Cunningham:

Can never be 100%, right. But it's always good to see that, like, people are trying, you know, trying to make sure that they're having the impact they expect. So I've read that you, you don't make any money on the funds collected to go to these projects, correct? Correct. Why was that an important decision for your team? And how are you funding Handprint?

Simon Schillebeeckx:

I mean, we set handprint up as a social enterprise. So we still want to become a massive organization. But we it's a very difficult choice. And like many startups, we are continuously revising our business model and kind of figuring out like, what is the way, the best way to work, we have a lot of our clients that are just telling us Can you just please charge more for impact, it's much easier, it's much simpler for us to understand. But we're trying to avoid that. The main reason is just basic economics. Like, if something becomes more expensive, less people, less companies will bite. And our goal is to get as many trees planted as much plastic removed as many corals and so the more we increase that price of specifically, that discrete unit of positive impact, the lower the likelihood that we can increase the volume, right. And so what we decided to do was like, okay, we're going to start our business by not making money on impact, we do charge NGOs, 5% of the money we raise for them to cover our data expenses, or financial transfer expenses. And to cover part of the marketing and the kind of transaction micro aggregation invoicing, all of these services, fundraising at we do all of these services for them, which typically cost NGOs 30% of their budget, for them to pay 5%, they say we don't care. That's, that's very cheap. So at the moment, this is still how we operate. But given that we have very different clients in very different fields, we may revise this, we're never going to make profit out of impact. That's definitely not the goal, we may need to change our business model. And so other ways that we make money, as you were asking is that we offer premium services, right? So you can that as a as an e commerce platform, for instance, you can use our plugin for free, but you only have one option of what the plugin is going to look like. If you want, can you change the text, if you want to change the color of the plug in to your brand's colors, you can do all of that. But that's a premium service for which you pay a monthly fee. For instance, for other clients, we will work around like a model where we monetize data transfers, which is quite common in the SAS space. So that will normally be detached from impact, but will allow us to make some revenue as well, which obviously is important. In the future, we do think that a big part of our value in our revenue is going to come from our access to consumer information. Right. So because we have this, we will have this mobile app where consumers can store their information and store their handprint, consumers will have the opportunity to opt in to a data sharing agreement where they will benefit from the monetization. So we're working on a model that's a bit inspired by brave the cryptocurrency browser with the bat token. So we're so consumers will be able to benefit from the, let's say the monetization that we can do through Prince's advertising in the network. And then we will be able to benefit from it. And of course our clients will be interested in paying for this given it becomes harder and harder to track people online. Right? Apple has made these big changes around their privacy, European Union is making regulation in that regard. So how do you as a company reach the right kind of customer. This was a problem that was kind of solved by Facebook and Google and is now becoming harder to solve again. And so what we are envisaging for the future is that we will have a community of of people that all care about impact that's going to kind of bind all of them together. Some of them will care about specific types of projects, others will be more generic. And they will be linked to brands through their behavior. And this could be like ride hailing apps, this could be electricity companies, it could be, of course, ecommerce. It could be hotels, like anything really that fits into our ecosystem. And so, what we will have is this kind of complex network of companies, projects, individuals that are all linked in in one way or another and we will be able to overlay Unlike Okay, we have this group of people that care a lot about, let's say coral reef reconstruction, that are also buy a lot from this surf brand and also buy a lot from this clothing brands. But the networks of these companies are not necessarily overlapping. And so being able to say, hey, surf brands, we have this clothing brands and 40% of the consumers that buy from you also buy from them. So can you do you want to speak to these older consumers. And so that way of going and monetizing data in the future, that's I think, going to be really where heparins value is coming from, of course, it's going to be opt in and consumers will be able to refuse that. But I think the idea would be that the hope will be that consumers opt in, because if they do so they will be able to increase their own handprint or potentially even receive cash.

Michelle Cunningham:

Yeah, I think having them opt in, I think is interesting. And a good thing, right? Like, now they know they know what you're doing behind the scenes. And they're deciding like, Yes, I would, I would like to be exposed to these other brands that you think are probably a good fit for me. Exact Cool. Well, what's next? What's next for handprint? Where do you go from here?

Simon Schillebeeckx:

What's next conversations with very big ecommerce platforms, this is what's happening now we had one yesterday, and we can't disclose the names. But we are talking with one of the biggest ones in Asia, we've been approached by big German one. And that's super exciting, not because we we think that those platforms necessarily are the ones that truly care most about the things we care about. But because we genuinely believe that their ability to scale impact is vastly superior than us chasing 100,000 small ecommerce brands, which we absolutely want to do that. So that is that is a very exciting evolution that we see. We are talking with small scale and slightly larger scale business angels, VCs, for a next round of fundraising. We've just been accepted into an accelerator here in Singapore, we are in the last 20. So in 10, will be accepted to start a boot camp Australia. We're considering whether or not we want to do that. The opportunity is very interesting. But it comes at a price in terms of equity. And so we have to see if that's the right call for us. Yeah. And then in the next couple of months, like onboarding new impact partners. So there's two really big ones we're talking to, that would give us a lot of visibility, which would be great. And then sales goals this afternoon. Yeah, I think it's what like what all startups do, it's, you got to, you got to have sales, you got to talk to companies, we got to do demos, we got to demonstrate how the platform works, why it can work for them. And then we're doing a big push around a manifesto that we have published called regeneration. First, in which we try to explain why we think that the last 30 years of companies doing sustainability has basically failed miserably. And, unfortunately, but the reality is that more and more companies are publishing sustainability reports, and more and more ecosystem damage is being done on daily basis. So something isn't working out there. And so we are Yeah, we're proposing that regeneration is for many companies, the right action path forwards. And so yeah, we're doing podcasts on that, and articles on this. And this and that. So, yeah, that's for the next couple of months, and then hopefully, be able to travel again, like we've been, we've been stuck in sync. I've been stuck in Singapore for almost a year and a half now. And I love living here. But I have I had two kids, my wife and I had two kids about five months ago, my parents and her parents would love to meet them.

Michelle Cunningham:

Oh wow, twi s? Yes, we must be twins, righ ? Yeah, oh, that's amazing. Y ah, I'm sure they must want o meet. Hopefully. Yeah, ho efully, everything gets bet er. can start traveli

Simon Schillebeeckx:

That would be nice. But of course, it's bad for the planet. All that flying.

Michelle Cunningham:

Yes, the flying is bad. Well, maybe someday, the electric planes

Simon Schillebeeckx:

I think we're quite far have electric planes. I might sell some more carbon neutral fuel. But I mean, the least we can do is plant, plant, plant 20 trees when you fly somewhere. And it's not. It doesn't compensate for everything. But it's a start. You can do something as an individual.

Michelle Cunningham:

It's better than nothing, for sure. Absolutely. Well, is there nything our listeners can

Simon Schillebeeckx:

I mean, obviously, follow us on social media. So we're handprint dot tech on Instagram. You can find us on Facebook. You can find us on LinkedIn, you can find us on Twitter. If you are interested in learning more just go to handprint don't take the website and Reach out, we're very happy to talk. If you're an ecommerce platform, of course, you should integrate handprint in your business, that's a no brainer. So recommend to doing that. Or if you know people that have ecommerce platforms, you should start bugging them on a daily basis until they do. If you have favorite ecommerce brands that don't use handprint, ask them why or ask them if they're considering it. Because that really works. We've been approached by brands that just say, Oh, we had two consumers in the same day asking about why we're not working with you guys. So that's a great way that like, every individual consumer can become empowered and say, like, Hey, we can do something just by reminding brands that we like that they can do these kinds of things. And so yeah, I think those are the best things. And if you like the podcast, of course, spread it in your own social network so that other people can hear what the Michelle and I have to say,

Michelle Cunningham:

I'd appreciate that as well. Please, share. Well, before we sign off, we like to end every episode with a toast to the earth. What do you hope for our planet's future?

Simon Schillebeeckx:

I prepared this. Again, I'm looking through my answer. I'm like, Okay, so what did I write down? So I hope that there will still be humans around in 200 years, that it's more hope for my children and their grandchildren and for the planet. But I think what I really hope for the earth is that we extend our natural reserves to at least 30%, globally. So we're currently at about 10.7%, we really need to increase this that is not only good for the planet, and biodiversity, but also economically, very wise. I hope that we get political leaders in all countries that take this issue very seriously. And a global carbon tax, I think we really need to do this as quickly as possible, and use that money to support research on regenerative agriculture, new ways to create steel, new ways to create cement that don't require fossil fuels, even nuclear fusion. I'm not necessarily 100% sure that nuclear is required. But I think right now, it's almost the lesser of two evils. And we should implement moratoriums of fishing for at least one or two years in some regions in order to enable those ecosystems to rebound rebounds. So I mean, there's a lot of things I hope for the planet. I think that's kind of my tip of the the top of the pyramid list.

Michelle Cunningham:

Thanks for listening to the show today. If you love this show, please leav us a review wherever you liste to podcasts. You can learn mo e about Handprint by visiti g handprint.tech thats h-a-n- -p-r-i-n-t dot t-e-c-h or visi our show notes at toastedea th.com for more links and deta ls about this episode. If you re currently working on an ide , company, non-profit or mo ement to benefit the en ironment, send us an email at he lo@toastedearth.com, we woul love to hear from you. Rai e a glass to the earth eve yone, its the only one we e got.