Triple Bottom Line

Rio ESG: Plugging into Expertise

February 01, 2023 Taylor Martin / Dan Botterill
Triple Bottom Line
Rio ESG: Plugging into Expertise
Show Notes Transcript

Dan Botterill, CEO and Founder of Rio ESG—a company that’s democratizing access to ESG expertise. Their platform enables organizations of any size to plug into their proprietary tools and insight to leverage their wealth of ESG experience. Dan explains how their system works, how a company can quickly size up their ESG efforts, and gain a clearer picture of their roadmap ahead, which is critical in today's market. Listen in and get up-to-speed on how these types of platforms are helping companies achieve their ESG goals.  https://www.rio.ai

Triple Bottom Line | Episode 51 | Daniel Botterill

[Upbeat theme music plays] 
Female Voice Over 
[00:03] Welcome to the Triple Bottom Line, where we reveal how today’s business leaders are reaching a new level of success with a people-planet-profit approach. And here is your host, Taylor Martin!

Taylor Martin 
[00:17] Welcome, everyone. I’d like to introduce you to Dan Botterill. He is the CEO and founder of Rio ESG which is a company that’s democratizing access to ESG expertise. Their platform enables organizations of any size to plug into their proprietary ESG tools and insight in order to leverage the wealth of expertise that they have. I’ve been following their progress for the last year and they’ve just been presented the ESG Innovation Award at the Sustainability Consulting Awards. That’s a huge thing. I’m not surprised, though, because again, their platform is so amazing. Dan, congratulations on your recent win. Tell our listeners more about your background and how Rio came into existence.

[00:57] Daniel Botterill
Thanks, Taylor. It’s lovely to meet you and thanks for having me on the show. My background, first of all, is 20 plus now, and I don’t look it, working in sustainability as a consultant and I’ve worked in clean [inaudible] investment development, but most recently, I’ve dedicated my career to looking at sustainability software application and the real aim of that being to find a way to provide that knowledge on getting effective processes to more people in a more cost-effective way. We use that word democratization, which I know is a little bit techy, but really what we’re trying to do is take years of experience from the best experts in sustainability, package it up into a series of toolkits and learning applications to help anybody access and ultimately be more sustainable and that sort of goal is to help the individual or business just be more sustainable.

Taylor Martin
[01:52] What was the genesis of the idea for this platform? Was it just you and some friends? How did it come into existence?

Daniel Botterill
[01:59] I loved being – it goes all the way back to when I was in university. I studied an environmental technology degree in the late ‘90s. There were four people in my course. It was a really terrible course when I look back at what they taught us. What I really enjoyed was the legislation and policy elements of what they were teaching us so I went on and did a master’s [inaudible] a master’s in environmental law. The first thing that landed on my desk in one of the modules of international environmental law was the [inaudible] of sustainability. I remember thinking that’s what I’ve been looking for in my career. I’ve always enjoyed science and geography and the sociology and human side as well. The [inaudible] kind of introduced this concept of intergenerational equity which is all around leaving the planet better for future generations and sustainability being that balance between environmental social and economic progression. It just absolutely resounds with me.

I thought I better do that as a job. I didn’t know what the job was really at that point so I ended up going into environmental consulting and finding myself starting in pretty horrible jobs working on landfill sites and doing contaminated land investigation, things I didn’t really want to be doing but were incredibly important to what I learned. Eventually, I progressed and started working with other corporates and looking at what their behaviors were and what sustainability meant to them and what ESG meant to them. This was early and mid-2000s, late 2000s. One thing I found being a consultant, which I absolutely loved, is I loved helping the company but I always used to find it prohibited and I felt I’m a good consultant, a very good consultant with my clients, but there aren’t that many very good or excellent consultants and it’s very expensive. You do one thing, you leave the company with a report, and you can’t watch their progress, you can’t help them make the change often. You just give them an advice on a certain piece and off you go again. I didn’t like that lack of emotional attachment in some way or just not finishing something. That got me thinking about, well, there’s just got to be a better way to deliver this type of advice and this type of consultancy or advisory. I thought let’s build a software platform not knowing anything about software, but I met this guy who had a really cool AI [inaudible] AI technology. It was all around capturing expert knowledge. I thought we could use that, we could harness that, and we can find ways to build these processes from that. That’s where it came from. It was a bit of a crazy idea of I’m sure I can figure something out here and off we go. Yeah, I guess it was born out of a desire to help more people be more sustainable in a more cost-effective way but also the fact that I think the existing systems [inaudible] don’t really help drive that change. They focus on very specific issues and regurgitating problems rather than necessary the solution that come up at the back of it.

Taylor Martin
[04:57] Yeah, having coming in as a consultant and doing this one off thing doesn’t have staying power but this platform does that creates this staying power. I also want to go back and say I really resonated with what you said about you were doing certain jobs that you really weren’t crazy about but they made you who you are today. I think there’s a lesson learned for all of us with that because you look back at our history of our careers as we look back and go, oh, God, remember when I did this or when I did that but it has made you who you are today. I just had to give a shout to that.

Daniel Botterill
[05:26] Absolutely, and also it gives you lots of discipline. What I found now with when we bring younger people, less experienced people into the bit of this, they don’t get their hard jobs often or they don’t expect to have to do those hard jobs. I wouldn’t be as good as I am now if I hadn’t done those hard jobs, if I hadn’t seen things ground level. That’s the difference I want to get through [inaudible] the experts the ones that have seen these problems at ground level, the ones that have been to the companies, that have visited them, not just looked at some data or done some random machine learning algorithms that fill in a hole, fill in a blank, it wasn’t real experience. Those jobs are really critical having done those and the people that do them and it’s just very smelly at a landfill site, that’s all.

Taylor Martin
[06:14] I would just times that by how many experts you have that are working on the platform to make it that much more rich. Let’s get into it. How was the Rio platform different than other services out there?

Daniel Botterill
[06:30] I’m quite a [inaudible] person when it comes to this. I don’t really care what other people do. I just have an idea and I try to make it the best it can be. What I found from the rest of the market because you have to do a comparative analysis and [inaudible] and all that stuff, were we to lose [inaudible] we have to understand why, right? What I typically found was that the market at the moment, investors have been saying, oh, it’s really crowded, isn’t it? I’m like, no, it’s very noisy. There’s lots of people all of a sudden saying they have sustainability tech solutions or climate tech solutions, but if you really look into the detail, there are lots of carbon accounting platforms. There are a few quite generic reporting platforms and there are ratings providers and data providers. There aren’t really many people that are building, what I call, intelligent sustainability management systems, which is what Rio is. It’s a management system approach to help you understand and improve your performance. That’s what’s unique about us is that we’re here – our mantra kind of internally is, if we just told you where you are, we failed, we failed you and we failed the planet. Our job is to help you be better and have a better impact. I think if you ask people truly if their platforms delivered that, be honest about it, I don’t think you’ll see that many that do. I think the reason for that is that learning and education are fundamental to what we do. We want to help someone build their [inaudible]. I don’t want them to – I don’t want to have to use human beings to support them. I want them to develop skills themselves and depend by our platform to help manage it better. I think those things which I think are probably a little bit different to the way the market is looking at this. Also, there’s just lots of people jumping on the ESG bandwagon, carbon bandwagon, and things like that. For me, it’s just about if you are in this space, you’re genuine about what you’re trying to do and what you’re trying to achieve and that needs to show through.

Taylor Martin
[08:31] Yeah, that part about having the human in there, I see that as a slow down because if somebody is passionate about it on their end and they’re using your platform, then you’re not holding them back by waiting for someone to respond or someone to take action. It’s just action, action, action at whatever rate that they can go at, right?

Daniel Botterill
[08:51] Exactly.

Taylor Martin
[08:52] Tell us a little bit more about how companies feed into the platform.

Daniel Botterill
[08:59] Yeah, so the ultimate goal with Rio is to answer that big question for an individual or business to be more sustainable. The first question is, what does that mean for you? What’s material to you as an organization and what impact do you want to have? Rio is designed to be really flexible around that theme. It’s very rare that we get a company or an organization coming to us and saying help us be more sustainable, everything in it, [inaudible] all, change us, make us better, that kind of stuff. It often starts with a specific thing and the specific thing that we probably all know is podcast [inaudible] net zero agenda, carbon agenda, understanding what ESG is, risk opportunity, and depending on what sector. Obviously, if you’re in financial services, ESG is more of your language. If you’re not, sustainability is more of your language. Ultimately, we’ve developed Rio to be flexible. I see that as an in, no matter where you start, there’s an opportunity to help them go to the next bit or go to the next level. Some of our clients are very focused on facilities management tasks, how is their estate performing, are they resource efficient, are they reducing their carbon footprint. Others look at their investment portfolio just to see where the risk is. It’s really flexible depending on what you want delivered and what the material risk or opportunity is.

That’s what I’m trying to get to is that it can be a solution for everyone. The problem with sustainability is it’s very vast and very complex depending on what sector you are and where you are in the world and all those different things. If you strip it back, there’s a process that everybody can use to be better and understand things, which is centered around learning, which is centered around developing strategy, which is centered around data analysis and just building quality target that you can stick to. All these things lend themselves to digitization but that’s where the experts come in, the people that have done this on the ground level. What are the roles that have helped you help clients back? Your role as an in-house sustainability manager, what’s made you so successful? Let’s understand that and let’s replicate that and let’s give that to other people, give that playbook to everybody. That’s the concept. It’s very rare that we have two clients that are the same, in all honesty, because people come with different material issue or opportunity that they want to focus on. Where I’d say we’re the best at it for people is Rio is your high level sustainability assistant. We are, in some ways, the virtual chief sustainability officer I guess. We’re here to help you look at the whole thing, take you through the whole picture. I think that’s our progression now. I don’t think we need to build everything ourselves. I think now is the time where we partner more with existing service providers and bring through the best lifecycle analysis tool on the market, bring through the best total value calculator, do things that just help everybody work together a bit more. I feel everybody feels that they’re just competing with each other at the moment, which is not helpful to the holistic position, but I get why. Yeah, those are some of our challenges. I’ve really got off tangent on what your question was.

Taylor Martin
[12:19] That’s okay, man. That’s all good information. What I love about Rio is that it’s what you just said. It allows anyone to come in with whatever needs they have or wherever they are at on their spectrum of their sustainability efforts or ESG efforts. That’s one of the things I just loved about Rio from the beginning when I was first following you guys.

Daniel Botterill
[12:40] Absolutely, it doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or expert. There’s always areas [inaudible] you can draw support. No one can know everything about sustainability. I’ve been doing it for a while and I’m very good generally. I need my experts in a different [inaudible] sustainability to help me. It’s just recognizing where your strengths are and where your knowledge gaps are.

Taylor Martin
[12:59] In sustainability, things are always moving and changing. You have to be nimble and be able to take on all these new things that are coming at you, especially on differing market segments. There’s a lot moving and it’s always fast paced. I think that’s the part that makes people feel a little overwhelmed. Like I said, coming to a company like yours, a platform like yours, they can just plug into something and have a little bit more peace of mind and ease knowing that there’s a lot of points of light focusing on their company and what they’re trying to accomplish. To me, that just sounds like yes, yes, we need more of this, we need more platforms like this.

Daniel Botterill
[13:33] I guess part of the issue for us, because everyone is different, we’re trying to find scalability and we’re developing – we’re still young. We started building Rio in 2018 with a blank piece of paper. We’re still a toddler really in the scheme of – or a young child in the scheme of things ourselves. It takes time to build up all this depth and sophistication, but it’s a journey. The way we work with our clients is a partnership is typically a three-year commitment duration where we’ll do that at the start and we’ll iterate Rio, we’ll customize it, we’ll make it what you need it to be. When I bought Salesforce for the first time as a business and I thought, oh, that looks great. I’ll use that out of the box. It didn’t work. It’s a great thing but it didn’t work for me because it needed to be customized and no one told me that. When I got it customized, it was brilliant. I think sustainability is the same and that’s what [inaudible]. As Rio evolves and get some more depth and more experience and more coverage, those things are just off the shelf, but right now, it’s the partnerships that help bring that knowledge and create the depth of it all. It’s critical for us to have those partnerships.

Taylor Martin
[14:45] That’s one of the things I love about it is just every day it gets smarter, it gets better. Can you tell our listeners a little about how you help companies improve their ESG outcomes?

Daniel Botterill
[14:55] Yeah, one way we look at Rio is we think of in sustainability terms more than ESG. I know we call Rio ESG and the reason for that is that I thought sustainability was too long a word. That’s all. There’s people that get wound up [inaudible] and have a big debate about, oh, sustainability and ESG, it’s dangerous to call one the other. Shut up. There’s bigger issues to solve, but ultimately, our job is to help those companies understand how they can be better in an environment social and economic factor. Whatever we look at in Rio has that dimension, if you’re managing waste, for example, you want to manage waste better, what Rio does is help you with the environmental impact with waste which is manage in line with the waste hierarchy, for example. It helps you understand the economic impact of that, can you save money and do it more resource efficiently. It helps you with the governance side of that, which is am I compliant with the legislation out there? Am I doing it properly?

That’s our approach with Rio. The idea is that everything you put in through Rio helps you improve on those three levels, either in environment, or social, economic, or compliant improvement. That’s right across the board. I said it at the start. If we were a reporting platform, I’d pack up and go home because that’s not what – that’s really not our objective to tell you where you are or lead you into one of the billions of frameworks out there. It’s to actually do something with that information. I recognize it’s important to disclose. It’s important [inaudible] very much, but aggregation is around the corner. There’s only so many ways you can skin a cat, right? Ask the same question about what’s important and what’s material to you, the reporting is dangerous and you can focus too much on that and not actually doing something about what you measure. You get stuck and obsessed with it. Everything we do is not necessarily about that. Yes, we can align with frameworks but it’s all about what can you do with that information to improve and the learning and education and the policies and the strategies that come with that. It’s inherently designed to drive improvement. That’s the point.

Taylor Martin
[17:02] What do you see as some of the biggest challenges companies are facing to improve their ESG outcomes?

Daniel Botterill
[17:09] The first one is building an understanding of what it actually means to them. I’ve said the word a few times on this podcast [inaudible] it’s a horrible word. It’s a bit like sustainability. They’re quite horrible words, aren’t they [inaudible] but it’s about helping businesses understand what’s important to them. That’s what we’re saying. What are the important issues? Opportunity or risk, which is the same thing depending on the lens you look through. I think that’s the fundamental issue is how you guide someone through that first process. If you can do that and then it’s up to your desire, isn’t it? If you just want to be compliant with regulation, that’s quite straight forward. If you want to actually make a difference and do better, only you can do that. We can give you the tools and information to that. That’s up to you what you do, isn’t it? It happens all the time with corporate. I can’t tell you what to do. I can tell you a process. It’s up to you how committed you are to this cycle now. I think that’s our job is to just try and strip back that complexity and help them understand what’s really important to focus on and not just manage it as an environmental thing, not just think it’s just got to disclose and report it, but if I do this right, I’m going to be a more environmentally socially responsible business that’s probably more resource efficient as well and more effective. That’s why we do what we do. Otherwise, it’s greenwashing.

Taylor Martin
[18:34] Yeah, what I’m hearing is that you’re laying the roadmap out for them. They’re coming in. You’re giving them the roadmap and say you have to go through the door. I can’t make you go through it, but here it is right in front of you. Just take it away.

Daniel Botterill
[18:47] It’s right in front of you. I think we’re seeing a lot more commitment now in this area but still not where we want it to be. It’s very few people that are passionate about it in the scheme of things. I can see younger generation coming through asking more questions, challenging more, but we’re more wakeful than we’ve ever been in this society. We still want everything really quick and don’t think of the outcomes of that. I’m going to go into theoretical stuff here but I think that part of the issue here is did we really want to make this change. We can give you the tools to do it but if you just obsess with reporting or having an ESG rating, boring, but I guess that’s part of the frustration to me is that when you’ve been doing this so long you can see – what I tell people now is not that different to what I told them 20 years ago. That’s annoying.

Taylor Martin
[19:41] From my point of view, I’m in the marketing and communication space, I always think when companies do things like this and they’re putting real effort behind it, it’s a marketing opportunity to leverage your efforts in your marketing, whether it’s online or ads or your annual report or your ESG report or whatever it is, these are opportunities to tell your constituents or all your stakeholders what you’re doing, how you’re doing it. Then I was just having this conversation on a podcast yesterday about credibility. If you do that and you’re transparent about it, let’s say you try something and it doesn’t work it but then you come back and you tell people why it didn’t work out and how we’re shifting to make it better now that we’ve learned, that just goes to credibility in what you’re trying to accomplish and I think people will resonate that because in the end we’re all humans.

Daniel Botterill
[20:32] Yeah, absolutely. The corporate challenge that we feel in the moment when you get in those debate often is when you’re looking in the social pillar and you’re looking at things like governance, bribery and corruption and it happened a few times where the client or former client – we’ve had these incidents of bribery and these places of the, well, should we say something. That gave what we’re trying to encourage is transparency. The fact that you’re owning up to it and you’re doing something about it is really important to show people and certainly depending if you’re a [inaudible] company or a public company externally as well, but there’s still a resistance to maybe not show people what you’re really doing. I think maybe that also puts people off in staffing because they think we’re going to be really bad at the start. We don’t want to tell people what we’re doing. I think, no, opposite, the first time you do this is a free [inaudible] you’re saying, right, we’ve just realized that now we really want to do something about this and this is where we are, it’s only up from there. It’s like being an improvement so don’t ever be scared or shy about not [inaudible] because you might not look good. That’s nonsense. Who cares? Just do it and go for it.

Taylor Martin
[21:45] I love that example you just gave of you start here, you have only way to go but up. Again, you’re laying out the groundwork for them. It’s really simple. I mean, there’s a lot of hurdles to go over but they’re all laid out for you.

Daniel Botterill
[22:00] Yeah, and ESG [inaudible] is really held this agenda because it got to the people in organizations that are on the top table, the CEO and the CFO and the [inaudible] people are listening to ESG because not maybe necessarily always for the right reason but they don’t get money from their funding if they don’t. That’s the biggest one here is that they take it seriously because it is about money for a lot of them. Use that. Don’t fight against if you’re not sure. Use that and show them the difference it can have. That’s the opportunity.

Taylor Martin
[22:34] ESG has been on a rocket ship of growth over the last few years. You guys said you’ve been starting this 2018. It’s 2023. Yeah, I think you were talking about you want things to change quicker. I think you’re going to see that because the trend is that more and more companies are taking ESG on board and taking it more seriously, meaning that they’re putting more effort and resources behind their ESG efforts. I see companies like yours growing exponentially over the next coming years, just next two years alone.

Daniel Botterill
[23:08] I think you’re right. I think we are seeing the regulation in the US as well with brand disclosure and some of those fiscal drivers pushing more funding and more prominence on the issues. Yeah, it is a matter of time I think how long before that legislation [inaudible] to the smaller businesses where that’s the other side of it to me, they’ll go for the bigger businesses first, right? How long away are we from every business having to disclose? In the UK, I don’t know whether you have in the states, we have an annual return system where you give the government the key information [inaudible] they will ask for our carbon footprint and ask for our diversity and inclusion logistics. When is that going to happen? I hope you’re right. I hope it’s in the next couple of years. It depends on the government that’s in place at the time. In the UK, we’ve got a pretty crap government in place at the moment.

Taylor Martin
[24:00] Yeah, I think it’s going to be a point where it’s going to come into play and then it’s going to take a couple years to get people to actually do the work. In America, we have 50% of our national GDP is small business so 50% of those medium to large corporations are going to be the ones that are going to be doing the work first. Let me ask you a question about Rio in terms of how people plug into it. We’ve talked a lot about the functionality and laying the groundwork out but what about how you see the future spanning out for Rio? What are some of the other ideas that you have envisioned for the future of Rio?

Daniel Botterill
[24:42] I think the vision for Rio has always been the same which is that [inaudible] wanting to find a platform that was applicable to everyone, help any business of any scale be more sustainable. Now, I looked at that problem through the wrong lens. I thought if I can solve this for the really big companies, it’ll work for anyone. Now, that’s not true. It means it’ll work for all big companies and medium company but it doesn’t – a company like ours, and Rio has got about 30 employees at the moment, that kind of scale. We’re tiny really in the scheme of things. It’s hard for us to make it work because it’s actually quite sophisticated for the API we can use and we have a tough time getting data and information. I thought I neglected a huge part of our strategy here which is, all those businesses that I wanted to help but not giving them enough tools to help them do it themselves. A big part of our drive at the moment is more automation. I’m not saying you can’t use Rio as a small business. You can and we do have people using it. I just don’t think it’s optimized well enough at the moment for small businesses. That was a huge part of our vision is to make sustainability more accessible for everyone.

I think we’ll see. There’s a lot of work going on at the moment to make that be easier and provide cost-effective packages for those small businesses. At the moment and a lot of smaller businesses and individuals buy our education tools because that’s really easy and really cost effective. I think there’s that side to get you started but really, and the other kind of side where innovation is going is, when I originally designed Rio, it was – and the people that worked with me on it, I wanted to give people a bit of flexibility to say, right, I’ve got some learning issues, I’ve got some compliance things, I want to look at data. What we’re finding is that our customers all want that roadmap that you described, that flow, and being a bit more staged about it and sharing where they are. There’s a lot of work we’re doing around that process, the roadmap to net zero, the roadmap to materiality, the roadmap to being more sustainable. We’ll see a lot more of those automated features come true.

My task is really can I do that without the end user having no human extension whatsoever because then it’s truly scaled and it can get to everybody and it can be really cost effective. At the moment, we still find that, for the harder problems where people can’t find data or don’t know what data to use, they still want a human being to coach you through it. I’m trying to find a solution to that intermediate positioning now. That can appeal to anybody that’s interested in what we’ve said today that we’re looking for people that have this knowledge consultant advisor to partner with who can help plug in and provide that support and provide that knowledge that we can digitize and automate. I think that’s where we’re moving towards next is just we’ve got a really solid base all the features in the platform. It’s now knitting them together with automated flows [inaudible].

Taylor Martin
[27:42] Yeah, the analogy that I’m going to give you that I think I’m hearing from what you’re saying is it’s kind of like how Elon Musk started Tesla. He designed the most expensive car and everybody thought he was crazy, but he was spending so much money on the idea, building the framework, the basis of everything with that expensive car because he knew he could sell them for that high price and get his money in return. Then he went down to medium sized cars and then down to now he’s making more affordable cars. I see that being a good analogy because you are doing all the tough heavy lifting now and your eyes are focused on the prize which is making it accessible to everybody. I think what you’re doing is spot on. I see that as a great roadmap for yourself.

Daniel Botterill
[28:33] Yeah, absolutely. I think you have to be that way around as well. The great thing about the big clients, strategic clients is that they have money, right? That funds the product development and that’s the partnerships that you want to make the product better and that’s replicable. Starting with a fresh idea and then just going out to small businesses is very challenging for any business model [inaudible] unless you’re going [inaudible] and you’ve got huge amount of funding behind you. In the UK, that’s very difficult to find the best support those kind of propositions. You have to find a way to monetize it and you ideally want to with a tech platform. In the states, it’s very different or had been historically. Maybe that’s changing a bit now, but you could probably get away more with getting the idea out there and establishing user base and then worrying about people paying for it. Can’t do that in the UK so you have to find a way to get through it and it might not be optimal but it’s just how it is.

Taylor Martin
[29:31] Yeah, I’m sure – I mean, we’re talking UK, US, this is a little different in all countries, even countries that are right next to each other. It’s a mess, really. What do you think are some of the things that are holding people back from using platforms like Rio?

Daniel Botterill
[29:49] First of all, I think it’s a pretty new space, right? I think these are quite new tools in the market. Now, there are the earlier [inaudible] to me when I started this, and that’s not that long ago, like I said, but there was quite an established environmental health and safety software market, which is still in place. Some of those companies, like Enablon, were formed in the 1990s and those guides are the kind of pioneers of these concepts of what does a digital platform look like for environmental data or compliance data but they’re not really about sustainability and ESG and those things we talked about today about helping people improve. They’re about reporting, about compliance. I think one of the things for people is just understanding what they actually need here. Am I just trying to report my carbon footprint? There’s about 20 different ways you can do that. Am I looking for a holistic sustainability solution? I come from kind of – when I first started it was all about environmental management systems, which is kind of defunct term now because it’s all about sustainability management, not just about that one [inaudible]. 

I think the biggest barrier is probably people understanding what they want and need. I think people could essentially buy [inaudible] if they’re not careful as well or buy a partner that haven’t roadmap or tool properly or you think you’re buying something and gave something else. One of the key things that people really struggle with is you probably had this in other podcasts is the data side of this whole agenda, where’d you find it, how’d you get good quality information. There are very few, if any, systems on the market that make that job easy, probably none at the moment because in the industry they aren’t prepared to give you high quality sustainability data. I think there’s issues like that that need to be solved and I think a general level of education is required, more education is required for more people to get to know how and what that looks like. I would always say if you’re not sure about the platform, don’t buy it. Just make sure you’re ready to do some more work in-house, some education work, just find someone that can work with you and is prepared to be your long-term partner, not try to force you into something that is just not malleable and not flexible at this point.

That’s where I would say I think it’s still pretty new. I think the lack of experience to people buying it makes it really challenging to make the process work. I don’t know what you think on that. It’s difficult for me because people that come to us usually know they want something. They might not be completely informed but they know they have an idea that they need something and you can then help them and plan that out, but generally speaking, I’m not sure.

Taylor Martin
[32:38] When people come to you with their request items that they have on their list, do you look at it and go, oh, yeah, we can help you with all this, but you’re missing the point on all these other items. Is that a typical conversation?

Daniel Botterill
[32:49] Typical conversation is very specific. We need a net zero position and then you obviously challenge it. You do discovery and you work through is that really what they want or is that the chairman that said we haven’t got a net zero [inaudible] get one. That’s what I’m trying to say is do people know what they want. You can buy a platform that’s just not needed you just want a net zero position, go to a consultant and get them to write you one [inaudible] if that’s all you want and you just want to get something out there, you’re not that bothered [inaudible] net zero, I’m good. If it’s got nothing behind it, you could get away with it in this climate still. I think a lot of the query you get a very specific where then our job is to help guide those, I suppose. Something that it is at the starting point.

Taylor Martin
[33:33] Yeah, two things I want to say there. One is, like you said, where the CEO just says we need to have a vision, we need to have a plan, they come back and say, okay, by 2040 we’re going to be net zero or 2030 or whatever, but if they’re not making actions tomorrow to get there, then it falls flat because people have been stating that for so long with no action. People are getting really tired of that. They’re acknowledging that. They’ll look for it. They’re like, okay, you’re going to be net zero by X. What have you done since the time you announced that?

Daniel Botterill
[34:04] Absolutely, when I first started working in London, I was working with a consultancy firm called [inaudible] in 2005 and there were lots of companies making their 2020 – they weren’t using net zero terminology then but carbon neutral. They would say by then they were going to be at this point and they’re not and now it’s 2040. That’s the issue how many [inaudible] expectation and how realistic is it for the company to deliver it, because ultimately, you said, Taylor, unless there’s commitment, it doesn’t really matter. It could just be a bit of paper.

Taylor Martin
[34:40] You have to show actions. You have to show actions on what you’re doing. It’s imperative. The second thing I wanted to say is about the data part because my lens from my world, I’m seeing AI coming into focus in a hyper fast way in all types of market verticals. Is that something that you could see coming into your space and helping you with that data?

Daniel Botterill
[35:03] Definitely, and I think the – yeah, absolutely, and we are seeing that now with some firms seeing the AI being used in a detrimental way as well in that it’s providing huge estimate which [inaudible] people unless you’ve been to see the company or seen the problem or seen the site, you’re out of context. AI will look for trends in numbers. It won’t know what it looks like on that landfill site or that industrial site. It will just look at the number in front of it and plug the hole. I’m seeing this a lot with companies that, especially in the investment sector, that are estimating the carbon footprint of their portfolios. They’re relying on turnover data or very shallow metrics to drive the number. It’s coming out and then the AI can’t tell you why it’s calculated what it’s calculated because it’s not explainable. It can be very dangerous if it’s to say, right, 2040, Taylor, your carbon footprint Taylor Limited is [inaudible] this year, goodbye. How did you get that? [inaudible] can’t tell you how I got to that number. I just used lots of data to give it to you.

That’s part of the problem with machine learning and AI. If we’re not careful, then it can give you a number with no working or no substance behind it, but I do think you have the role because we are talking still – think of all those different datapoints that the company needs to manage for sustainability. It’s so broad that there could be – if you were to take one framework, like the World Economic Forum Framework which has 21 different metrics, 21 different things with maybe five or six different factors within one that you’ve got to measure and could measure a different routine, there’s got to be a role for AI in that. I think right now the biggest challenge is the quality of information in service providers. I get amazed by the kind of in huge companies like the lack of good energy meters and things like that or just metric readings or building management systems and how we’re going to get good data if we haven’t even got that. If the supplier is not willing to give us the information, they’ll invoice us but not tell us how the break down is, how are we going to work all this stuff out. The first issue is really just the data quality at source and that’s what we’re trying to do with Rio is we try to go direct to the supply chain and avoid those estimates unless that’s the last resort that we think people now lead with AI and lead those solutions and just give an estimate and I think that’s quite dangerous potentially.

Taylor Martin
[37:37] Yeah, I can see AI playing more of a role of taking an average because there’s not just going to be one AI. They’re growing leaps and bounds every time I turn around. I could see using multiple forms of AI for multiple tasks even, not just the same task, like having five different AIs run the same equation problem and then giving you different results and you could average those out and say, okay, these five reputable AIs gave us these numbers and we took the average and we’re going with the average. I think over time that’s going to become more norm and there might even be an AI that does that aggregating through all the other AIs. It’s just going to be an AI crazy world.

Daniel Botterill
[38:22] I think we – our domain is Rio AI but we use the symbolic AI technology the way to gather the expert knowledge which in now more conventional terms is actually called intelligent automation rather than AI, the other way around, but if someone, an AI model that helps me get quality data, I’ll take it. I just haven’t seen one yet. That’s the point. If people do have one – know of one, I would love to but so far I wouldn’t use it because it doesn’t give me anything that’s [inaudible] I think, okay, that’s going to help inform my strategy or make this better. I’ve not seen one that does that yet.

Taylor Martin
[39:01] I think what we’re talking about is quality. You’re talking about the quality, right? Right now, I think AI is a tool. It is not just some genie out of a bottle. We have to think of it as such. We’ve got the personal computer and we use the computer as a tool. It didn’t make things for us. We had to use it as a tool to get what we wanted. I see AI the same way. If you put crap in, you’re going to get crap out, you know what I mean? You have to have good data coming in with a good AI to get a good output. I think it's something that every market is going to have to deal with it in its own way because it’s just going to be a sea of gray. There’s not going to be black and white.

Daniel Botterill
[39:43] Absolutely agree. At the moment, what’s happening, I guess, is the regulation will encourage you to disclose that. It won’t check whether you got the right answer or not. Like we’re saying, that example, Taylor Martin Limited have [inaudible] okay, tick, that must be right because they told us it. There’s nothing sophisticated enough to verify that and that’d be the danger that you just pump something out. It’s not real.

Taylor Martin
[40:05] I think in the ESG reporting, we’re going to have to stipulate it that’s used in the process of calculations and we have to disclose what that is.

Daniel Botterill
[40:13] Verified which is what the big [inaudible] make sure they verify ESG in the future as well as financial information.

Taylor Martin
[40:22] It might be a little hard on the beginning days for this but it’s coming. Speaking of the future, I ask this sometimes of guests on the show, if you could have a magic wand and make one thing happen for all businesses, what would it be? It’s not plugging into the Rio ESG because I know I would say that.

Daniel Botterill
[40:44] I think I would wave my wand and it would make all the politicians around the world get their heads out of their asses and realize how important sustainability is. I think that’s it, obviously that’s for everybody.

Taylor Martin
[40:55] I think that’s a great way to close the show. We’ve had a previous podcast where we talked about shipping them off to the moon so they can look back at the earth and realize how precious it is.

Daniel Botterill
[41:06] Oh, wow. Yeah, that’s a good one.

Taylor Martin
[41:08] Yeah, that is a good one. Some people said some of them we just leave there.

Daniel Botterill
[41:15] Absolutely, I think the moon’s probably not big enough, that’s the problem for them.

Taylor Martin
[41:20] Oh, my God, not big enough for their heads, their egos. How can our listeners follow Rio and follow the progress of what you guys are doing and your service offerings?

Daniel Botterill
[41:28] Yeah, I think just have a look at rio.ai, the website, there’s always a good link from there and loads of whitepaper and there’s a newsletter that we do monthly at the moment. We’re quite active on LinkedIn so check out our page on that and just reach out if you have any ideas you want to collaborate on one of our – there’s a section called our purpose on the website. It’s all around collaboration with likeminded organizations. If anything that resonates with you today and that you think you could work with, we’re really keen to collaborate and partner with people that share these values. Just reach out. Someone will get back in touch with you.

Taylor Martin
[42:02] Yeah, I want to underscore the LinkedIn part. That’s how I found you guys and I started following you, like I said, about a year ago. I’ve just been really enjoying the progress and speed at which you guys are growing which is great.

Daniel Botterill
[42:14] Thanks, Taylor.

Taylor Martin
[42:15] You bet. Dan, thank you so much for being on today’s show. It’s been a pleasure having this conversation.

Daniel Botterill
[42:20] Yeah, my pleasure. Thanks a lot, Taylor. Take care. 

Taylor Martin
[42:22] Over and out, everybody. 

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[42:23] Thanks for tuning into the Triple Bottom Line. Your host, Taylor Martin, is founder and Chief Creative of Design Positive, a strategic branding and accessibility agency. Interested in being interviewed on our podcast? Then visit designpositive.co and fill out our contact form. If you enjoyed today’s podcast, we would appreciate a review on Apple podcasts or whatever provider you are logging in from. This podcast is prepared by Design Positive and is not associated with any other entity. We look forward to having you back for another installment of the Triple Bottom Line.

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