Students drive exponential growth of pro-bono GreenTech consulting

By Ludovica Ceschi and Kelsey Fennell

Starting in November 2020, the ACI Consulting Club and Net Impact at ESMT Berlin joined together to engage our members in 3-week long pro-bono consulting projects for GreenTech start-ups. Since then, the partnership has resulted in five consulting projects involving over 20 students from both clubs, with more to come. These opportunities have helped us gain first-hand experience working with young GreenTech start-ups and apply the skills we are learning in our courses, while also providing valuable consulting work for the start-ups.

The projects usually consist of weekly calls with the start-up founders as well as one or two deliverables, and a final presentation of all the findings. For example, there have been customer development and competitor analysis projects, to name a few. Here we will take a deeper look into the most recently completed project with Amsterdam-based CarbonCancel.

CarbonCancel and the carbon accounting start-ups 

Working on a project for an early-stage start-up gave us the opportunity to work directly with the founders. At our first meeting, we were introduced to their vision and the story behind it: During a beach holiday, reflecting on the multitude of negative environmental externalities that our daily consumption generates in terms of CO2 emissions, and on how we could live carbon-neutral (and enable as many as possible to do the same), they began to form the idea of what in 2019 became CarbonCancel, a social enterprise that helps people measure, reduce, and offset their CO2 emissions.

With a mission to provide an indication of one’s carbon footprint, inspire behavioral change, and provide an accessible solution for carbon-neutral living, CarbonCancel engages with its users in 3 main ways: 

  1. Periodically assessing the amount of CO2 emissions produced.
  2. Providing guidance and lifestyle advice on how to reduce emissions.
  3. Collecting funds from users to offset their emissions and directing them to certified projects that incentivize socio-environmental development, create new opportunities for local populations, and explore new ways of generating and using sustainable energy sources. 

Through our analysis of the carbon offsetting competition, it was interesting to see how different business models, including pricing strategy, service features, and communication strategies influence performance indicators, which in the case of social enterprises, primarily include factors related to the positive impact to be generated through commercial transactions.

Learnings and takeaways from the pro-bono consulting experience

These experiences for us students are invaluable as they provide us with the opportunity to practice our consulting skills. Throughout the project, there are a number of hidden skills that we are able to practice, not just data analysis and research. Firstly, communication; not only between us and the counterparts from the start-up but also among the student teams. With such a busy class schedule we must organize ourselves and work efficiently and effectively. Additionally, the interpersonal skills of communicating with the members from the start-up on their desired outputs are equally important. We want to be sure that we are creating value for the start-ups as well.

If you are a young start-up that would like to organize a consulting project with ESMT students, feel free to reach out to the Net Impact or ACI Consulting clubs.