It’s time for employers to wake up and smell the (sustainably sourced) coffee: nearly half of U.S. employees are considering leaving their jobs in the coming months, with one primary reason being that employees feel like their employer has lost touch of what’s important. Some 30% of millennials have already left jobs because their employer didn’t have a sustainability plan. Simply put, while businesses with sustainability plans were already ahead, now ones that don’t have one are way behind.
Yet many small businesses—even if they want to implement a climate initiative—often don’t have the time, resources or know-how needed to create one. That’s why Alex Lassiter founded Raleigh-based startup Green Places, which calculates a company’s carbon footprint in less than 60 seconds and invests in carbon-negative projects on behalf of the company to offset its carbon emissions.
Going carbon-neutral is good for the planet, and good for business by helping retain employees and attract customers. It’s a win-win, he said.
“What people demand of companies today is different than what they used to 10 years ago, and employees now expect that corporate responsibility extends to the environment,” Lassiter said. “The companies that are successful are successful because they hire and attract the best talent, and being sustainable and thinking about the impact you make on the environment speaks to employees and job-seekers because a lot of people care that the company they work for stands for something.”
Even though the startup launched no more than two weeks ago, it’s already a familiar name to many entrepreneurs and businesses in the Triangle. That has a lot to do with Lassiter being a successful serial entrepreneur. He previously co-founded the Atlanta-based hospitality-industry software startup Gather, which was acquired in 2017.
That previous success helped him raise a $1 million seed round that included seven investors whose businesses are also early customers, including Scot Wingo, CEO of RTP-based Spiffy; Todd Olson, CEO of Raleigh’s Pendo; and Kyle Porter, CEO of Atlanta-based SalesLoft.
Green Places also landed funds from Howard Lerman, CEO of New York-based Yext; Tom Darden, CEO of environmental investment firm Cherokee (based in Raleigh); and our very own GrepBeat Godfather, Joe Colopy, along with his Bronto co-founder Chaz Felix.
The lead investor in Green Places, Jesse Lipson, is the Founder and CEO of Raleigh-based Levitate (which won the Readers’ Choice Greppy Award for Best Large Startup in April) and previously founded and ran ShareFile, which he sold to Citrix. Lipson—who is neighbors with Lassiter—also signed on Levitate as an early Green Places customer.
Lipson said he knew climate was an important issue amongst his Levitate employees and to Gen Z job seekers, so he had been wanting to implement a climate initiative for awhile, but he said it wasn’t straightforward until Green Places.
“This is the first investment I’ve ever made in a company besides my own,” Lipson said. “It’s a new space for me, but I’m really passionate about this idea and I came at it from the perspective of a business owner wanting to make an impact on one of the most important issues today.”
The company’s goal is to give all small businesses—which together generate 50% of U.S. GDP—a substantial way to fight climate change. Many climate change solutions focus on companies with extensive supply chains and a large carbon footprint. That often leaves small to medium-sized office-based businesses, even if their footprint is mostly from commuting, with no practical way to offset their impact as well.
Since launching on June 29, Green Places has already offset nearly 25,000 tons in carbon emissions—which is equivalent to taking 5,500 cars off the road—from making more than 30 companies carbon-neutral.
Customers range from design agencies, to specialty retailers, to accounting and legal firms, to software companies like 7Shifts. Green Place’s largest customer is a company with 600 employees and its smallest customer is a one-person marketing agency who works from home.
“A lot of the folks that we work with who run small businesses already have a drive to want to do more to combat the climate crisis,’ Lassiter said. “They just haven’t had a clear path to do it until now.”
How it works
Any office-based or non-manufacturing company can calculate their carbon footprint now, for free, on the Green Place website. Based on that amount, Green Places invests in projects that remove carbon from the atmosphere, including wind and solar farms and planting trees, and suggests sustainability business practices to implement, like removing flourescent lighting.
Companies then earn a “Green Place to Work” badge and Green Places builds a sustainability page for them to advertise their efforts to employees and customers. Green Places employs a subscription model, with the hope being that every customer who signs on does so as a recurring commitment.
“If you’re a customer or job-seeker and you see a badge on someone’s website,” Lassiter said, “that should be a signal to you that this business is doing something above and beyond to take responsibility for what they’re doing and to try their best to be able to be a part of the solution.”