Climate frustration led three former NTNU students to quit their secure and well-paying jobs. Instead, they developed a digital toolbox for the green shift. Now the world is knocking on their door.
Nigel Powell is frustrated — but for all the right reasons.
“How should I respond to the embassy in Switzerland and the university in Germany? How should I follow up on all the international inquiries?” he says.
It’s the weekly Monday meeting at Ducky.eco. Powell is on live video from the UK, and the Oslo office is also connected. These are hectic times for the green start-up company, which has developed a digital toolbox designed to motivate people to cut greenhouse gases.
Right now, Ducky.eco is working with NTNU Reiseløftet (“travel promise”) to help NTNU employees change their travel habits. In the autumn, it’ll be showtime for the national school emissions cuts championship that Ducky.eco is collaborating on with the organizations Framtiden I våre hender (Future in our hands) and Nature and Youth – Young Friends of the Earth Norway. And in Norway’s southwest Hadeland district, six municipalities will compete in reducing emissions, in addition to all the projects that the entrepreneurs cannot yet talk about publicly.
“We have enormous potential to exert influence as individuals. At home, at work and in politics.”
“It’s crazy busy, but our goal is to contribute to helping the world reach the UN’s sustainability goals. We see a lot of good focus on sustainability, but it’s only enough to compensate for the world’s increase in population. We need to think bigger and out of the box,” says Mads Simonsen.
“We have enormous potential to exert influence as individuals – at home, at work and in politics,” he says.
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Action creates change
Ducky.eco’s history started in 2014, when three former NTNU students – Silje S. Solberg, Johan G. Eilertsen and Mads Simonsen – were all feeling greatly frustrated about the state of the climate.
Why was nothing happening? Why were emissions continuing to increase? And what could people do as individuals?
Eilertsen says, “Mads and I were colleagues in Inventas, where we worked as consultants on design and project management. We were both frustrated with how little was happening, and how difficult it was to put ideas into action in everyday life.”
Solberg was working at SINTEF on green buildings and feeling the same way. Together, they began to discuss the possibilities of creating a digital tool that could make a green difference.
Positive action that makes a difference
The founders are building their digital toolbox using climate data and research from NTNU. The research shows that the world’s greenhouse gas emissions can be traced back to our consumption of goods and services.
Some of what we consume is actually not included in national climate accounting. As an example, harvesting cotton for clothing, transport and storage usually takes place in distant countries. We need to recognize that the needs of individuals for goods and services are behind a portion of the climate emissions. Thus, the most important figure to focus on is emissions per person. Ducky.com created this video to explain:
“Even though we have a relatively large degree of control over our own consumption, we lack practical information on how we can reduce our footprint. It’s really difficult to make good choices, and action is how we create change,” says Solberg.
She says the Ducky tools are designed to show you what you can do more of to live more sustainably.
“Our tools will help speed up the transition to a green economy.”
“We’re focusing on positive, concrete measures that make a difference. Often you get other benefits in the deal when you make a sustainable choice. If you bike more, you improve your physical and mental health. You save money and CO2. We don’t pay enough attention to those aspects,” says Eilertsen.
Ducky delivers climate challenges to schools and workplaces as one of its tools.
“We show you what you can achieve in actual emission reductions when you team up with others. But the most important impact is probably that people start talking about climate around the lunch table, and understand that together we can have a tremendous influence,” says Simonsen.
“To achieve social structural changes, we need a critical mass. We have to reach people where they are, whether it’s at school or at work. Our customers also receive valuable data on behaviour and barriers in their own organization,” says Eilertsen.
Powered by inner motivation
Ducky currently numbers thirteen employees and has offices in Trondheim, Oslo and the UK.
“We find that people come to us because they want to do something meaningful. Along with working on product development, we’ve spent a lot of time discussing what kind of business we want Ducky.eco to be,” says Simonsen.
He says Ducky.eco’s organizational structure is not a traditional hierarchy or flat structure.
“We’re implementing a new and very exciting organizational model that we could talk about for hours: self-organized teams. In short, this approach is about each individual growing into flexible roles and taking more responsibility than is common in other companies,” Simonsen says.
Everything for the green shift
“We’re not like a lot of start-up companies that develop a new app to make money from the green shift. Our tools are intended to help accelerate the green shift. The money is reinvested in reaching this goal,” says Eilertsen.
He emphasizes that in order to succeed in helping the world reach its climate goals, it is important to have a solid business model and to be able to scale up quickly to a global level.
“Our customers are organizations with an ambitious environmental strategy, and they know how challenging it is to get individuals on board with the initiative. We provide our customers with a tool to create change,” Eilertsen says.
“The big elephant in the room is that politicians, senior executives and businesses don’t dare to make the needed changes for fear of losing voters or customers, while individuals are sitting on the fence waiting for politicians and business to do something. This is a dance that has been going on for 25 years. We want to break that cycle,” says Solberg.