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CarbonCure and the Role of Industry in Fighting Climate Change


Disponible en anglais seulement

Jonathan Hackett and Scott Brison, BMO vice-chair for investment and corporate banking and a former member of parliament for Kings-Hants, Nova Scotia, speak to Robert Niven, CEO and founder of CarbonCure Technologies, a Nova Scotia company that manufacturers a technology that introduces recycled CO2 into fresh concrete to reduce its carbon footprint. Join us in this lively conversation about how key industries like concrete are taking action to fight climate change.

In this episode:

  • On how clean tech is evolving into an efficient and cost-effective tool to fight climate change

  • On CarbonCure Technologies and its mission to reduce 500 million tons of CO2 annually by the year 2030

  • On the carbon footprint of cement, one of the most abundant man-made materials on the planet

  • On the role of government to help incentivize industry to be a part of the climate solution

  • On the opportunity in carbon capture utilization and storage space, today and tomorrow


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*Disponible en anglais seulement

Robert Niven:

I think what's really new, though, and novel is that now all of the large industries has realized that taking action on climate is also good for business. And that's the key part here, right? Is that's where I think, like if you look at a lot of the energy transition work that's happening right now, it's just cheaper. It's just better business to provide low-carbon energy sources. And concrete, now the industry is saying this is not a compliance issue anymore. It's not just an investor relations issue. It's, his allows me to sell more concrete and reduce my costs. That's good business.

Michael Torrence:

Welcome to Sustainability Leaders. I'm Michael Torrence, chief sustainability officer with BMO Financial Group. On the show, we will talk with leading sustainability practitioners from the corporate, investor, academic, and NGO communities, to explore how this rapidly evolving field of sustainability is impacting global investment, business practices, and our world.

Speaker 3:

The views expressed here are those other participants and not those of Bank of Montreal, its affiliates, or subsidiaries.

Jonathan Hackett:

Hello and welcome to BMO Sustainability Leaders Podcast. My name is Jonathan Hackett, and I'm the managing director and head of BMO Sustainable Finance Group. Today, I'm joining conversation by two very special guests. Scott Brison is the BMO vice-chair for investment and corporate banking. But for 21 years before that, he was a member of parliament for Kings-Hants, Nova Scotia, and was president of the Treasury Board and Minister for Digital Government.

Jonathan Hackett:

In 2005, he established the first office for Greening of Government. And in 2016, established the Center for Greening Government within the treasury board. Scott and I will be speaking with Robert Niven, CEO and founder of CarbonCure Technologies, a Nova Scotian company that manufacturers a technology introducing recycled CO2 into fresh concrete to reduce its carbon footprint without compromising performance. I'd like to start by passing the microphone over to Scott to begin the conversation.

Michael Torrence:

Hi, Rob. It's great to have you with us today. And we're very proud of some of the success you've had in CarbonCure recently. I want to go back to when things were getting started in 2006. You were a university student and you went to Nairobi for the COP meeting at that time. And you had an opportunity to meet Nicolas Stern, the former chief economist of the World Bank, who at that time had just issued his very important report on climate change and the impact on the global economy. What took you there as a student at that time? And how important was that discussion in terms of your thinking around climate change and to tackle it

Robert Niven:

Hi, Scott, and great to be here. Thank you as well, Jonathan. Always happy to talk about technology, business, and climate, and through the lens of the CarbonCure story. That Conference of Parties for the United Nations was actually extremely important for me, both personally and professionally. And I would say meeting Sir. Nicholas Stern was the second most important meeting I had. The first was actually meeting the sister of my wife today. So I can overlook that. And that was by far more important.

Robert Niven:

But going back to your question, I think at that point, it was such an important statement for not only myself at that report, but also the broader business community. Today, it would just make sense, but back then having someone so credible from the finance world come out and make the business case for taking aggressive action on climate change, really brought this issue well beyond just the activist point of view and brought it into very firmly and centrally into the business narrative.

Robert Niven:

And we look at where we are today, where finances is continuing to make very strong statements and contributing to leadership in this space that's only becoming more and more amplified. So that was certainly a very important COP. The year prior I was in Montreal, and that was also very formative at those meetings, or it was an opportunity for me to realize that the research I was doing at McGill University actually mattered from a climate perspective. And there was a real opportunity to help people. So COP early on has been very important. And I haven't been to one in years, but I certainly am very appreciative and grateful for all that it's given me.

Scott Brison:

So at the time, when you launched CarbonCure, that was before much of the world has put a price on carbon, at governments, capital markets, and citizenry seem to have become more aligned as of late. And now in addition to people like, Sir. Nicholas Stern, you've got Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Carney, business people who really get it and are driving change. What's the environment today for a clean tech startup versus when you started up at that time? What are the tailwinds like today versus potentially swimming against the current when you first got started?

Robert Niven:

Well, I think it's also a good to think about the situation back then was also in a recession, with the housing market crash and so on. It was a very difficult time. So, let's look back then and think about what it was like. So recession, no one was buying anything discretionary, especially NOVA clean technologies. There was no supportive climate policy, whether that be pricing or procurement or what have you. But I think that really made us strong and lean. It meant that we had to develop technologies on a shoestring budget that made sense for business.

Robert Niven:

And without sounding too much like a grumpy old man saying the kids these days have it easy, I don't think I'm quite there yet, but today you can make business cases around climate technologies that only delivers CO2 reductions. And there's a lot of other market drivers that can make these quite viable. But I think those that are really going to excel in the future are those that can combine both the business model, the value propositions, and strong climate impacts. And I think that's our case, certainly. And that's going to make us much more resilient and successful in the future.

Jonathan Hackett:

Maybe it'd be a good place to dive in on what is CarbonCure and what do you do as a company?

Robert Niven:

So I'm the CEO and founder of CarbonCure Technologies. And what we do is use carbon dioxide in the normal concrete manufacturing process where it's converted back into a mineral which provides concrete, increased strength, economic production efficiencies, and of course, a lower carbon footprint.

Robert Niven:

This is really important because we retrofit existing concrete plants. And it can be any of the hundred thousand concrete plants in the world today. But it's really important to talk a bit about cement and concrete as well and just to help the listeners understand that this is the most abundant man-made material on the planet after drinking water. It is approaching 50 billion tons of product being produced every single year. And of course, anything that you produce with that magnitude is going to have a very significant carbon footprint.

Robert Niven:

But there is a specific reaction in the cement that makes concrete that's really important to understand. And that's a step called calcination where you turn limestone into a clinker, the precursor to cement. And this process is very carbon-intensive. So what CarbonCure does is we actually reverse that reaction while concrete is being made to provide concrete producers with these competitive, economic, and sustainability advantages.

Jonathan Hackett:

And, Rob, as you think about the evolution of the company from initial technologies into a multi-solution approach, can you tell us about that journey, but also, as you talk about the abundance of concrete, what's the scale of what you're really trying to achieve?

Robert Niven:

Yeah, let's do the scale question first. So whenever I like to introduce CarbonCure, I always like to start with our mission. Because it is our North Star. It's what guides all of our decisions, whether it be growth or innovation. And our mission as a company is to reduce 500 million tons of CO2 annually by the year 2030. Our vision as a company is to create the global standard for producing low-carbon and circular concrete production.

Robert Niven:

So right at the core of our business is a very strong climate mandate. But by nature of what we do, it's inextricable between having business success and climate success. So this allows us to have a very clear eye view on how we want to grow the business and where we can have those rewards that are not only business related, but also drive sustainability.

Scott Brison:

So, Rob, you grew CarbonCure and drove at success during a time, for instance, when you didn't have supportive government policy necessarily in the form of carbon pricing or the embedding of environmental responsibility into market pricing, these kinds of things. So how did you get your clients, these ready-mix companies, convinced to buy your product in a time when the environment may not have been their key focus?

Scott Brison:

You actually successfully convinced ready-mix companies in jurisdictions where climate change really wasn't as big an issue before governments really supported. So what was the business case? Taking out the climate change side, what is the business case for your clients using CarbonCure technology?

Robert Niven:

Well, I wouldn't say it was an issue. It was just a hostile issue. One that you just couldn't even bring up. In fact, it worked against you and many jurisdictions. So it, once again, goes back to that point, is you have to make good technology that drives economic value. The CO2 is the icing on the cake. And it also has to make sense, is this is a very lean and critically important industry, is they don't have a lot of time to slow down operations or devote attention to other things. It's a critical volume business.

Robert Niven:

So we had to create the right technologies that were just dropped in without impacting their production, and then have them run without operators even noticing. But they also had to be good for the bottom line. And that was really critical for us to be able to develop these simple retrofit solutions that today we actually have no CapEx, and create economic value that provides them a net benefit.

Robert Niven:

So these are the critical hallmarks on how we meet our 500 mega ton challenge. We've actually written this all out and it's posted online. That talks about how we think about decarbonizing this industry and how we plan to meet 500 megatons. And this is our 500 megaton roadmap. And I would welcome anyone to come and download a copy and see how we plan to achieve this goal.

Jonathan Hackett:

So, Rob, it's interesting as you talk about that bottom line picture and being able to be a creative to those operations. One lens that we're hearing about more frequently as the concept of a green premium, that Bill Gates and the team at Breakthrough Energy have been centering their efforts like the Catalyst Program around. How would you frame CarbonCure's proposition in the context of that concept?

Robert Niven:

I think the more broader point that they're making is we need to bring procurement off the sidelines. Today, government tends to have disassociated with their climate targets or even private sector. If these are targets that you're trying to achieve, you should be bringing your best players onto the field. And I would say, there's nothing more impactful than procurement. And this is how you're really going to scale up innovation.

Robert Niven:

There's a lot of great ideas out there, but if you really want to see them scale up, buy the products and create the market signals that will not only draw new innovations into the innovation pipeline and move through their technology readiness levels, TRL, but those that are ready to scale. This will have them scale much faster.

Robert Niven:

And the Green Premium, as Bill Gates discusses, is meant to be a temporary measure to be able to just activate some of these technology deployment cost-reduction curves so that they eliminate these premiums, and so that they can just be competitive on Apples to Apples basis.

Robert Niven:

Fortunately, for CarbonCure, we're already there, but we still need those procurement signals to be able to prioritize lo-carbon procurement so that governments benefit from reducing their CO2 emissions, but they also help industry give them the confidence to adopt clean technologies. Because if they're not hearing it from their customers of which concrete... Our government purchases more concrete than anyone else. And they're just not going to do it. So we need to make it very clear that this is the direction that we want the products that we built with to have low-carbon benefits. And they don't have to come at a premium.

Scott Brison:

How should government write specifications for the concrete they buy to make it easier for technology like CarbonCure to be part of the solution?

Robert Niven:

I know you've done an awful lot of this in your political life, Scott, and I think you appreciate how important it is. And we've broken it down into three steps. One is we need to write performance-based standards for whatever you're purchasing. You wouldn't believe how many standards were written in the 1950s, or are of that era when certainly climate change wasn't an issue, but they're very prescriptive.

Robert Niven:

So things like minimum cement contents, which in many ways can actually impact the quality of the concrete, but they could definitely increase the price. And most definitely increase the carbon impact of concrete products. That's just an example. But the general concept, step one, is remove barriers for progress and innovation. So write performance-based standards.

Robert Niven:

The second step... because you have to be working with real data. And there is no trade offs here. The no compromise is it has to be high-quality environmental transparency [inaudible 00:15:31]. So you actually know what you're buying. You wouldn't buy a box of cereal without having a nutritional label on the side to see what your fiber content is, or what have you. And the same thing needs to be the case for building products.

Robert Niven:

And this system already exists. It's commonly used in private sector. It's called Environmental Product Declarations. And there is a life-cycle assessment methodology behind it. There's people who spend their careers doing this, but we need to make this mandatory.

Scott Brison:

Rob, you mentioned the cereal. There will come a day where the carbon footprint of that cereal will be on the cover too.

Robert Niven:

It's already happening in places like Europe. And it, certainly, will need to be happening for all consumer products and building products. So this idea of transparency is super important. And then the last step, Scott, is we have to create some kind of clear procurement preference or some signal. And I would point to, I think, the best models, one just coming out of New York State right now, called the Low Embodied Carbon Concrete Leadership Act, otherwise known as LECCLA. That really packages all of these elements together and build upon a great body of work that has been done largely in other states Buy Clean. But to me, this is one that drives immediate impacts and de-carbonization from heavy industry, but doesn't necessarily come with a Green Premium.

Scott Brison:

So, Rob, the inception of CarbonCure and the growth of CarbonCure has happened at the same time as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the internet of everything, how important is digital to your success to date? And as you move forward and expand into other technologies to fulfill your mission, how important is digital going to be to making that happen?

Robert Niven:

Great question. And this has been another change from when I started in this business. Typically, you had hardware and software. Two different kinds of companies, right? Or materials or mechanical. It's all blending now. And the way that I look at digital is it's an absolute necessity above any type of hardware business.

Robert Niven:

So this was something that we had started when we realized that the way that we deploying and managing our technology, which was very analog, we had to put people on planes and we had to go physically be there to check the system things today that we would never dream of. And we made an investment to embrace digital years ago. And that allowed us to scale. And it was mainly, initially, used as a way from preventative maintenance and monitoring.

Robert Niven:

But once COVID hit, I can tell you we were awfully thankful that we had that infrastructure in place. Because no longer were we able to send engineers, even if we wanted to, not only to maintain these things, but also to install and support and optimize their impacts. So we doubled in size last year due to COVID and the year before. And that was entirely due to digital.

Robert Niven:

So that is just sort of maintaining the course. What I see about the future with digital, though, is it allows us to be able to draw data from all of these production facilities and find other ways that we can create value for this industry to help them decarbonized, mostly through material efficiency, and also to report the environmental impacts of these products in real time, which can be used for things like carbon markets or for procurement.

Robert Niven:

So it's very, very important. And I think if you were to look at our organizational chart today, you might even think that we're a software company. We are investing so much into this space because we think it's critically important to meet our mission.

Scott Brison:

So you're a leader in the carbon capture utilization and storage space. How big do you see that global market today? And how big do you think it's going to be in the future? And what's driving it? Obviously, people continue to build a lot of stuff at a concrete, but help us quantify that opportunity?

Robert Niven:

They say and expect it to be a $1 trillion market opportunity that can reduce 15% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. And that's for the general space of CO2 utilization. And that's basically turning CO2 into products. And that's also leaving out a lot of the geological sequence duration. And of course, all of these technologies require some form of capturing CO2. So that's the first enabling step of CO2 capture.

Robert Niven:

We're also hearing a lot about a new term that's called carbon removal. And this is going to be a necessary technology to meet our net zero targets for both corporate targets and governments. And how this is related is that carbon removal technologies is a way of polling CO2 out of the atmosphere. And that can be done through biological systems or machines. And then once you have that CO2 capture, you can use it in systems like CrbonCure that permanently sequester the CO2 away, or a variety of other ways to actually use the CO2.

Robert Niven:

So we're the value creating side of carbon removal technologies. And when coupled with atmospheric CO2 capture, we become that complete carbon removal technology. And so there is a lot of terminology in this space about CCS, carbon capture utilization storage, carbon removal. I won't bore the listeners by explaining what these all mean, but they are all interconnected. And the key to the success of this space, absent of any climate price, or carbon price, or climate policy, is creating value-added products from using that CO2. And there's no bigger opportunity, are none, than concrete. And I mean that by also including aggregates. So it is by far the largest market opportunity.

Scott Brison:

What kind of market share do you have, or does CarbonCure have in that carbon capture utilization space?

Robert Niven:

When it comes to CO2 utilization deployment, CarbonCure would represent over 95% of worldwide deployment. Today we're installed in a little over 350 plants for four continents. And we're putting in about 50 more. We're on pace right now of 50 new plants per quarter. And that's continuing to scale up faster and faster.

Jonathan Hackett:

You mentioned carbon markets and the concept of carbon removal. How do you think of the evolution of carbon offset markets as our focus really gets to net zero, and we see efforts like Mark Carney's voluntary carbon market taskforce? Do you think the definition of a carbon credit will have to evolve as we focus much more on the 2050 time horizon?

Robert Niven:

Great topic. And I think carbon markets are evolving radically violently suddenly. There's been a lot of exposure recently and there's been some great coverage by Bloomberg on this about really concerning issues on additionality. So whether the carbon offset actually led to emission reductions at all or partly. And this erodes confidence in buyers in this space. And then ultimately, it will lead to a reduction in price. And you can say it might even delay progress on climate mitigation.

Robert Niven:

So these are very serious issues. So there's a lot of reform that's going underway right now. And the key term to think about is quality. We need to be able to reform these markets so that we're emphasizing quality above all else. And that includes concepts like additionality, permanence. And we're I'm a lot of the discussions lead to is an emphasis on carbon removal credits.

Robert Niven:

There tends, from a climate strategy perspective, both corporate or government, is to say, I think everybody agrees is we need to reduce first. We need to drive out as much CO2 from our supply chain and our operations energy use and so on. But there's always going to be something leftover. So we need to deploy carbon removal technologies. And we also... Then if there's anything remaining from there is we'll need to deploy and use carbon removal offsets because they are the highest quality permanent option to use.

Robert Niven:

The issue is, the supply of these, what you would call CDR offsets, carbon dioxide removal offsets, is a very limited. And a number of tech companies are understanding the scarcity of this marketplace and are buying up a lot of the offsets to apply them against their climate commitments, recognizing that they'll stand up to the test of time for quality. And there's a scarce supply. So there are early movers and purchasing these CDR offsets. And we've been happy to participate in this marketplace as a seller.

Scott Brison:

So Bill Gates and his book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, has identified some of the key areas of focus for innovation if we really want to move the needle on climate change. You've obviously... Based on your background as a chemist and an engineer, you have focused on the area you know best and have built a business model around that. As you get momentum, and as you raise capital, and as you look at the future, given that you're very mission-focused and your mission really is most important to you, and that is that 500 megatons per year of removal, do you see the growth in that area of building for you, or do you potentially see, in the future, some of the other areas like agriculture and transport and electricity? Are you going to be like the Elon Musk guy who's so smart and so visionary that you're able to lead us into new areas once you have really demonstrated success in the area of building?

Robert Niven:

Well, I think what I really admire from some of the business leaders and that are mission-led around climate, so Elon Musk could be one of them, Jigar Shah, someone outside [Meyer 00:26:17]. They've not only innovated around technology, but they also innovated around supply chain integration, but probably most importantly, business model.

Robert Niven:

From my understanding, at least, if it wasn't for a lot of the pioneering work on business model innovation Jigar Shah, we wouldn't have the distributed solar market as we have today. It would be sort of a goofy technology that people in certain parts of the world put on their roofs to have their off-grid cabins. But it's mainstream today. And it's a lot about business model and about creating the bankability of these contracts, these off-take agreements.

Robert Niven:

So I would say, what is our path look like? We feel like there's lifetimes of work to be done in concrete. It's such an important and hard to decarbonize industry. It's one where there's just such great opportunity for innovation with both technology, innovation, hardware, additional material. And we're having a lot of fun in this space. There will likely be some spill over into some other industries, but we're very happy to focus on concrete. And work up and down the value chain. And there are a lot of really interesting work to be done here.

Scott Brison:

And the digital side will help improve accountability and help companies that are really focused on the mission of climate change and are authentically aligned with those objectives rise above the green washers. I would think digital plays a very important role in terms of holding people to account and holding companies and even banks to account.

Robert Niven:

Absolutely. And the role of AI or machine learning and climate technology is really critical. I don't think it's a coincidence that Microsoft and Amazon are some of our largest investors in the company and they don't necessarily have large concrete operations in their business. So there's other reasons that drew them to invest in CarbonCure. And certainly our climate impact was one of them, but so with digital.

Robert Niven:

And we think there's a great opportunity to help in the digital transformation of the concrete industry through clean technology introduction. And that allows us to have that tip of the spear for us to be able to provide additional value in de-carbonization.

Scott Brison:

So you started CarbonCure in Halifax, Nova Scotia. How important was Nova Scotia as an ecosystem to start and grow CarbonCure?

Robert Niven:

Yeah. I'm so happy that Nova Scotia was my adopted home. And I went there, if you ever remember, I met my wife and in Nairobi, but I followed her to Halifax. And she was going to law school at the time. So I grew some roots and started the company. And that was another great decision that I have ever made. And I often say to people that CarbonCure, likely, wouldn't be the success that it is today if it wasn't for our roots in Nova Scotia. And this will always be our home.

Robert Niven:

And we not only are physically located there as our head office, but it's also who we are, our identity, and our culture is based upon the Atlantic Canadian culture. And we're definitely a mission-led organization, but we also recognize culture is the fuel that drives us. It's not capital, or diplomas, or what have you. It really is culture and creating and sustaining that within your organization. And a lot of that is our Nova Scotia roots.

Robert Niven:

And that will continue to play out as we expand globally, is we'll always be able to take a bit of Nova Scotia and export that as we export our technologies and hire on new people. But from a starting perspective, it was a very supportive ecosystem. I remember moving to Nova Scotia without knowing anyone and being introduced to [inaudible 00:30:19] the CEO of the Shaw Group, a very prominent construction and building materials company. Sitting down for coffee for him and brazenly asking if he could let me knock around in his plant without really knowing anything at that time. And he said, sure.

Robert Niven:

And he not only said yes, but you also devoted resources. He let us use his products. And that was transformational for us as a company, because we were able then to go from concept to industrial deployment almost overnight, and make all of those mistakes that we needed to make much faster in a very supportive setting. And that has allowed us then to be able to scale up.

Robert Niven:

And the way that I look at Nova Scotia, Atlantic Canada in general, is it's a very large laboratory. Everything that would be in much larger economies is available in Nova Scotia, but everything is just connected in that sort of social networks, much more tightly so that you can get things done.

Robert Niven:

As you know, Scott, better than I do is everyone has only one degree of separation. So you can get things done very quickly just with a few phone calls, whether that be connecting with the premier or the CEO of a utility or a concrete plant.

Jonathan Hackett:

I think that's a great place to ask a connected question, which is... That's about the connections and about the way that people supported you. What about capital? How have you seen capital availability supporting clean tech in Canada change over the last few years? And do you think there are gaps for funding the success stories like you in Canada?

Robert Niven:

This interview is giving me nightmares because I just think about the conditions that we started our company. I couldn't imagine it being any worse. Like, not only was it recession, but it was also the collapse of clean Cleantech 1.0. The financing world were just saying the words Cleantech were allergic. No one wanted to get anywhere near that.

Robert Niven:

So yeah, it was hard. Fortunately, we were able to benefit from a lot of the support of R&D innovation programs in Canada and also some from the region and provincially. So that allowed us to weather the storm and to be able to get our feet below us and go out and raise some venture.

Robert Niven:

And as most Canadian venture capital companies, they start off with small dollars. Reasonable valuations, exactly the opposite of the things that you're seeing coming out of Silicon Valley today. But that kept us tight, feet grounded, lean, and really focused on serving the customer and creating value.

Robert Niven:

So, once again, I think being starved a little bit makes you a stronger company. But then again, if you look at the situation today, talking about carbon removal or ESG climate tech, there's limitless capital. Decent companies and some very bad companies are raising a lot of money in this space, whether it be through specks, private equity, or venture capital, or families and friends.

Robert Niven:

So the world is totally different. I could surmise on why that would be, but there is such a strong appetite for capital availability today that I wouldn't say that it's one of those top three barriers to growth any longer.

Scott Brison:

What's your advice to investors and consumers in terms of identifying who's for real, in terms of clean tech, and who's greenwashing?

Robert Niven:

Yeah. Greenwashing is like poison pill for all of this momentum right now. There's always going to be some bad actors, whether intentional or not, that can really stop the music from this dance that's happening in this great progress that's necessary for us to meet our climate targets, which is so important. So we need to be able to drive that out.

Robert Niven:

So if I was speaking to a consumer, I would go back to that transparency discussion. Is we really do have to demand that procurement decisions are being made with the information. It shouldn't sound foreign, and I don't think it does, but we need to make sure that we have that data to make good data driven-decisions on procurement. We just don't have time to throw money yet at greenwashing. And that can apply it to the full-range products and not just low-carbon concrete, certainly.

Robert Niven:

For investors, of course it depends on where you are in your growth stage, but whenever possible, I would naturally look to see who's using the technology, if that makes sense. So what is the industry doing as it relates to adoption? And it doesn't necessarily have to be the biggest names like... Because those aren't necessarily the first movers for adopting technology. If you're familiar with crossing the chasm, it tends to be smaller players, but are just as valid from the credibility perspective. So see how deployment is looking and see what that customer experience is like.

Jonathan Hackett:

And, Rob, I feel like we'd be remiss if we didn't dive into your recent news. Recently, you won the $20 million Carbon XPRIZE. What does the recognition that comes with the mean? And obviously, what does that mean in terms of your growth plans to have that capital support at the same time?

Robert Niven:

And we were thrilled to be able to be listed as the winner of the Carbon XPRIZE. This is a global competition with third-party validation that took five years to run its course. Just thinking about how our business has changed and how many more gray hairs I have on my head during that time. But fortunately, that competition ran parallel with the path that we were taking for our business as well. So it made a lot of sense.

Robert Niven:

And it's been extremely important and it's something I'm so proud of. And one of those few professional achievements that you can really take with you and be proud of for a long time. I think about being a younger man and seeing Richard Branson stand on the Ansari XPrize and the spacecraft there after winning that first X Prize, I was pretty cool. And I still remember back then. That left a mark on me. I certainly hope that, I don't purport to be Richard Branson, but I do hope that people, young entrepreneurs, innovators, are inspired by the X Prize process and see the work that a Canadian company from Nova Scotia was able to achieve and compete against the world's best.

Robert Niven:

So we're yeah. Are we proud of it? You're right, we are. And I'm so happy that it was such a team effort that really brought us all together and gives us so much more momentum to go and tackle those big challenges that we're pursuing as it relates to our mission. That capital is going to be used to accelerate our international growth as well as bring more technologies to market, sooner, that use more CO2, to be able to help us meet our mission.

Robert Niven:

But we're also wanting to create a legacy of this, is we're going to devote some of those funds to create a long-term like XPrize legacy where we're investing in social equity opportunities within our communities that we serve. Ones that promote climate action and use this as a way that we can give back to communities to be able to help with some of these equity issues that we see. So prevalently what it relates to climate change.

Robert Niven:

The last thing is visibility, is the... There was 150 million people that we tracked with RPR that received this news about CarbonCure and our XPrize win. That's a lot of eyeballs. And these will be all different types of stakeholders, both in government, and industry, general public, all play an important role in accelerating the carbon utilization space and specifically the scale up even of our own company. And it was worldwide and coverages that's going to be able to create that welcome that for us as we move into more and more markets.

Scott Brison:

Rob, you'd mentioned a moment ago that when you started CarbonCure it wasn't actually an August time to try to launch a clean tech company in the throws of a global recession when people were kind of allergic to clean tech. And I remember in 2006-2007, in the U.S, in Congress, people like Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins, Republicans, were working with people like Ed Markey on carbon pricing. At the time, there was a global consensus. Al Gore was leading a change in thinking.

Scott Brison:

It seemed very real then. But then the global financial crisis hit and suddenly all of those objectives were subordinated and Cleantech was put on the back burner and almost thrown off the stove altogether. So what is different this time? I think there was some fear that COVID and the impact of COVID might have a similar effect to the Cleantech momentum that existed pre-COVID.

Scott Brison:

That's not happened. In fact, it seems that in fact the focus on Cleantech and climate change solutions have, if anything, accelerated during this period. What's different this time? And isn't going to be sustained. Is there a risk of falling behind if we don't keep focused on real results here?

Robert Niven:

I would answer this in two ways. Back then, certainly, there was an appreciation of the science and the impacts on populations on climate change. I think that strengthened where we understand that so much better today and we've bared a witness to how climate can impact people's livelihoods and the economy. So I think that part of strengthened from back then to what it is today. So that's going to become a more prominent driver for taking action on climate change. And it's going to sustain that momentum going forward.

Robert Niven:

I think what's really new, though, and novel is that now all of the large industries has realized that taking action on climate is also good for business. And that's the key part here, right? Is that's where I think, like if you look at a lot of the energy transition work that's happening right now, it's just cheaper. It's just better business to provide low-carbon energy sources.

Robert Niven:

And concrete, now the industry is saying this is not a compliance issue anymore. It's not just an investor relations issue. It's, this allows me to sell more concrete and reduce my costs. That's good business. And every industry will have that narrative now. Or they're realizing that there are real business opportunities to pursue these climate initiatives.

Robert Niven:

So I think those are two critical items here. And we need both. It can't just be business led. Also, government has an important role here to play to certainly look after populations that are by climate change and that we act together in a multilateral basis to make sure that we reduce the PPMs of of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Jonathan Hackett:

So, Rob, Scott, thanks for the lively discussion today. It was really informative and very much looking forward to seeing all of the progress that you and CarbonCure are making as you grow and hit that 500 million tons per year goal.

Michael Torrence:

Thanks for listening to sustainability leaders. This podcast is presented by BMO Financial Group. To access all the resources we discussed in today's episode, and to see our other podcasts, visit us at bmo.com/sustainabilityleaders. You can listen and subscribe free to our show on Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider. And we'll greatly appreciate a rating and review, and any feedback that you might have. Our show and resources are produced with support from BMO's marketing team and Puddle Creative. Until next time, I'm Michael Torrence. Have a great week.

Speaker 3:

The views expressed here are those of the participants and not those of Bank of Montreal, its affiliates or subsidiaries. This is not intended to serve as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding any company, industry, strategy, or security. This presentation may contain forward-looking statements. Investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such statements as actual results could vary.

Speaker 3:

This presentation is for general information purposes only and does not constitute investment, legal, or tax advice. And is not intended as an endorsement of any specific investment product or service. Individual investors should consult with an investment tax and/or legal professional about their personal situation. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

 

Jonathan Hackett Cochef, Groupe Transition énergétique BMO et chef, Financement durable
Hon. Scott Brison, P.C. Vice-président, Banque d’affaires et services bancaires aux sociétés

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