2022’s word of the year was “goblin mode” according to the Oxford Dictionary team. But ask someone from the tech world and they might say it was “carbon accounting”.
Last year, VCs couldn’t get enough of carbon accounting tools — software that helps businesses measure their emissions — and a flurry of new startups popped up.
Together, European carbon accounting startups raised $860m in 2022, according to analysis by data provider Net Zero Insights. That included large rounds for Paris-based Sweep, which secured $73m, and fellow Parisian company EcoVadis, the sector’s only unicorn, which raised a $500m round.
Things are significantly quieter in 2023. Plan A, a Berlin-based carbon accounting firm, raised a $27m Series A extension round in September — a round which felt slightly anachronistic. Overall, funding has dropped to $253m so far this year, according to Net Zero Insights, with a month and a half left of the year to go.
Sifted has found 34 carbon accounting companies in Europe, 11 of which were founded in the last 3 years. The industry is a lot older than that, however: EcoVadis was founded in 2007 and there are companies like Oslo’s EnerKey, which was founded in 1995 (then acquired in 2021).
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How are the companies differentiating themselves?
As with any crowded sector, companies are starting to differentiate themselves by catering for specific industries. Sweep, for example, has started developing accounting systems specifically for the financial services industry.
Berlin-based Vaayu, which secured $11.5m from investors including Atomico in April last year, is working on accounting software that lets retail companies measure the emissions of individual consumer products. It announced a partnership with Klarna earlier this year, to show product-level emissions on its app.
A number of companies are also focusing on real estate emissions. Deepki, which raised $166m in 2022, is working on emissions data for the commercial real estate sector.
Comundo, an early-stage carbon accounting firm based in Copenhagen, is also working on real estate emissions. It monitors the electricity and gas consumption in clients’ buildings, as well as the energy source they use, to show the precise emissions, rather than giving an estimation.
Other, newer players include Denmark’s Sustainly, launched this year, which is working on an API that would mean the emissions of items are shown on the conventional financial invoices sent by the sellers.
The great acquisition spree
It’s a crowded market that looks ripe for acquisitions.
One of the most high profile is that of Planetly, a Berlin-based carbon accounting company that was bought up by American software compliance company OneTrust. Planetly — founded in 2019 — was seen as an early posterchild of the recent carbon accounting cohort but, a year after OneTrust’s acquisition, all of Planetly’s staff were laid off and the company shut down.
Other acquisitions include:
- Ecometrica, a London-based carbon accounting firm, was acquired by EcoOnline in July this year. It focuses on environmental reporting data, as well as health and safety metrics.
- Enablon, a Paris-based carbon accounting tool, was acquired by Dutch information services company Wolters Kluwer in 2016.
- Spherics, an early-stage carbon accounting tool for SMEs based in Bristol, was acquired by HR and employee data platform Sage in December 2022. The tech has been rebranded to become “Sage Earth”.
- Metry — not quite an acquisition, but Gothenburg-based Metry, a carbon accounting startup focused on energy consumption, was bought out by private equity firm SEB.
Corporates are active in the sector — both through acquisitions and by developing their own in-house tech. Salesforce launched Net Zero Cloud to help businesses track their environmental footprint and net-zero goals.
Notable acquisitions by corporates include Carbon Intelligence, a London-based platform that was bought by Accenture in 2022. Globally, another interesting acquisition was Nasdaq’s buy up of Metrio, a Canadian carbon accounting company that the exchange bought last year. Nasdaq said it will integrate Metrio into its existing suite of ESG tools.
As policy brings in more sustainability reporting requirements, it’s likely we’ll see more acquisition activity in the sector: consultancy firms will be looking to bolster their capabilities ahead of regulation and there are signs of future activity from carbon accounting incumbents. EcoVadis said after its latest funding round that it plans to continue its growth in part through acquisitions.