This Climate Startup Helps Businesses Achieve NetZero Faster – StepChange Startup Review

As global temperatures continue to rise and extreme weather events become more frequent, the devastating impact of climate change is a reality we can no longer ignore. It’s not just affecting the planet; it’s also affecting our businesses. Companies, big and small, are starting to see that they need to take serious action to mitigate the worst consequences. That’s where StepChange enters the picture. 

StepChange is a trusted software and services partner for enterprise businesses across a variety of different sectors (including banks, FMCG, agriculture), guiding it along its journey to Net-Zero. By providing sophisticated science-based decision-making tools, StepChange empowers companies, both large and small, to make informed decisions about their emissions and accelerate their path to NetZero. 

The startup’s approach is efficient, state-of-the-art, and cost-effective, setting it apart from its competitors and enabling it to work seamlessly with some of the largest companies in India, like ICICI and ITC.

What Is StepChange? 

StepChange is a fast-growing startup offering sophisticated data-based decision-making technology tools to businesses across sectors. The guiding mission is to expedite their customers’ journeys towards improving corporate sustainability (across a variety of ESG metrics) and achieving Net-Zero Carbon Emissions (i.e., zero net emissions of GHGs into the atmosphere) by strategically decarbonising business operations.   

In particular, it empowers companies with a comprehensive suite of standardised and sector-specific solutions and services (including in the finance and FMCG domains) that enable informed science-based decision-making – and bring scientific rigour to the boardroom. StepChange employs a streamlined approach to the deployment of its technology solutions, allowing for scalable and affordable solutions. 

It also provides tailored consultancy services to complement its technology offerings, addressing the unique needs of its clients and adding a layer of flexibility to its product offerings. 

StepChange Founders

StepChange was co-founded by Ankit Jain and Dr. Sidhant Pai, who overlapped at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and have deep expertise in the sustainability domain.

Ankit is the Chief Executive Officer and, prior to StepChange, was part of the senior leadership team at Ola, where he built multiple businesses, including Ola Electric. Ankit lends a deep understanding of the implementation gaps surrounding the net-zero transition within the Indian corporate ecosystem. He leverages these insights to drive business development, organisational strategy and growth at StepChange. His work experience includes stints at McKinsey & Co. in the US and UBS. He is a graduate of IIT Bombay (Computer Science), and also holds an MBA from MIT Sloan, where he was a Siebel Scholar and Legatum Fellow. 

Sidhant is the Chief Science Officer at StepChange. His academic and professional interests are in developing science-based environmental decision-making tools. He leverages his domain expertise to develop state-of-the-science methods that enable StepChange’s clients to estimate, analyse and improve key sustainability and climate-risk metrics. Sidhant holds an S.B. and Ph.D. (Atmospheric Chemistry and Compositional Modeling) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (where he was an MIT IDEAS awardee). He is the founding director of the non-profit Social Seva and has previous work experience as a postdoctoral scientist at the Columbia University Climate School. 

Interview with Ankit Jain, Co-founder and CEO of StepChange

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ankit Jain, Co-founder and CEO of StepChange. We discussed the startup’s inspiration, its primary focus, and the plans for the future. Here are the details of our conversation:

Q: Can you introduce yourself and describe your role in StepChange?

A: I am Ankit Jain, the co-founder and CEO of StepChange. My primary role is to steer the company towards achieving our mission of helping businesses expedite their journey to NetZero. I am responsible for overseeing the overall strategy and growth of the company.

Q: Can you briefly explain what StepChange does?

A: StepChange is a trusted technology partner for enterprise businesses across a variety of sectors. We work with clients who are looking to improve their ESG performance and decarbonise their operations to achieve NetZero greenhouse gas emissions. We leverage a sophisticated suite of science-based climate decision-making tools that empower large and small companies to make more informed ESG and climate-related decisions.

Q: Who is your target audience, and how do you serve them?

A: StepChange’s target audience consists of companies that are looking for rigorous methods to improve their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance and achieve their Net-Zero goals. We also offer deep sector-specific solutions for companies in the financial sector, FMCG sector and few other key priority sectors. 

Q: What is the primary problem that StepChange aims to solve?

A: Climate change is a critical threat to our planet and businesses. Businesses currently lack access to the targeted tools and techniques that are required to understand how their current operations and future decisions impact their carbon and sustainability footprints. The lack of rigour in this space also leads to greenwashing. In addition, persistent data gaps across enterprises also make it challenging for companies to estimate, track, benchmark and report key ESG indicators.

Q: How does StepChange solve this problem?

A: StepChange focuses on injecting a high degree of rigour and transparency into our offerings – enabling our clients to make informed, science-based decisions. We build our solutions to be consistent with globally credible standards and have designed our offerings to leverage easily accessible business and operational data to fill the most common data gaps. We also augment our technology solutions with bespoke consultancy offerings that meet clients where they would like to be met. 

Q: What inspired you to venture into this particular industry?

A: Sidhant, my co-founder, and I decided to co-found StepChange in January 2022 after spending a few months brainstorming ideas for impact in the climate space. My background has helped me gain a deep understanding of the specific levers of change available to both consumers and companies in the Indian context. Sidhant was particularly interested in developing science-based climate decision-making tools, and his academic expertise provided the skills and credibility required to execute the vision. Our complementary skill set, domain understanding and shared vision for impact drove us to found the company. As the regulatory and market environments increasingly incentivize companies to prioritise climate-forward decision-making, we believe that businesses will play an increasingly critical role in the fight against climate change. Our mission at StepChange is to empower these decisions and enable true impact at scale.

Q: How did the early days of StepChange look like?

A:  In the early days, our first offering focused on engaging consumers directly via a mobile application that estimated, analysed and tracked individual impact, with the goal of enabling behaviour change. Our thinking was that this would serve as a conduit to our B2B software solutions for businesses that were interested in selling sustainable products and services to such consumers. However, the regulatory and market-based environment changed rapidly in 2022 and, by the middle of the year, there were a lot of direct incentives for companies to start prioritising ESG and climate-related management decisions. We saw the opportunity to engage directly with these companies, and prioritised the suite of technology and service solutions that directly targeted B2B clients. 

Q: What sets StepChange apart from its competitors?

A: Our focus on scientific rigour, globally-credible methods and accessible tools sets us apart in many ways. Our focus on productized technology solutions enables our offerings to scale in a manner that can be challenging for pure-consulting solutions. Augmenting our solutions with bespoke consulting, further enables a flexibility that is not offered by pure-technology solutions. Our solutions also prioritise the use of data readily available to businesses, instead of requiring only very specific and niche data that is rarely available to client stakeholders. 

Q: Has StepChange received any external funding?

A: Yes, we have raised over $4M in seed funding led by BEENEXT and Global Founders Capital. This funding will enable us to enhance our product offerings, ramp-up growth in India, and expand our footprint in key international markets.

Q: What are StepChange’s plans for the future?

A: Our focus in the near-term is on enhancing our region-specific ESG and climate decision-making models, productizing new solutions, accelerating growth in India and entering key international markets. We are also focused on key priority sectors in India, such as the Financial Sector and FMCG sector. 

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start their own business?

A: Our advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to focus on solving real problems, build a strong team, and be prepared to learn and adapt to challenges. Starting a business is not easy, especially in an impact sector like climate, but it can be an extremely fulfilling journey if the founding team brings the right amount of passion, determination, and a commitment to making a difference.

Q: Are there any statistics that you can share with us about your industry and startup?

A: In the span of just a year, StepChange has worked with our clients to account for over 250 million tons of CO2e, equivalent to around 7.5% of India’s total emissions. This showcases the impact that our tools and resources have had in helping businesses understand and manage their carbon footprints while working towards achieving Net-Zero.

Feedough’s Take On StepChange

StepChange stands poised to drive a meaningful shift in the fight against climate change. Its business model leverages a novel mix of science-based techniques, technology-enabled solutions and strategic business development strategies. With an experienced founding team that has deep expertise in this space, the startup’s suite of sophisticated solutions enables it to stand apart from its competitors. StepChange is well-positioned to empower enterprises with the exact tools and services they need to transition their businesses to a more sustainable paradigm. With important regulatory and market-based tail-winds and strong venture-backed support, StepChange stands out for its best-in-class offerings, impact-oriented team and cost-effective tech-enabled solutions. The company is well on its way to balancing the rapid growth in business and product offerings with its mission to deliver credible, tangible results. With the climate crisis only becoming increasingly important, StepChange’s goal of enabling the private sector’s transition to net zero is more vital than ever.

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