Shopify bets big on new technologies to accelerate the carbon removal marketDecember 15, 2022
A letter from Shopify’s Head of Sustainability Stacy Kauk
- Shopify backs six new companies to prove and scale carbon removal technologies through its Sustainability Fund.
- Shopify and Stripe will spend a combined $11 million as members of Frontier, a commitment we co-founded in April to spend $925 million on permanent carbon removal by the end of 2030.
- To date, the support of Shopify’s Sustainability Fund has helped multiple companies raise over $50 million in capital and grow their carbon removal capacity by more than 1000x.
At Shopify, we know the only way to future-proof our planet is to reverse climate change. Even if we stopped all emissions right now, there’s still too much carbon in the atmosphere. No solution will single-handedly solve this problem. When it comes to scaling carbon removal technologies, there’s much more work to do.
Since we launched our Sustainability Fund in 2019, Shopify has been buying carbon removal as part of our effort to kickstart an industry in its infancy. Today, alongside Stripe, we’re purchasing $11 million worth of carbon removal from six new companies: Arbor, Captura, Carbon To Stone, Cella, CREW, and Inplanet. It’s an exciting development in our fight to reverse climate change. We’re inspired by the caliber and rate of new companies entering the market. Through these purchases, we’re making it possible for them to prove their impact and scale.
These six new companies bring the total backed by Shopify to 28. Below, you can read more about each new partner. These new purchases are just one part of the critical work Shopify has done this year to help accelerate this market.
Here’s what else we’ve been up to in 2022:
Sustainability Fund Progress
To start the year, Shopify’s Sustainability Fund added nine new businesses to our portfolio. Our purchases helped them bring their vision to market and increase adoption of their offerings. Through our Fund activities, we’ve helped multiple companies raise over $50 million in capital and increase their employee count by more than 5x, which has enabled them to grow their carbon removal capacity by more than 1000x.
This spring, we launched Frontier, an advance market commitment (AMC), alongside Stripe, Alphabet, Meta, and McKinsey Sustainability. As founders of Frontier, we committed to spending a combined $925 million on carbon removal by the end of 2030 – a signal to innovators, investors, and project developers that there is a market for carbon removal, and we all need to get to work scaling the industry.
In June, we released Planet, an app that Shopify merchants can use to zero out their shipping emissions. Planet calculates the estimated shipping emissions from every order. Merchants then remove these emissions by funding the same carbon removal companies supported by Shopify. Since launch, more than 8,000 Shopify merchants have used Planet to neutralize their shipping emissions on more than six million orders, totaling over 5,000 tonnes of carbon removal. Shopify merchants can install Planet from the Shopify App Store.
Buying Carbon Removal, Explained
Most recently, we published Buying Carbon Removal, Explained. It’s a comprehensive guide for anyone who wants to support carbon removal but has hit roadblocks along the way. Buying Carbon Removal, Explained covers everything from researching suppliers to inking your first carbon removal contracts, and what to say to scrutinizing finance teams.
We’re committed to doing all we can to generate demand for carbon removal, enable new companies to prove their impact and scale, and spend millions every year to drive down future prices. I recently had the privilege of speaking more about this at the TED Countdown London Session. You can check it out at go.ted.com/stacykauk.
That’s it for now. Subscribe to our mailing list for updates from us in 2023. We’ve got even more planned for the new year, as our work continues.
— Stacy Kauk, Head of Sustainability
New Partners in Shopify’s Sustainability Fund
Arbor (biomass carbon removal and storage; 1,000 tonnes): Biomass Carbon Removal and Storage (BiCRS) is a process that removes carbon dioxide from the air through biomass and stores it. Arbor is developing a scalable and low-cost approach to BiCRS based on modern rocket engine technology. The team brings together deep experience in turbomachinery, combustion, and manufacturing. Their modular systems combine compact gasification with a supercritical carbon dioxide turbine, offering feedstock flexibility, high electrical efficiency, and permanent geologic storage.
Captura (direct ocean capture; 508 tonnes): Oceans store a quarter of the carbon dioxide emissions generated by human activity. Captura is developing a sea-based electrodialysis machine that generates a sequesterable stream of atmospheric carbon dioxide directly from ocean water. Captura’s direct ocean capture approach has the potential to reduce removal costs by eliminating the need for air contactors and sorbent/solvent and utilizing existing infrastructure such as desalination plants and oil and gas platforms.
Carbon To Stone (enhanced weathering; 1,269 tonnes): Developing a new approach that couples Direct Air Capture (DAC) with mineralization. Conventional DAC processes use heat or pressure changes to regenerate solvents reacting with carbon dioxide, resulting in high energy use. Carbon To Stone chemically regenerates the solvent by reacting it with alkaline material such as steel slag, fly ash, or mine tailings to produce carbonates that could be used for alternative cements. This approach reduces both the energy and the cost required for the same tonnage of carbon dioxide captured.
Cella (in-situ mineralization; 2,198 tonnes): Accelerating the process of converting carbon dioxide into a mineral by injecting it into volcanic rock formations together with saline water and geothermal brine waste. Typical in-situ mineralization approaches are water intensive, but Cella’s design recycles 100% of the injected water. Their approach has the added benefits of integrating low-carbon geothermal heat, which reduces the cost of DAC, and disposing of geothermal brine which is usually a waste product.
CREW (in-situ mineralization; 615 tonnes): Developing a container-based solution to enhanced weathering, making it quicker and cheaper to deploy. In this first project, they will co-locate with a wastewater treatment facility to remove carbon dioxide resulting from the incineration of organic waste, but the system can flexibly capture carbon dioxide from a variety of sources. The system consists of weathering reactors that increase the speed of reaction of carbon dioxide, water, and carbonate or silicate feedstock. CREW's ability to measure and quantify system effluent will serve as a model that researchers can use to better understand weathering reactions and ensure that the discharge doesn’t affect local ocean ecosystems. Ultimately, storage of carbon dioxide as bicarbonate ions in the ocean is a secure and scalable storage method.
Inplanet (enhanced weathering; 1,041 tonnes): Uses enhanced weathering to permanently sequester carbon dioxide and regenerate tropical soils. While most enhanced weathering studies to date have been conducted in Europe and North America, Inplanet will be deploying this technology in Brazil, where warmer and wetter conditions could result in faster rock weathering rates and thus faster carbon dioxide drawdown. Inplanet will be teaming with local mines and quarries to source rocks, and with the University of São Paulo to develop monitoring, reporting, and verification field stations to collect better data on how weathering changes with different silicate rocks under a variety of weather and soil conditions across Brazil.
Feature illustration by Cody Muir