RALEIGH – After raising nearly $1 million earlier this year from seven investors, including many with ties to the Triangle’s entrepreneurial economy, founder and CEO Alex Lassiter has launched Green Places, a company that provides a program that enables small businesses to offset their carbon impact in as little as 60 seconds.
“Our true north is that we think a lot of small business owners want to be sustainable,” said Lassiter in an interview with WRAL TechWire. Small- and mid-sized businesses don’t have any extra money, or extra time, laying around, said Lassiter. While these businesses might not be ready, or able, to hire a head of corporate sustainability, said Lassiter, founders and owners of these businesses ought to receive credit for their commitment and engagement in sustainability efforts.
“Not everyone is going to be an expert in this stuff,” said Lassiter. “Part of the value that we add for people is that we can explain their impact in a way that is clear, simple, and that they can then take and explain to their employees and their customers.”
Small and mid-sized businesses, which Lassiter defined as businesses with up to 1,000 employees, don’t have a legal obligation to take climate into consideration, said Lassiter. “But I think companies should get credit for doing so.”
Small businesses will make a difference
Lassiter is a Triangle-based entrepreneur, and a co-founder of Gather, who helped grow that startup company from its inception in a living room to and through a sale of the company to Vista Equity Partners in late 2017. Lassiter stayed working with Gather into 2020. Gather’s clients were typically small businesses, said Lassiter. After the acquisition, Lassiter spent much of his time thinking about what type of startup he wanted to build next.
He decided on helping small businesses meet their sustainability goals, and then he started fundraising. Now, Lassiter has raised $975,000 from seven investors to seed the company, according to an SEC filing. Those investors include Jes Lipson, founder of ShareFile and Levitate; Howard Lerman, a Duke University alum and founder and CEO of Yext; Joe Colopy and Chaz Felix, co-founders of Bronto; Todd Olson, founder and CEO of Pendo; Scot Wingo, founder of ChannelAdvisor and Spiffy; and Tom Darden, a well-known environmental and sustainability advocate who is founder and CEO of Cherokee.
“Part of the background of this, is that all of us have built businesses that have worked with small and mid-sized businesses,” said Lassiter. “We’re trying to come together, and use something that we’re pretty good at, which is working with small and mid-size businesses, to make a difference.”
Just as small businesses are job creators in the U.S. economy, meaning they could have substantial impact on U.S. GDP and on economic development across America, they can also have substantial impact on fighting climate change, said Lassiter.
“But most solutions focus on big businesses that are heavy polluters or have large supply chains,” said Lassiter. “Smaller companies have not had a practical way to do their part to reduce the effects of global warming.”
He set out to change that, launching Green Places.
“Our vision is to harness the power of many to drive a significant reduction in greenhouse gases and simultaneously enable SMBs to implement environment-friendly practices that are not only good for the planet but also good for business,” said Lassiter.
What Green Places provides
In ten days, since the company first launched its platform, more than 25,000 tons of carbon emissions have been offset through Green Places, said Lassiter. That’s the equivalent of taking about 5,400 gas-powered cars off the road or offsetting the annual impact of about 1,500 Americans, he said, and it’s coming from companies across the country, and of a variety of sizes.
For instance, a two-person firm based in Chapel Hill signed on, as has Pendo, with about 600 employees. The Green Places website lists which companies have used the platform to offset impact.
The company provides three services.
First, in about 60 seconds, Green Places will calculate a company’s carbon footprint, using research from the University of California Berkeley’s CoolClimate Project.
Second, the company offers small and mid-sized businesses to pool funds with others, to purchase carbon credits in volume, for maximum impact and return.
Third, Green Places assists its customers with communicating this work internally to employees of the business, and externally, to customers, suppliers, and partners.
“Every business today, regardless of size, needs to take responsibility for creating a sustainable workplace. The future of the planet may well depend on it,” said Kyle Porter, an investor in the company’s seed round whose SalesLoft sales engagement platform business is also a Green Places founding customer. “Green Places’ approach is a fast, simple and highly impactful strategy for smaller companies to contribute to the greater good as well as to their own reputation in the marketplace.”
“There’s a large percentage of the population, from the business side, that hasn’t been participating, but have wanted to be able to participate,” said Lassiter. “I’ve got big plans for the business, and I think we’re going to do a whole lot of good.”