In this episode, we speak to Andrew Kerr, the co-founder of Green Steps Group about sustainability and profitability, and having a real impact.
If you sponsor a tree, does it actually exist? That was the leading question behind the Green Steps Group. Co-founder Andrew Kerr has lived a fascinating life from studying dinosaurs to counting safari animals and now championing sustainability. In this captivating conversation, Andrew shares his journey from tech and VR to sustainability, emphasising the importance of clarity in purpose, the intersection of profitability and sustainability, and the power of genuine care in building a successful business. Discover how Green Steps Group is making a real impact through tree planting initiatives and innovative approaches to sustainability, and be inspired to create your own good business. Tune in for an insightful and thought-provoking discussion.
In this conversation, we learnt…
– How Green Steps Group began (02:59- 08:11)
– How they started in the F&B industry (08:35 – 10:09)
– Meeting his partner, Guy (11:45 – 12:20)
– Andrew’s background in tech, VR and nature (14:40 – 15:32)
– His move to Singapore (18:46 – 20:10)
– The tech behind Green Steps Group (21:21 – 24:46)
– Why it’s essential for sustainable steps to be profitable (25:00 – 28:30)
– Case studies in Singapore (28:57 – 29:45)
“If you sponsor a tree on our side of the world, does it actually exist?” (3:25)
This was the question that was the idea behind Green Steps Group. Due to greenwashing, lack of accountability and governance, it has been hard to keep track of the trees that are supposed to be planted. So, Andrew and his team created Green Steps Group – to show to companies that your impact is real. The second, was to inform and educate customers on the direct cause and effect of their actions. For example, with Raffles Hotel today, if you get a cocktail, ultimately there is a tree planted in Sumatra.
“But it does need a lot of care, they don’t just grow themselves.” (8:03)
While you can use drones to plant millions and even billions of seeds, growing the trees is actually the hard part. From watering it to checking on it, to making sure it has good drainage and good nutrients – a lot more goes into planting a tree than just sowing the seed. So, Green Steps Group actually plants saplings, i.e. plants that are about a foot high. They normally plant Mangroves, which are more robust and have a high survival rate.
“I’ve tended to swing between nature and tech, most of my working life.” (14:40)
Andrew’s work has spanned a number of industries and jobs. From being a safari guide in South Africa to doing 3-D reconstructions of dinosaurs for the world’s leading palaeontologists, to creating technologies that track everything from African wild dogs to tree plantations. This connection is what ultimately motivated him to start the Green Steps Group.
“If there is no direct benefit to the company by introducing sustainability initiatives, they are going to be the first thing cut in a recession, and there is a recession looming.” (25:10)
Andrew believes that companies need to be sustainable, both environmentally but also financially viable. So, sustainability initiatives need to bring in money, so that they’re not just nice-to-haves. A great example of this has been the water project with Green Steps Group’s F&B partners, which has been a great win-win for everybody. This is where the restaurants have replaced plastic one-time-use bottles with glass bottles. This reduces costs for the company drastically, but they can continue to charge the same price as they are instead donating to plant trees. So, for every water bottle bought, one tree is planted. Not only is this saving money but is also attracting further clients who want to support the sustainability programmes.
“And it’s expensive to have unhappy people.” (27:40)
Sustainability that’s bringing in direct money is essential but the less obvious factors are equally important – the impact on customers and staff. If planting a tree for every guest at the hotel makesa customer happier and is leading to repeat business, can you calculate the value of that? The other side is staff turnover, particularly relating to Gen Z, where it’s important the the company echoes their values. What is the cost of retaining good staff? As it can be quite expensive to hire and train new people. Plus, if engagement is low, productivity also suffers. So there are quite a number of ways that profits and sustainability can and should overlap.
“I’d say it’s family first.” (31:00)
For Andrew, this is a core mantra. It’s super easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work, especially in a small start-up. For example, he recently got a text from his youngest daughter asking him to help her with school. Andrew decided that work can wait, and it can be picked up in the morning, and he put family first.
Chris Edwards (01:30)
Have you ever wondered how you could have a career studying dinosaurs, tracking Safari animals, and also tracking trees or tree growth? Well, Andrew Kerr, my next guest has done exactly that. This is a fascinating chat with a guy who’s lived a big life across South Africa, Sweden and Singapore. And he is the co founder of green steps group. And I just love this chat. So much green steps group is an environmental company that plants trees, and also does ocean cleanups. But their core point of difference is their technology and their tracking and their governance of what they’re doing. I think you’ll get so much out of this chat. And what I loved most was how Andrew could have such a passion for tech and big dreams and be creating such wonderful massive businesses from ground up. But the one thing that he really lives by his family first and knowing your why. So I’m sure you’re gonna really enjoy this chat. Let’s jump into it.
Chris Edwards (02:35)
Hey, Andrew, welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much. I know you’re getting up or actually you’re it’s very late where you are. So I appreciate you making the time. Cool.
Andrew Kerr (02:45)
Thanks very much dialling in from Sweden. It says minus two degrees and the bottom of my screen. Just outside is covered in snow. So far from Australia.
Chris Edwards (02:55)
And let’s start with green steps group. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about it?
Andrew Kerr (02:59)
Sure. And maybe it’s just thought of why I’m sitting in Sweden, despite the fact we have a Singapore based company. So it was actually incorporated in Singapore and my partner guy is currently living in Singapore, I was living in Singapore, but then I moved back to Sweden with my wife and family. So that we have this sort of like foot on both side of the camps, which is actually quite a quite a nice place to be where we have good exposure to Europe and to sort of Southeast Asia. Pipeline bedsides in terms of greenstep script. What we are funding company, which brings governance, that’s probably the easiest word for it what we tried to do, we set up our transmit system where clients didn’t require blind trust, if they sponsor the tree. So it’s not a case of you sponsor the tree and just believe us that it happened. We wanted to find very granular, very clear evidence that the tree actually didn’t happen. This idea of if you sponsor a tree at our side of the world, does it actually exist? And that’s really the question where we began is like, how do we prove to people that it does exist, that it’s real, that was the first part of it is just governance of the fact that your impact is real. The second part is just making it simple to actually take this impact on the chain. So if you sort of Raffles Hotel today, and you enjoy a cocktail, down the chain, a tree is planted in Sumatra. And this is a very sort of direct cause and effect. And that’s really the programme that we put in place.
Chris Edwards (04:29)
I’m really intrigued by the fact that you’ve come up with a business that’s tree planting, but verification is your really big point of difference. did this idea come about because there are so many tree planting companies that are not doing the right thing?
Andrew Kerr (04:48)
I think that whether or not they’re doing the right thing or not, it’s hard to say not for me to judge. But it’s definitely a problem where there’s this kind of nebulous opaque world, where there’s, very, very little evidence of when you sponsor tree that the tree actually happens. So this is something we feel really should be just addressed. It’s it’s like if you pay a software company for something, or you pay for online advertising, or even if you go to a laundromat, and they can’t provide you any evidence whatsoever, what you’ve just paid for, then we really feel you should ask them questions like, where’s this money actually going, you know, what, what kind of laundromat? So it’s just bringing this kind of clarity to the world. And getting away from the opaqueness. And I think the opaqueness is actually fundamentally dangerous, as it’s and that at this time, we started a lot of greenwashing. And companies are getting nervous about the trees that they’ve sponsored, but perhaps didn’t actually sponsor and then use the knee jerk reaction sometimes just to pull off completely and just take all all sponsorship after we’ve had a sort of huge crisis, the moment with the Bureau credit schemes, where a lot of companies reaction is to rather than sort of find a better solution or work with the workman’s guarantee, like help solve the problem, they just pull up and BP. So I think it’s super important to have this kind of clarity and granularity of governance.
Chris Edwards (06:09)
Yeah, one thing I’ve always been interested about, I mean, I live on quite a big or not big farm, but a farm, and we plant trees, and they’re quite hard to actually grow. So it’s not just planting the tree, but then watering it and then checking on it, and then making sure it’s, you know, got good drainage and good nutrients. So is that something else that greensteps does?
Andrew Kerr (06:33)
Absolutely. I’m completely with you, I get annoyed of people that fly drones across desert throwing seeds all over the place and planting billions and millions of trees because it’s absolutely difficult. Most of our trees actually read in nurseries for normally up to six months. So by the time they actually get planted, it’s a seedling not not a seed, a small sapling, normally about it sort of a foot higher. So after that there still needs work, we sort of did two different kinds of trees that we did the mangroves, which is a lot easier, there are a lot more robust. Basically, once mangroves go into the ground, there’s sort of a foot higher at these sitting in waters, they never run out of water. Animals tend not to eat them, no one’s cutting them down. It’s they just have very high survival rates and don’t need as much care. In Borneo, it’s another story completely, you have to start off by clear cutting the ground to prepare, there’s a lot of violence, it’s sort of they’re natural, but where the forest is damaged, these vines grow incredibly fast and quite high, like sometimes two three metres tall. So we have to click up these vines, then we plant the seeds, which have reared in nurseries. And then you have to come back six months later and clear the vines away again, and then another six months after that again. And then you still sometimes have an elephant wandering through and wipe out half the trees. The plus side is that even if you lose some of these kids that you’ve sort of nurtured and grown, if you’re preparing all this area looking after the whole flux, you get a lot of natural growth. So at the end of the day, you actually tend to end up with more trees than you start off with even if you lose a few along the way. But it does need a lot of care; they don’t just grow themselves.
Chris Edwards (08:11)
Yeah, yeah, that’s so interesting. And I mean, I first discovered you guys because you’re working a lot with f&b partners in Singapore. So you mentioned Raffles Hotel. I know the loco group and Tangjong Beach club which cover working with you little farms. I’m really interested if you can explain why these f&b partners, or why you’ve targeted these F&B partners and how that relationship works.
Andrew Kerr (08:35)
There’s a little happenings actually one of our earliest investors is actually Loco group really began with Christian trying to address his own problems with his restaurant. So the first thing he did was to buy some carbon credits. And he got this sort of stripped back from somewhere in the Congo. And he said, This is really quite meaningless to me, I don’t even know if it’s real. And I can’t use this for any kind of marketing. And that’s around the time. But we bumped into him and told him what we’re doing. He got really excited. We’re able to have this kind of very clear marketing story. If you plant a tree, we have a tree and we can show it to you. If there’s a client restaurant is sponsored the tree they can see the tree immediately on the phone. Each restaurant grows a forest and again, it’s very clear and visible. So it was really stunning there. And there’s no reason to be stuck in f&b. It just naturally expanded from there. It’s the network and it’s something massive as a startup we need sort of short cycle times, we’re having long conversations with bigger companies. But those conversations can take up to a year. And as a young startup, normally the payments likely to move quite quickly. So f&b is great, you normally get to speak directly to the owners of the businesses, they’re often very passionate about what they’re trying to do. And they sort of implement strategies very quickly. So it was just a nice, nice starting plan. At the moment, we are actually moving on to sort of longer term with bigger some banks, and fashion houses, we started to work with the beds, f&b has definitely been our core and something which we’ve been growing with.
Chris Edwards (10:09)
And so the way it works for f&b, I presume I mean, I read about initially, and I’m not sure whether you’re still doing this, how you’re suggesting that they take away plastic bottles and replace them with glass bottles and use the money they’ve saved there to invest in trees. Is that still your programme?
Andrew Kerr (10:27)
Oh, absolutely. That’s, going great guns. And it’s such a nice win-win for everybody. It’s a great win just for the restaurant just to get rid of the plastic bottles just as a starting point, then bring in glass bottles, plastic bottles may or may not be recycled, but you still have to bring you know, it’s like to buy them, sell them and then dispose them. As opposed to actually doing water on site. The price per water goes right down. And then clients need some kind of justification of why are you still paying $1 or two for a bottle of water. And that’s really where the trees come in, was like, Okay, you still have to pay $1. But this money is going straight into a forest, which was busy growing. And it’s almost gone the circle where people deliberately go to the restaurants, like the private chains, doing a lot of the waterjet water selling was actually specifically good to the profitable because they know about the sustainability programmes.
Chris Edwards (11:17)
That’s really cool. And what a really innovative way to help small businesses find that dollar per customer that can have real meaning to the customers and real meaning to the environment in both ways, right? Reducing plastic, reducing the waste of transport and energy and all of that around plastic bottles with water. Plus, then also getting them to plant trays. That’s yeah, it’s really cool. How did you come up with that idea?
Andrew Kerr (11:45)
So total winner, because on top of all of that the restaurants actually making more money than they previously were. So it really is sort of a win win win. It’s came about just simply in conversation, this guy my partner probably does is just asking guy, what can I do better? How can I be by restaurants in a sustainable environment? And guys, people, the first you can do is get rid of these plastic bottles. And that’s sort of what evolved from.
Chris Edwards (12:13)
So tell me about guy, you, you started green steps with Guy, how did you guys meet? And how did the idea come about?
Andrew Kerr (12:20)
I knew Guy for quite a few years before green steps. So I’ve known him for some time. But we green steps came about as I was working with an NGO. And we had this idea of paying farmers directly. So ensuring the people that actually put the trees in the ground get the money in this paper planting concept. But the problem with NGOs, they just don’t have the revenue to keep paying the plants as they’re always continually struggling with funding. It’s just part of being a nonprofit. And that was the constant challenge. So in trying to resolve the challenge, so what can we do if we can link the planning operations to the consumers and through the restaurants and actually get a direct chain of money which is flowing back down down the chain to the planters. It was at this point I reached out to Guy he was really deep into the sustainability world. And we love these bigger companies. So he was just a natural person to speak to. I actually reached out to a few others within the company because really Guy and myself that ended up breaking away to full green steps.
Chris Edwards (13:20)
And how long ago was that?
Andrew Kerr (13:23)
I think the conversations began about three years ago, when we first got going to work out concepts and stuff. Corona slowed things down dramatically. Because suddenly you have a business which is fundamentally based on restaurants and Hotels them that everything shuts and everybody gets locked in their houses. He has a problem. And actually, even our some of our planting teams couldn’t get out to plant trees in the ground anymore. At the same time, we did have some revenue still running with some of the restaurants. And that became actually a critical lifeline for particularly in Borneo. We’re busy planting trees in Borneo. And they had half their revenue coming in from tourism. And then we start to bring in this idea of like, well, we could also sponsor your trees. So we just kicked that off when Corona struck. And their tourism obviously just came to an abrupt and very sudden end. And they’re only lifeline actually, after a while was just us sponsoring their trees. It’s kind of native with the corona of course, but there’s definitely like some positives that came out of it.
Chris Edwards (14:26)
Yeah, yeah, it’s such an intense time for so many. Now Your background is really in tech and VR. And I’m interested in how has that played a part of what you’re doing at Green steps.
Andrew Kerr (14:40)
And it’s in tech in VR recently, but it hasn’t really always be that way. My first job was actually, as a safari guide in South Africa is like, right back. I’ve tended to swing between nature and tech, most of my working life. At one stage, I was as big into dinosaurs doing 3d reconstructions for the world’s leading palaeontologists, I did hundreds and hundreds of dinosaurs. It’s a really fun legacy. I can sort of walk into any museum and open the dancer books and see all of my dinosaurs.
Chris Edwards (15:12)
Wow, do you have kids? Because I mean, that would be just an amazing skill as a dad.
Andrew Kerr (15:18)
Absolutely. Yes, I do. And they love dinosaurs.
Chris Edwards (15:21)
I saw their dinosaur tests right at school. Okay, so Safari, and then dinosaur expert, then where did this journey go next?
Andrew Kerr (15:32)
Tech is pretty interesting, because you can really just take it anyway. So from dinosaurs, I moved into apps developed? Well, first of all, I made a dinosaur app locally. And then from there, I made an app called My-Safari, which was a it’s combining the idea of tourism and sensor, sensors, animal sensors. So the concept was, can we harness the tourists that go into the forest, this is really going back to my time as a guide, can we harness all these tourists that go on safari, and use them to do the animal senses. So the idea is they go drive around as they see animals, they have a fun game. I’ve seen this stuff in elephant, I’ve seen a rider. And as they check them off, we get a sort of a net data. And then we’ve sort of monitored the overall populations. It’s a great idea. It works quite well. But down the major flaws that we find tourists are really bad at identifying animals. elephants, hippos, it’s great if you start having getting into antelope or like even some of the cats, like leopards, leopards, and cheetahs and lions,
Chris Edwards (16:40)
just get them mixed up. Yeah.
Andrew Kerr (16:44)
They were taking photographs as well. So you can sort of like it. Yeah, right. It’s but from that project, and then that was a great project, I really enjoyed it. And it evolved into something which is called everybody counts. So there was a competition with a mapping company where they just opened up to all in any ideas. So I took on an environmental approach. And we use the basis of that Jim GIS project for tracking African wild ducks, then it became specifically for researchers to actually track the African wild dogs. And that brings in a whole lot of challenges. African wild dogs are the basically like balls, they continue on the move, they can actually run for 40, at 45 kilometres an hour, for an hour. So just in the space of an hour, they cover a marathon, and they just continually like moving around the park. So we’ve got lead, lead dogs were tagged with collars, and then tracked on satellite, and they still stay with the pack. And then we get a sort of monitor will different packs and moving around. And then over time gather sensor data and wake up what’s happening with the packs. They’re, they’re in trouble. They’re Africa’s most endangered species. So there’s a little bit of trying to work out what is actually happening, and why are the populations crashing? So that was fantastic projects. Honestly, moving from tracking African wild dogs tracking cookies, it’s really much easier.
Chris Edwards (18:10)
This was a great training ground for to make you feel like you’ve got the easiest job in the world. What’s happened with everybody count now. Is it still being used? Yeah, it’s
Andrew Kerr (18:21)
Yeah. As a research project. It’s the massive ferry for the tourism. It’s 10 more into like a field guide. And people can enjoy it. But we didn’t find enough value to actually sensor. But everybody counts is used by the guys doing research on African wild dogs.
Chris Edwards (18:41)
Wow. And so how did you end up in Singapore from was it South Africa, you were based?
Andrew Kerr (18:46)
Oh, lots of places. I lived in the UK as well. And then I met a Swedish girl in Cape Town. And we travelled the world together, landed up in Sweden, when we started having babies. And after two or three years of Swedish winter, I couldn’t take it anymore. So that’s the short story. She’s my wife’s an architect. So we looked for Where can she do architecture where it’s warm and tropical. And Singapore is just a natural place to land up. And it’s a great city. We thoroughly enjoyed it.
Chris Edwards (19:16)
It is a great city isn’t that it’s quite remarkable. I was there last week actually. And I lived there for 11 years and I just go back and I just I’m like it’s got so much going for it. It’s so interesting and the bigger thing I find most interesting is where it’s located. Like, it’s just in the centre of Southeast Asia. And it’s such a great jumping off point for people, but also for businesses to have, I suppose, a reach into that region.
Andrew Kerr (19:43)
In Singapore, they’re very forward thinking and very quick to pick up ideas. It almost feels like they’ve always got an inferiority complex where they worry that Europe is ahead of them when often we really were really not. But they’ve sort of continually charging ahead. So one of the nice things about working in Singapore a lot of our clients are there is they tend to make decisions very quickly, and love anything new. So it’s a, it’s a really great place to sort of launch businesses
Chris Edwards (20:10)
And love anything tech to, which I think is really interesting for what you’re doing. Because I definitely think Singapore adopts technology really quickly. And they just everyone loves it. So I can see why green steps has done well, in that little micro climate.
Chris Edwards (20:31)
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Chris Edwards (20:55)
So going back to green steps is quite an interesting business and concept because I suppose there are a lot of tree planting companies out there now. And your point of difference is really, I suppose it’s your technology that tracks the trees. And you’re also tracking ocean cleanup as well. Is that right?
Andrew Kerr (21:14)
Yes, that’s correct.
Chris Edwards (21:16)
So how did those two things work together?
Andrew Kerr (21:21)
It’s really like as close as the African wild dogs, once you have a platform, which is able to capture data, and then translated from on the ground onto a dashboard, where you can monitor on a Mac, you can really capture anything. So moving from trees to ocean waste cleanup was actually remarkably quick and easy. The main thing that we were providing is governance. So it’s just does something happened with the trees, we track each each individual tree with the ocean waste collection, we’re monitoring it by the kilogramme and then it’ll sort of gets compiled into a database database map. This, is two things. One is just for visibility. But if you if you’re sponsoring a tree, and it’s public, you can also see that nobody else is sponsoring a tree, which also avoids one of the common problems with spanning trees is that this, this idea of double counting, where they have a tree which is sponsored, which may or may not even exist, and then they sell its three for almost unlimited amounts of time? Because no one’s actually counting was trees, which, was one of the big things that we try to address is how do we stop this double counting problem? How do we make sure that the trees are actually real that we do sponsor tree, it’s there. But there’s a side part of the story where if you know, how many trees you have, and with our app, we actually know not only what about the trees wasn’t about the people, because that’s equally important. So we know who’s planting the trees. We know where the tree is, what species it is, when it was planted where it was planted. And with this information, we also start knowing how many hours of female employment we generated, and not more or less we know exactly how many generated what is the gender breakdown between our workers, how much community hours a week, creating what landscaping factory making. So we get this very specific, granular detail, which can then also link back to the UN sustainability development goals. So for some of our big clients, they have these like specific numbers, but there needs to target within the sustainability development goals. And we can provide the very granular numbers, and then also backup evidence of where these numbers came from.
Chris Edwards (23:30)
And how do you ensure that there’s no double counting in your system? Like what the tech behind it that ensures it?
Andrew Kerr (23:37)
So there’s, it’s half tech, half human monitoring? So when you take a photo of our tree, it’s surprisingly unique. And one of the questions people ask us conscious good trees of internet, it’s like, yeah, go ahead and try. Try find 1000 trees, which all look unique. So that she’s a caption, they go into our system, and then there’s just a spreadsheet. So we have some low level AI running, which can detect just double photographs. So it’s just the same photograph, it’s pretty easy to just catch those numbers. Then the rest is actually done with it’s called a Mechanical Turk, which means human often myself or guy or some of my other colleagues. You actually just go through looking at all the trees in the batch and looking for identifying if there’s if there is any double trees. It’s actually quite easy. The trees are very unique, and you can spot them very quickly. Another secret we also use is you can look at the mud where the tree is planted, which is actually an even easier way of checking if it’s the same piece being captured twice. So it’s a combination of quality control, human based quality control and AI tech.
Chris Edwards (24:46)
Yeah, right, right. So interesting. You say, like profit and sustainability, you don’t have to choose between reforestation and protection. So I’d love you to just talk a little bit more about that.
Andrew Kerr (25:00)
Yeah, so companies need to be sustainable. And when I say sustainable, I’m talking about the real meaning of the word as in financially viable, they need to be sustainable, and it’s the responsibility on the cells to be responsible to be sustainable. So when they bring in sustainability initiatives, we really feel they need to make sense. If they’re not actually making a direct financial benefit to the company, they’re going to be the first thing to cut in a recession, and there’s a recession looming, so it’s very important that this thing brings these sustainability initiatives actually bring in money, not just ours, nice, nice to have switch, as soon as you have to choose between are we gonna, like retain the services of a young chef, or we’re gonna like fall back on some of our nice sustainable ideas, we know that we’re gonna have to cut back on the sustainable ideas. So if you’re planning at first, it should actually make you money. And a good example of this is the water project, the water project, actually switching to a forest in the forest is important, you can’t take that away outside of the water project, because you need some kind of justification, that you can actually sell a glass of water for $1 or two. So all consumers were exempted. So there’s sort of two sides to this sustainability, the one is just clever things to do, which actually do just being direct money. So if you take a hotel, for example, use towels, you can well know this, they’ve it’s a well accepted thing, throw the towel on the ground, if you wanted to wash it, or just hang it up. If you want to save water, immediately, that’s actually saving the hotel money by just encouraging people to hang towels and put sustainability into profit. And other ideas with soap recently, I was at a quite nice hotel where instead of having little mini one time, use soaps that are really nice high quality shower gel in a big bottle. And they simply said, if you like it, take it home. And we’ll just put it to your room, getting rid of the little expensive one time uses. So that’s just brings in money. And you can do things like chars. So that’s, that’s the easy stuff. That’s sustainability that’s bringing in direct money, the less obvious stuff, but equally important is, if you do, for example, planting a tree for every guest at the hotel. This is something that customers like, and then you can say, okay, so what is the value of making a customer happier and bringing in a repeat customer? And what and what is that level of repeat customers? So if we say, Okay, well, this initiative is bringing in more customers, and we have an increase in 10%, repeat, repeat customers. What is that value, the hotels failed to tell you look directly at the accounts. And it’s typically much more than it’s actually getting spent. The other side is staff turnover, if people are happy, and this is particularly relating to Gen Z, where it’s becoming very important for them to be at a company where they have these kind of initiatives with on actually helping them helping the planet. If you’ve managed to, like, keep good stuff, or retain good stuff, what is the dollar value in that, and it can be calculated, it’s expensive to hire new people, it’s expensive to train them. And it’s expensive to have unhappy people. So it’s actually the idea of it’s not a weird idea to have sustainable and profit session essential. And I think we’ve proved in quite a few different environments now that it actually is possible. You can bring in even additional additionalality where you’re actually having to put money out on a first and still raise for like one of my revenues.
Chris Edwards (28:30)
I really like that. I like that a lot. Particularly from where you’re sitting that if people can’t see how these initiatives are bringing in more profit, it will get cut. You’re absolutely right. So you do have to think more creatively and make sure that when you’re bringing in a programme it is the double bottom line, right? It’s profit and sustainability going hand in hand. So I think that’s really smart. Have you got any more case studies of people in Singapore that are doing this really well?
Andrew Kerr (28:57)
Quite a few customers actually. So the water project is getting across to quite a lot of restaurants and bars already. We’ve also done it with beer. We’ve done it with pizzas. dealt with cocktails. There’s a hotel bar called penicillin in Hong Kong. So what they did is they took it as a signature cocktail and said right, this is our sustainability cocktail. And all the revenue of this cocktail goes off to reforestation. So they lose a little money on that signature cocktail. But as we all know, the market and cocktails was enormous. But you don’t start drinking that cocktail nice, you quickly switch to the other wines and beers. So again, like they actually bring in customers that the customers like this idea, that ethos, and stay for longer.
Chris Edwards (29:45)
Nice. And tell me where to now for green steps, what’s in the future for the next 5-10 years?
Andrew Kerr (29:54)
Oh, going a little further. We’ve been doing a lot of research into remote sensing, I think this is going to be something which is going to become increasingly important. So this is both satellites and drones, and then even drones. It’s both fixed wing and quad quadrants. And this is really how do we take this idea and really start scaling it. Some of the details I can’t really share too much right now. But that’s definitely where we’re heading as dressing room remote sensing, where we can really start operating at large scales. How do we tackle an entire jungle region, as opposed to smaller operations?
Chris Edwards (30:30)
I love it. I can imagine lots of young boys who are into tech, it would be very inspired by this chat. You know, I have an 11 year old son who has a drone and like just loves everything technology. And it’s so nice to see how you can fuse your passion for tech into really having real impact. So it’s very inspiring. I just want to ask a few, we have some rapid fire questions to round out the interview. I’m wondering, do you have any business advice or matras that you live by?
Andrew Kerr (31:00)
I’d say if family first, it’s super easy to get caught up, especially if you’ve got a small startup is basically every day, there’s more work to do than it is in the day. And you have to keep looking after your family. That’s the moment where you got something important to do. And all this happened to us recently. And I got a text from my youngest daughter saying, Papa, I need you to come help me with my math. It’s like, okay, it’s, it can wait, it’s not really gonna crash. We’ll pick up in the morning. So I think that’s super important. And then kind of leading part of that is, don’t forget why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s easy to kind of get lost in the moment and in the in the problems, but especially with our kind of environment, we’re not really here to maximise profits, if that’s all I wanted to do, I’d probably stick with VR, to be honest, why are we actually doing what we want to do this, there’s a bigger value. And I think it’s important to hang on to that.
Chris Edwards (31:58)
Yeah, I love that. I think that’s very true. And it is very easy to get lost in the weeds of the doing and the enormity of the tasks and the adrenaline and the thrill of it all. But really, to come back to your WHY IS is very, very powerful.
Andrew Kerr (32:16)
We actually have one of our ladies just joined us recently, Michelle, and she writes in on a chicken every morning. Today, I’ve planted this many trees like why am I here, like, grateful to me making the world of difference. This is like wonderful phrases like every single morning. It’s it’s really nice to see.
Chris Edwards (32:36)
That’s very cool. I really liked that. Tell me if there was another industry that you could disrupt next, what would it be?
Andrew Kerr (32:40)
Well, I think that’s such a good question. One of the things which is happening is what do we do with all the waste? So, you know, we’re in the business moment of doing ocean cleanups. But and then there’s this sort of recycling. But how can we address this question better? What can we do to take ocean waste in particular, but actually any kind of waste catch earlier and do better work with it? I think that’s going to be one of the interesting, interesting parts. And plastic is it’s quite, it’s quite durable. And quite, you know, I studied product design originally. So that was like caustics was a sort of a major within what I studied. And some of the materials like car tires, they’re incredibly strong. So anything which is strong and very durable is useful. So if you could turn this around from being a waste problem to a cost benefit problem, a cost benefit solution. I think that’s there’s something in there. How we do it. I’m not that’s that’s a good question. You can sit and brainstorm on that. But the concept is laid out there. We have a building material, which is actually free and just on tap. So if we can pick that up and make use of it. I think that’s a really interesting industry to dig into.
Chris Edwards (34:00)
I couldn’t agree more and in fact, I just had the CEO of potato head on the podcast and they’re moving to really focusing on using waste to make things that they told me that a tourist creates four kilos of waste three kilos of waste every day, which is just a huge amount of waste, right? So it is really fascinating.
Andrew Kerr (34:25)
For the lowest hanging fruit. I’d love to talk about airlines, just talking about the field. By the way, when you sit on a plane and the amount of trash your dinner generates on a long distance flight. It’s embarrassing.
Chris Edwards (34:39)
Yeah, I know. I totally agree. I just was thinking that the other day, how much single use
Andrew Kerr (34:45)
was clear back from South Africa. So in the middle of night, I was chatting to another issue. I’m throwing this idea of like, do you think it would work to have buffets, instead of walking along getting a little like your care feed, just because you’ve got hours and hours to kill. So even if it takes a long time to filter, like a whole aeroplane, full of people down to the end to like, select their own food. It could work.
Chris Edwards (35:10)
Oh, just reusable, washable cutlery. You know, I noticed that’s one thing in Australia, a lot of the coffee shops now will have, you know, just a mug that instead of Disposable single use, and they’re washed it up for you. And then you just bring it back. I mean, it’s like going back to what we used to do. Tell me what’s been your best business collaboration or partnership, you’ve had?
Andrew Kerr (35:33)
To be honest, I think it would have to be my friend, John Landon. And this is actually all the VR work. I’ve had a lot of good people I’ve worked with, but he just constantly comes back to me with really fun projects. We’ve built UK network rails together, we’ve built Formula One races, voting chocolates, we are in like shoes match the football games. He’s just a fun guy to every time he pings us like, okay, somebody hears something interesting. Just a lovely human. So really fun to work with that guy.
Chris Edwards (36:04)
Wow. And so he just pings you and asks for help on VR projects. Is that right?
Andrew Kerr (36:09)
I’m actually working together for years, I originally hired it. But about 10 years ago, I was just hired him as a programmer. And then we sort of became like really close friends, and then just have an on and off sort of project relationship ever since. So it’s a mix of who’s hiring who these days. We’d like to add one more thing to that. Because I thought there is the question, Best Collaboration for the future. I have a strong suspicion, it might well be my eldest daughter, I can easily see us working together. Already. She’s only 16. But already, like just making parties together. It works really well as a business relationship. Shouldn’t be she’ll be the organised one, by the way.
Chris Edwards (36:50)
Oh, I love that. That’s beautiful. Now I wanted to ask what is your favourite business book or business podcast?
Andrew Kerr (36:57)
So I’ve been listening to BookBub, I’ve been listening to it called selling value by Mark striving. And I started off, it was recommended to me as well as a really excellent book, I’ve just understand the value. So I began listening to it really with an idea of how would I? How would I explain the value of what we do? Because it’s not particularly easy to sort of sell something that you can’t actually physically have an explaining what is the value of green steps, but it could be sort of third started turning around to not just selling value, but to what is my value? As a person? What, what am I actually trying to get out of my work? And what is what has been steps ready for me? I think it’s a fantastic book. It’s not fluffy at all. It’s very business driven. It’s specifically b2b, and really turning things around into a dollar value. But it really helps when you start trying to explain to people what is the value of a tree, and that example of our hotels, if you’re reducing the turnover of stuff that has a very specific dollar value, even if it’s linked to something which is a bit more fluffy as in terms of, we’re helping the environment. If people want to stay there, it saves the company money. So I think I’d highly recommend it for anyone. Even if you’re just a consumer, I think it’s worth reading.
Chris Edwards (38:16)
Oh, it sounds fantastic. I will definitely be putting that on my reading list. My last question for you today is at Launchpad. We believe a rising tide floats all boats, you probably have a tonne of entrepreneurs that are creating good businesses. But if you could recommend one to come on this podcast, who would it be?
Andrew Kerr (38:34)
I think I’d probably trapped by my former 3d partner in crime Neil Row. So I sort of began began this journey as a product designer and then got into 3d, hence the dinosaurs and then later more and more tech solutions and then GIS but Neil and I used to work together. After a while he quit his job stop working with me. He went off to Taiwan and started a wooden surfboard company. So these days, he makes wooden surfboards. He teaches conversational English and has a fun test. Like he’s probably my hero in terms of lifestyle. He really lives every single day, you know, in a wonderful world while we’re sweating it out. Bending late hours, Neil wakes up and goes surfing every morning.
Chris Edwards (39:19)
Where’s Neil based?
Andrew Kerr (39:20)
He’s in Taiwan.
Chris Edwards (39:21)
Andrew Kerr (39:24)
He went, he went there and just got stuck and has now been there for about 15 years.
Chris Edwards (39:30)
Not a bad place to get stuck Taiwan.
Andrew Kerr (39:32)
Yeah. Oh,it’s an absolute unknown gem. I’ve taken some of my American friends there. And they look around and say, this looks like Hawaii. And no one even knows about this country. It’s an island of surfing waves for this no one surfing at all.
Chris Edwards (39:47)
Surfers Paradise. Really, Andrew, thank you so much. This has been an absolute delight, you are a very interesting and inspiring character. I’ve learned a lot more about so much from this chat. So I really want to just say thank you.
Andrew Kerr (40:03)
Cool. Thank you. Have a good rest of the day. And I’ll go jump to bed.
Chris Edwards (40:08)
Yeah, thanks for staying up. For me.
Chris Edwards (40:12)
Three things I got out of this chat with Andrew today is one how important it is to be really clear about your why and why are you doing this business. And I thought that was really wonderful that Andrews mantra is family first and such a beautiful thing to keep coming back to. Another thing I really loved was how diverse his career and I suppose trajectory has been from studying dinosaurs to counting Safari animals with tourists, and really just hone this skill of traceability. And now he’s using this for environmental reasons. And the third thing I loved about this chart was his focus on how sustainability needs to make you more money so that you don’t just discount your sustainability practices when a recession hits or when you’re having a bad month or a bad year. So you need to come up with a sustainable approach that’s not just great for the environment, but also delivers you more profit. And he gave some really great examples of how to do that. Fascinating chat with a fascinating guy. I hope you found this chat as inspiring as I did to create your own good business. Thank you for listening to Good Business.