Howard Gunstock is the Co-founder, Managing director, and Chief Kelper at Carbon Kapture. Using experience from his previous working life in learning and development as well as HR, he embarked on a mission to reframe global thinking around removing carbon and CO2 pollution from the atmosphere. Howard is using Execview to help Carbon Kapture complete its mission. He took the time to discuss his ambitions for the organisation and the role project management will play in environmentalism.
Howard, who are Carbon Kapture and what is it that you do?
Carbon Kapture is a team of business problem solvers looking at how we can practically reverse climate change. By taking some of the brilliant ideas in academia and industries like fishing and agriculture, we hope to deal with the challenge of carbon offsetting and accounting. This manifests as growing seaweed at a scale that reverses climate change and turns a low-value seaweed market into a higher value commercial market.
Why are you dedicating yourself to environmentalism?
In 2019, I was a learning and development consultant for a large mobile phone company in the UK. Around that time, Greta Thunberg was speaking at the World Economic Forum about climate change. I found myself in a reflective moment… I thought she was angry with people like me. All of us middle-aged men from a complacent generation. We had a great life running our businesses and did not put the Earth or the climate first.
The concept itself came from a couple of moments of clarity. I was watching a film on climate change (The Race is On: Secrets and Solutions of Climate), and in it, they were speaking about carbon footprints and carbon impacts. It triggered my personal, green-related guilt. I said to myself, I would pay any money to reverse my own personal carbon emissions. At the end of the film, the director discussed trees being a natural way to extract carbon. Then this guy behind me said that seaweed grows and absorbs CO2 30x faster than trees do. I went to chat with him because the idea sounded interesting. He told me about absorption and this idea that he had about offshore seaweed farming. And my head tells me there is a market for that. What it was yet, I did not know. So, this guy who turned out to be called Dave (Dave Walker-Nix is the Chief Technology Kelper and co-founder at Carbon Kapture) and he and I became business partners. I was a reluctant pioneer in the market. But I thought that the world needed to hear about this, in a way that benefits everyone. I felt I had the right ideas and experience to influence hearts and minds. So, I thought, let me see what I can do, I will see what I can shift.
What is your aim for Carbon Kapture?
The overall aim is to get people to reframe their understanding of climate change by providing practical ways to engage with the topic. We came up with an early proof of concept. The first thinking was, am I the only person prepared to pay a higher price for the regenerative power of nature? Our planet is 70% water. In the 30% of the Earth that is land, we have 8 billion people, 8 billion cattle, hundreds of thousands of cities, and millions of miles of infrastructure. Between that and our deserts, we somehow think we can plant the trees needed to capture enough CO2 produced for the best part of 150 years. If we took a landmass the size of America, 1.87% of our total planet volume, and then planted trees in every available landmass, (about 1.7 trillion trees) we would only be able to remove 10% of the CO2 that we put into our planet this year alone. That is how ineffective trees are. But, if we were able to take a similar landmass and make that a seaweed farm in the water, we will be able to remove all the CO2 from the 20th century.
How do people get involved with Carbon Kapture?
We have what I call a ‘kelper’ network, which is a collective. You can simply show your support by putting ‘Associate Kelper’ on your LinkedIn profile because that will make someone in your network ask a question and look for the answer. More powerfully, if people want to help us grow our farms, currently you can provide financial support. If you are looking at it from a business perspective and want to offset some of your carbon footprint, you can do it voluntarily. We need companies that are right up front and understand that this is important. We have got our first 10 hectares of farms sponsored, and that sponsorship provides between 10 and 15 tonnes of sequestered CO2 per hectare per year for the lifetime of our farm. So, £50,000 for the lifetime of the ropes on the farms. Plus, we give you copyrighted content on the ecological difference you are making on our planet. We help educate your customers with insights, information and infographics to use on your social media. You can easily join the fight.
Why has no-one done this yet?
There are two possible reasons, in my view. Firstly, the language that academics use, misaligns with the language the public use. Both misalign with the language used by business.
The second reason is that you must be able to commercialise the resource. I am probably not the only person who has had an idea around this sort of thing, but commercialising the solution is something else. My team have realised we must communicate to our audience effectively so they buy into what we are trying to do. So, we said we’ve got an idea. We are going to build up our network of people who believe in what we’re doing, identify more experts in the field, and then onboard people who provide us with that infrastructure. Then we can build a solution.
What is the most effective small change people can make to reduce their own carbon footprint?
Eat less red meat. Eat fewer avocados. Walk to the shops. Plan your day beyond “I’m going to take the car because it’s convenient”. Don’t fly. If you can go somewhere by train, go by train. Use the Ecosier search engine that plants trees. It has an impact. Small changes matter. Very soon, those changes are not going to be in our control.
What do you find are the biggest challenges when you manage your projects?
Finding intuitive project management tools that lend themselves to every skillset of education is tough. We suffer from the same problems as everyone else, delays and execution. Understanding what that means chronologically to our timelines becomes difficult. I build my feedback model at the project start. If you are not organised enough and something goes wrong at the front end, you eat beyond your budget at the back end. The project underdelivers and overspends. When you’re working with investors, you cannot afford to let them down. I recognise and am encouraged by the benefits of project management software, specifically project portfolio management software. To manage projects well, clarity is key and organisation is paramount. To have an agile project plan in a clear project planning template, with the organisational charts on top – we have that clarity and it could save us a load of time and effort.
Do you think the project management industry has a role to play in environmentalism?
Massively, if project managers can identify risk, demonstrate a detailed timeline, and work in an effective, collaborative environment, it creates a clear perspective for people. A good project management tool used by project managers will mean you are no longer able to kick the can down the road. Project managers intensify action through resource.
Find out more at www.carbonkapture.org
by Will Davis