Vaayu, a real-time carbon footprint tracker for retailers, has raised $1.6 million in pre-seed funding. The company plans to use the investment, which was led by Amsterdam-based female-led VC CapitalT, to support their expansion and product development ahead of moving out of their closed beta phase later this year. Further, the funding was supported by a number of angel investors including Atomico’s Angel Program, Planet Positive LP, Saarbrücker 21, Expedite Ventures and NP-Hard Ventures.
The fashion industry is, globally, responsible for around 10% of annual carbon emissions. Vaayu’s product empowers retailers to act to reduce their contribution by providing real-time feedback. Modern trends, in both fashion and retail, mean that e-commerce has been having an increasing impact on the environment. This has grown during the pandemic, after an initial dip, with a big increase in things like shipping and packaging. Ecommerce also has several features that are significantly less common in traditional retail, such as returns and multiple orders for sizing. Collectively these add significantly to a retailer’s environmental impact.
First-ever carbon tracking software for retailers
Vaayu was born out of co-founder Namrata Sandhu’s experience in fashion and sustainability. Starting as a sustainability consultant, she spent many years working in the Arcadia Group before becoming head of sustainability at Zalando. She started Vaayu, along with co-founders Anita Daminov and Luca Schmid in December 2020 and rapidly progressed the idea to a closed beta with 25 European retailers, including global brands like Missoma and Organic Basics.
The business is also notably female-led. Not only are two of the three co-founders women, but they have taken their time to ensure that the company retains its gender diversity. The backing by female-led CapitalT was important, since Sandhu felt it meant they understood Vaayu’s wider goals and ambitions. It now means that over 60% of the people around Vaayu’s top table are women.
Calculating a retailer’s carbon footprint had, previously, been a laborious and expensive process. Sandhu had been responsible for these, although many other retailers resorted to hiring external consultants for an annual process. “Traditionally, we’d pull things in and be calculating everything on Excel spreadsheets,” Sandhu explained to us. “But e-commerce is a fast-moving space, your business footprint changes quickly, and the big markets you had last year may not be the biggest markets you have this year.” The consequence was that businesses would have a carbon accounting statement that was already out of date when it was produced.
Vaayu changes the calculation, using live data to provide immediate feedback. By integrating with point-of-sale systems, like Shopify or WooCommerce, it can understand the current business volumes and, using known information on logistics and operations — right down to the packaging required — give a current indication of the retailer’s carbon footprint. Live information has significant benefits, retailers can immediately see the consequences of their actions, but can also see what impact purchasing trends are having and, if necessary, work to minimise their environmental impact.
The product focuses on fashion retail. So, while there are competitors who work in the carbon audit field, Vaayu only works in the fashion retail industry. “It means you’re much more able to benchmark different from a data perspective,” Sandhu says. “It makes the process of optimisation much more specific because it’s all focused on a specific business model.”
Expansion plans in EU and UK
Having had a successfully closed beta phase, Berlin-based Vaayu will be using their pre-seed funding to plan for the next phases of their expansion. Currently focussed on Europe and later the UK, they are expanding their team and preparing for their public launch before seeking additional funding. Vaayu have deliberately worked with customers from the outset, ensuring they can build a model that offers more than just a theoretical assessment of carbon footprint. Their beta phase has focused on ensuring the integration provides actionable data for their businesses. Sandhu stresses that working in partnership with businesses is integral to their product, “we didn’t just go away into a silo and build an app. We really pulled in customers from the start, and built it with them because we wanted to make sure it helped them.”
Vaayu is working with Missoma which is one of the UK’s fastest-growing private companies, Marisa Hordern, CEO and Creative Director, Missoma says, “Partnering with Vaayu as part of our sustainability journey was paramount to our own internal mission. With extensive backgrounds in retail, they truly understand our needs while allowing us to digitalise our data in real-time and push the boundaries of what we could be, even further.”
The UN has set a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 50% by 2030, less than nine years away. Retailers are the third-largest contributor to global emissions, and Vaayu plans to play a big role in helping them reduce that. Their goal is to help retailers reduce their emissions by one gigaton — more than the combined annual emissions of France and Germany — meaning that for Vaayu success not just a growing business, but a better world for everyone.
Janneke Niessen, founding partner, CapitalT commented: “We are very excited to join Vaayu on their mission to reduce carbon emission for retailers worldwide. The Vaayu product is very scalable and its quick and easy implementation allows for fast adoption. We are confident that with this experienced team, Vaayu will soon be one of the fastest-growing climate tech companies in Europe and the world.”