Technology for Sustainability: Launching EcoCheck with Thrust Carbon

May 25, 2022

Editor’s note: This guest post is from Mark Corbett, founder and director at Thrust Carbon, Deem’s partner in creating our sustainability technology feature in Etta called EcoCheck. At Deem, we’re answering the question, “what does sustainability mean in technology?” by offering contextual data and scores to help business travelers understand how each part of their trip impacts the environment. Our goal is to influence travelers to make effortless decisions that lessen their carbon emissions from travel.

Huddled over coffee and notepads on a low-cost flight from London to Frankfurt in mid-2019, Kit Brennan and I were intensely discussing a perplexing problem: Why do fewer than 1% of flyers offset their travel?

If you can do it for as little as $1 for many short haul flights, what is stopping people? Especially when the world is clearly facing an overwhelming crisis in climate change and humanity is finally coming to terms with this crisis.

After collaborating with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) innovation team, Kit and I re-emerged with the beginnings of a business plan that would have the potential to transform travel. And as the founders of newly created Thrust Carbon, we were ready to put it into action.

Sustainability in technology

Early on, we were confronted by the reality of our desire to improve the offsetting purchasing process and its adoption across travel: It exploded into a cacophony of inaccessible data, challenging science, and questions asking how we could mobilize an entire industry to reduce emissions and tackle the climate crisis head on. 

Then the realization hit us: Without good data, travelers couldn’t make good decisions in the first place. After all, you wouldn’t book flights without knowing their fares. We quickly realized that responsible travel hinges on properly understanding the environmental cost just as we do the financial. 

But at the same time, we wanted to engage and work with the travel industry, not against it. Total de-carbonisation for aircraft is still some years (or decades) away, and in the meantime people will still need to travel. As our team grew, bringing in Glenn Thorsen to lead partnerships, the concept of lowest logical emissions was conceived. And Deem and Thrust Carbon are now making this technology for sustainability a reality.

Advances in sustainability technology

After just three years, despite challenges from the pandemic, Thrust Carbon’s data is permeating the business travel industry and enabling clients to ensure best-in-class data across their tools. Our launch inside Etta is one of our most groundbreaking developments to date.

“Deem was a very early supporter of both our vision and our quest to improve sustainability data for the whole industry,” says Kit. “We are incredibly excited for launch day and to share our emissions data with all Etta travelers. With better measurement, we can better manage our emissions and ultimately drive towards net-zero [emissions]. 

“We cannot move quickly enough to fight the climate crisis. Deem’s entire team has a forward-thinking attitude, and its speed of implementation has been an inspiration to us as we continue to evolve our solutions. Together, we really can ensure our actions don’t have to cost the earth.”

How can we make travel more sustainable?

As we’ve said, it’s vital to provide travelers with the data they need to make more informed choices during necessary business trips. Travelers using the Etta platform will see information at each step of their booking process and be able to click deeper if they want more detail.

For example, as shown in the image below, travelers will see the EcoCheck leaf icon in flight search results pages highlighting the average carbon emissions for each flight. Clicking deeper into a flight result brings up additional information, including a way to understand what the carbon emissions mean for the environment. There are also brief explanations of why the flight has higher or lower emissions and how Thrust Carbon estimates these results.

Left-side image: Flight search results page showing leaf icon and higher-lower-average carbon emissions. Right-side image: Flight details screen showing more exact amount of CO2 emissions, what is typical for this route, and the percentage higher-lower. Contextual info is also shown as the amount of emissions equal to the carbon captured by the equivalent number of tree seedlings.
Left-side image: Flight search results page showing leaf icon and higher-lower-average carbon emissions. Right-side image: Flight details screen showing more exact amount of CO2 emissions, what is typical for this route, and the percentage higher-lower. Contextual info is also shown as the amount of emissions equal to the carbon captured by the equivalent number of tree seedlings.

Hotel searches also provide sustainability data. Hotel search pages show an indication of a hotel’s status as more or less sustainable and if it has an independently verified sustainability certification, as in the left side screen in the image below. The center screen shows a hotel details page with a sustainability score for the property—the higher, the better! (Also, notice Deem’s award-winning Travel SafetyCheck feature just below EcoCheck. If you’ve used that feature, you know how easy it is to get the details you need right in the travel booking process.) And then in the right-hand side of the image below, more information is available with one more click about eco certifications for the property and how the scoring is determined.

Left-side screen: Hotel search pages show an indication of a hotel’s status as more or less sustainable and if it has an independently verified sustainability certification; Center screen: hotel details page with a sustainability score for the property; Right-side screen: Eco certifications for the property and how the scoring is determined.
Left-side screen: Hotel search pages show an indication of a hotel’s status as more or less sustainable and if it has an independently verified sustainability certification; Center screen: hotel details page with a sustainability score for the property; Right-side screen: Eco certifications for the property and how the scoring is determined.

We also offer estimated carbon emissions data for car rentals, based on car class and a plethora of other data points. As shown in the image below, with just a few clicks, travelers are able to find a bit more detailed information on the selected vehicle and contextual information on the amount of carbon emissions released, so travelers can get a clear understanding of how the carbon emissions from their car rental will impact the environment.

More detailed information on the selected vehicle and contextual information on the amount of carbon emissions released.
More detailed information on the selected vehicle and contextual information on the amount of carbon emissions released.

As I am sure many of you reading this can relate, 2019 feels like a century ago. Sometimes looking back, the whole (growing!) Thrust Carbon team has to pinch themselves. They are driving transformational change in an industry that was crippled by Covid-19 and is still in the midst of rebounding. 

Winning an IATA hackathon in Frankfurt 2019, where we built our very first prototype, was the first step in a very long journey. Deem launching EcoCheck in Etta which shows carbon emissions at point of search, is similarly the first incredible step in what will be a long but rewarding battle in tackling the climate crisis. We’re doing that hand-in-hand with Deem and each and every one of you.

Check out our short product page to find out more about Etta with EcoCheck.

Author

Mark Corbett
Founder and Director, Thrust Carbon

With over a decade of tech, innovation, and startup experience, Mark is a Founder and Director of Thrust Carbon. His team is on a mission to help companies be #effortlesslygreen. With clients including S&P Global, Novartis, and travel management companies around the globe, Thrust Carbon’s reporting, reduction, and removal SaaS tools and APIs are powering the future of responsible travel.

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