Award recognizes winners for exemplifying the fundamental connection between sustainability, innovation and long-term business success in a globalizing world.
CEF presented the 2022 C.K. Prahalad Award to two co-winners, Shopify Sustainability Fund and Stripe Climate, recognizing their groundbreaking efforts to catalyze a market for carbon removal solutions. The awards were announced in connection with the 2022 CEF Annual Leadership Retreat, attended by senior executives representing CEF member companies with combined revenues of $4 trillion.
Shopify, a leading provider of essential internet infrastructure for commerce and one of the largest corporate buyers of long-term carbon removal, launched its Sustainability Fund in September 2019. The goal of the Fund is to assist companies that are proving, scaling, and commercializing climate technologies for massive impact in the long term. CEF’s founder, MR Rangaswami, praised this strategy: “The decision to purchase carbon removal at prices well above the minimum available price as a way to kickstart the demand and spur innovation showed real foresight and courage. Shopify is truly doubling down on long-term carbon removal and the forward-thinking entrepreneurs behind it.”
The goal is to accelerate the timeline to a low-cost carbon removal market, and they are well underway. As of March 2022, Shopify has committed 32 million dollars through its Fund to carbon removal purchases from 22 entrepreneurial, tech-driven companies. Upon signing, Shopify was the largest purchaser for 17 of them, and the very first purchaser for nine. Several have gone on to raise tens of millions of dollars of capital — and grown their carbon removal capacity and customer bases exponentially — on the basis of that crucial early support.
During the same timeframe, global payments leader Stripe started blazing its own trail to help drive carbon removal solutions. In August 2019, Stripe announced its Negative Emissions Commitment, pledging at least one million dollars per year to pay, at any price, for the direct removal and permanent storage of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Stripe’s thesis was that early customers could help accelerate new technologies to market. By being early adopters of promising new carbon removal solutions that are small-scale and very expensive, Stripe could enable these technologies to scale more rapidly. Stripe worked with scientific experts to select carbon removal companies that store carbon permanently, don’t take up significant arable land, and have a path to being affordable at scale.
After the initial pledge, Stripe launched Stripe Climate – allowing any business on Stripe’s platform to direct a percentage of their revenue towards scaling carbon removal technologies. This program quickly became the world’s largest coalition of carbon removal buyers and today has more than 15,000 active users. At the end of 2021, Stripe had deployed $15 million in carbon removal purchases into 14 different companies, and was the first customer for 11 of them.
CEF Chair P.J. Simmons underscored the importance of these developments, pointing to the 2022 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “To reach our net zero climate goals, the IPCC says reducing emissions is not enough — we need to focus on removing existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere with technologies that are science-based, verifiable, and scalable. Both Prahalad Award winners are accelerating momentum to do that, in ways that will help future-proof their businesses.”
Though Shopify and Stripe entered their carbon removal journeys separately, they quickly came to the same conclusion: that collective action would be more impactful than working alone. In April of this year they co-founded Frontier, alongside Alphabet, Meta and McKinsey Sustainability, incorporating everything they’d learned since placing their first bets on carbon removal in 2019. Frontier is an advance market commitment to put nearly a billion dollars on the table to buy carbon removal between now and 2030. The goal is to send researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors a strong demand signal that there is a future market for carbon removal.