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Female-led team is building the first science-based GHG calculator in Bulgarian

GHG Emissions
Image credit: Osnova, the co-founders of the project Bozhana Zagorcheva (left) and Simona Stiliyanova (right)
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ClimAccelerator Black Sea, the accelerator program for eco-innovation startups from Bulgaria and Romania, will finance 11 Bulgarian companies that are fighting climate change. The program is organized by Impact Hub Bucharest, leading partner,  Innovation Starter Accelerator, and Climate Vertical, and is financed by EIT Climate-KIC of the European Union.

Three startups in their “initial stage” will receive a grant of €20K, while eight teams, whose sustainable solution ideas were approved by the jury of the accelerator, will get €5K funding to further develop their ventures.

The Recursive team met with the founders of one of the winning projects – Osnova – Bozhana Zagorcheva and Simona Stiliyanova. The team develops the first science-based greenhouse gases (GHGs) Calculator in Bulgarian. 

 

Bozhana Zagorcheva has a rich background in project management in the financial sector and IT industry,  working for Bulgarian cybersecurity startup LogSentinel, and banks, such as Raiffeisen and TBI Bulgaria. Zagorcheva has stood out as a sustainable development activist. She was part of the Bulgarian Institute Circular Economy and Move.bg, a mentor in the European Social Innovation Competition for challenging plastic waste, and part of the Ashoka Climate Innovators network for CET.

GHG emissions
©Bozhana Zagorcheva
GHG emissions
©Simona Stiliyanova

 

Simona Stiliyanova has specialized in corporate communication, with a track record in multinational companies, such as NN Group, Mobiltel, and Telus International Europe. She is an environmental activist, author of the blog Zero Waste Sofia. With a specialization in Sustainable development from the University of Colorado, Stiliyanova continued developing in the field to later become one of the semi-finalists in the European Social Innovation Competition for challenging plastic waste.

In 2019, the two founders started as mentor and mentee. Less than two years later, Osnova serves as an advisor for Bulgarian business owners, teaching them how to make their companies more sustainable.

And now they are in the making of their platform, which will enable companies to calculate Scopes 1 and 2 of GHG emissions by themselves for free and connect them to specialists for computing their Scope 3 emissions. 

About GHG Scopes: According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Scope 1 emissions are the greenhouse emissions emitted from sources that are managed or owned by an organization (examples include emissions coming from fuel combustion in boilers, furnaces, vehicles). Scope 2 emissions are the indirect GHG emissions arising from the purchase of electricity, steam, heat, or cooling. Scope 3 emissions, known as value chain emissions, account for the majority of an organization’s total GHG emissions. They include transportation and distribution emissions, end-of-life treatment gases, and others.

Overview of GHG Protocol scopes and emissions across the value chain, Source: EPA

The Recursive: Tell us more about Osnova – how has it been going so far and how do you plan to further develop the project?

Simona Stiliyanova and Bozhana Zagorcheva: Osnova is a Sofia-based startup – advisor for sustainable business. We help our clients to measure their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, set relevant science-based goals, and work with them towards their accomplishments. Through strong communication support and storytelling, we also enable companies to engage stakeholders in achieving a real sustainable change.

For a year of operations, we have managed to support different companies in the FMCG, e-commerce, entertainment, and telecom sectors, to optimize different aspects of their business and communicate effectively. 

What important problem does Osnova solve?

A few weeks ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced that if we keep our current rate of production, consumption, and generation of GHG emissions, we will have about 5,5 years left before we irreversibly go over the 1.5 degrees barrier. We, all of us as humanity, need to take urgent action. 

The SME sector forms around 60% of the local GDP. Unfortunately, many SMEs in Bulgaria do not know what their impact on the environment is, do not know where to start, or have a limited budget to do it. Even if they decide to take a step forward and try to calculate the carbon footprint of their business, it is quite challenging to find the right tool or service. Dozens of platforms and calculators could be found on the web – some of them are free of charge but focused on individuals, others – do not have valid sources of information, third need days of preparation just to get to know them. None of the platforms is in Bulgarian, most of the other Balkan countries are in the same situation. 

All of the above triggered us to take action and create the first science-based user-friendly and cross-sectoral GHG calculator in Bulgarian. 

How is your platform going to function?

The platform we are planning to build will help the companies measure their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, set relevant science-based goals, and work with them towards their accomplishment. It will enable companies to calculate Scopes 1 and 2 of GHG emissions by themselves for free. During the second stage, we plan to include Scope 3 as a premium feature, because of its complexity and specifics. We are planning to use the international GHG protocol database and validate the final methodology with climate scientists to be accurate. Our main goal is to make the tool relevant, science-based, and easy to use. After successful completion of the measurement phase, we will offer companies validation from our experts and consultation support for improvements.

“According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), if we keep our current rate of production, consumption, and generation of GHG emissions, we will have about 5,5 years left before we irreversibly go over the 1.5 degrees barrier.”

What is your business model? 

We have split the functionalities to provide the most common calculations for Scope 1 and 2 free of charge. For more complex calculations, we will have Scope 3 available in the tool and the option for the calculations to be validated by а climate scientist. Those services will have a fixed fee. 

At what stage is your project currently and what is next? 

We are still in the very initial phase of the project. Next on the agenda is to gather specific feedback from SMEs and start building the business requirements for the tool. We are in the process of gathering the best data sources with the reliable information which will be the backbone of the calculations. All of this will be validated by a climate scientist. The ClimAccelerator Black Sea will allow us to put the stepping stone of the tool, after that, we will need to go into the technical part and the execution. 

How will you utilize the grant you received from the accelerator? What other types of support will you need to fulfill the project?

We are extremely grateful for the provided opportunity by Innovation Starter Box and the jury at the end of the bootcamp. We received a €5K pre-seed grant, which will allow us to dedicate resources in the process of validating the idea, to start gathering the feedback and data required for the tool. However, to turn the logically structured data into a fully functional and easy-to-use tool, we will need additional funding on the technical side. We are happy to be in a region where the IT sector is well developed, we are sure that we will find the right person to develop a user-friendly tool and the right type of funding to help us develop it in the best way possible without compromises.

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Viktoria is an Innovation Reporter at The Recursive and a sophomore-standing student at the American University in Bulgaria. Combining her Business Administration studies while mapping the Southeastern European startup ecosystem is a positive-sum game for her as she has the chance to interact with the most active entrepreneurs in the region. Her favorite topics include venture capital structures, investments, as well as innovations in the scitech and fintech sectors.