Are you at risk from climate change? Ask Cervest

Founder Iggy Bassi raised $36.2 million to help governments and companies track physical risks from environmental change
BizAge Interview Team
Photo of the founder Iggy Bassi

Hi Iggy! What does Cervest do?

Cervest’s cloud-based climate intelligence (CI) platform provides the most comprehensive view possible of climate risk at an asset level. For the first time, enterprises, governments and financial service providers can quantify asset-level climate risk at scale, enabling them to climate-align decisions and investments. While assets are owned, climate risks on assets are shared, so everyone has a stake in protecting them. By making comparable and shareable CI universally accessible, Cervest is powering a Climate Intelligence Network that will drive behavioural change at scale and unlock a more sustainable future for our assets, including our greatest asset - the planet.

What's your biggest strength?

Climate risk is complex. So is the climate science behind understanding it. ‘Science for scientists’ is not especially useful for business and government decision makers. That’s where Cervest comes in. We reduce the barriers to understanding climate risk and using CI in everyday decisions. We do the hard work of unifying climate data and interpreting the latest peer-reviewed science to generate dynamic, decision-useful insights that help climate-align asset decisions and investments – from supply chain management to portfolio allocations to adaptation planning.

EarthScan (our flagship product) has an intuitive UI that makes it easy to extract report-ready CI insights – no climate science expertise needed. Importantly, EarthScan’s insights are dynamic. Accelerating climate events practically guarantee that information in static reports will quickly become outdated.

What made you think there was money in this?

The effects of accelerating climate events hit home for me when I ran a sustainable agribusiness in West Africa. A successive series of devastating weather events wiped out millions of dollars of crops. People dismissed these as one-off events. I was convinced the science told a different story. Could climate-related impacts on farms and facilities be anticipated – and adapted for? I sold the business and teamed up with Imperial College and the Alan Turing Institute to find answers. Together, we embarked on five years of research and product development that ultimately expanded to assess risk on all assets and led to the creation of the Cervest climate intelligence platform that customers are using today.

Today, companies need tools like Cervest to automate their internal and external risk reporting, and to support risk mitigation and adaptation planning. Climate events are accelerating, yet decision makers are unprepared for how their assets – and their finances – may be affected. A Cervest survey found that 83% percent of decision-makers said their company had already seen at least one physical asset, such as an office or warehouse, affected by extreme weather in the past five years. Yet, only half said they had factored climate change into their risk management planning.

If that’s not enough to make the economics clear, consider this. Today, physical assets worth more than $2.5 trillion are already at risk from climate change, with global economic loss expected to rise to $23 trillion by 2050, according to IDC. Then consider that more than 1,300 of the UK’s largest registered companies must publicly report their climate risk from April 2023. Companies need help complying with reporting guidelines, which are not entirely straightforward, and missed or inaccurate reporting may lead to financial penalties.

Where is the business today? 

We’ve grown exponentially since our founding in 2015. What started as a small team focused on R&D has grown to a team of over 100 impatient optimists monitoring assets linked to nearly $1 trillion of market cap on behalf of more than 50 organisations. These include manufacturing, real estate, and financial services companies, and public sector organisations. ESG and risk managers are using EarthScan to assess their asset-level climate risk, and to feed climate intelligence insights into ESG and other reporting, including supply chain risk and supplier onboarding.

Advances in EarthScan product functionality have been instrumental in driving customer momentum. We’ve added capabilities to reporting workflows for risk management and disclosure. For example, automated executive summaries help users quickly identify risk deemed 'material' in line with TCFD guidelines. We’ve also aggregated and labelled 230 million built assets, including offices, hotels and municipal buildings, and are on track to catalogue 500 million global assets by year end.

Alongside our product and commercial traction, we’ve remained steadfast in our commitment to be a mission-led business. In 2021, we achieved Certified B Corporation status, and we were recently named to The Escape 100 list of great purpose-led organisations to work for.

What is the secret to making the business work?

In a nutshell, it’s purpose, product, and people.

We are purpose-driven. Our mission is to empower everyone to adapt with climate change and build a resilient future for our planet. We have a big vision for applying advanced science and technology to climate-align decisions in response to the existential problem of our time - climate change. This starts with making it possible to put climate risk at the core of every decision. Having a common purpose isis a powerful aligning force for our team.

Our product makes it possible for our customers to do their jobs. We are helping them navigate the new world of climate risk quantification, which is probably not part of their official job description and definitely not anything they trained for. We are helping our customers become climate risk literate by turning complex science and data modelling into everyday insights that help them make more informed decisions.

We’ve invested in an exceptionally talented team of world class climate and environmental scientists, engineers, technology experts, and product marketers to deliver the world’s leading climate intelligence platform - a ‘single source of truth’ connecting enterprise activities and financial transactions to drive consensus around a common definition and measure of climate resilience. We operate as a remote-first company and promote values in objectivity, community, integrity, humility, curiosity, and beneficence.

How do you market the company?

The increasing financial impact of climate change and regulatory pressure to disclose climate-related financial risk do marketing for us. ESG and risk managers are largely finding us because they need to eliminate a pain point – fast. Once they learn how we can help them quantify their physical climate risk, they realise it can help solve other decision-making gaps in the company. Of course, we make it easier for people to find us through traditional inbound and outbound marketing and PR.

What funding do you have? Is it enough?

We closed a $30 million Series A funding round in May 2021, bringing our total funding raised to $36.2 million. We have a bold vision for transforming how businesses adapt with climate change, so naturally future funding rounds are part of our growth plans. For now, we’re focused on onboarding and delighting our customers.

Tell us about the business model

We sell directly to large enterprises, businesses, and public sector organisations. We also sell through a network of professional service partners that offer sustainability and risk management consulting. A paid subscription is needed to access full product functionality.

As a mission-aligned company, we want to make climate intelligence available to anyone. We plan to make a free version of EarthScan available, enabling individuals, SMEs, non-profits, municipalities - anyone - to see climate risk ratings on a small set of assets, such as homes, workplaces. museums, or rental properties – viewable in pre-assigned portfolios or selected by them.

What were you doing before?

I’m a serial entrepreneur driven by a passion for world-changing innovations that tackle global challenges. Before starting the previously-mentioned agribusiness in West Africa, I advised Fortune 500 companies, sovereigns, and entrepreneurs on competitiveness, sustainability, and resource security. One standout moment from this time was when my team advised the Gates Foundation on developing low-cost business models for interventions to support ‘the base of the pyramid’ – people with low income. This was in 2007, when companies were at the embryonic stages of thinking about how to move beyond profit and into shared value, so applying this thinking to the base of the pyramid was truly out-of-the box thinking. I imagined going a step further. Thinking about how these actions could be powerfully scaled led me to build and scale a sustainable agri-business that transformed the agricultural practices and yields in the region. Experiencing the physical challenges and risks to agricultural productivity stemming from extreme weather ultimately laid the foundations to build Cervest’s vision of creating climate intelligence to underpin all enterprise, financial, and policy decisions.

What is the future vision?

Cervest aims to be the single source of truth for asset-level climate risk quantification globally. We see a world where climate is at the core of every decision, enabled by standardised, asset-level climate risk ratings powered by Cervest climate intelligence. Imagine a time in the not-so-distant future when ratings-driven, asset-level climate health checks are as ubiquitous as today’s credit ratings and reports.

We believe standardised and universally accessible climate risk ratings will be a game changer, not only for transforming our understanding of asset-level climate risk, but also for incentivising adaptation measures that drive behaviour change at scale. Assets are owned, but climate risks on those assets are shared by multiple parties - so everyone 'in an asset’s network’ has a common interest in protecting it. This Climate Intelligence NetworkTM is key to unlocking a more sustainable future for our assets - from the built environment to natural capital.

We also need a shared view of the physical and natural assets that are most at risk from climate change. I may not own the asset, but it is critical for the health of my supply chain. Banks and insurance companies need to know how to apply climate risk to financial transactions. These things are only possible if we have a unified standard of quantification that all parties can access. That's what Cervest is building.

Written by
BizAge Interview Team
June 15, 2022
Written by
June 15, 2022