What a time it has been over the past few months! We’ve already grown to an incredible team of 10 and I’ve never seen such commitment to a shared vision.
Call us crazy, but we truly believe accountants will save the world (or at the very least, play a significant part). And we’re backing them to do that in everything we build.
Have you ever just wanted to walk through the supermarket or your favourite department store and know what brand has the lowest carbon impact, not just a carbon neutral tick, but the actual numbers? Do you want to know who has invested in decarbonisation and who has sat on their hands? Businesses are starting to want the same thing, so they can be making informed decisions around who they buy from and what they invest in.
But the truth is, none of us can do that at the moment. And that’s largely because very few businesses are accounting for their impact properly.
Sumday is bringing the same rigor, transparency and accuracy to non-financial accounting as we expect from traditional accounting, Michael Tolo from Blackbird said it well:
“In order to accelerate climate investment over the coming decades, we need a better approach to understand how, and precisely to what degree, these investments will reduce our emissions. We need the same rigour in carbon accounting as we demand across financial accounting as table stakes. Sumday is building the tools to make this accessible for every business”
We’re entering a world where we need every business accounting for the things that matter, beyond dollars and cents. Sumday is here to make it happen.
How it started
This time two years ago, I left a senior management role in mining and resigned from government boards to start an accounting and consulting firm. The funny thing about that was, I’m terrible at maths, can barely use excel and I’d spent the previous years as a lawyer, scoffing at the thought of numbers in my day to day life.
Fortunately, I’d met my co-founder Lindsay in a previous mining role. I was in my managers office when his interview had finished, the head of the analysts came in to explain “we must hire him immediately, he is exceptional.” We barely spoke for two years after that, working in different teams and rolling our eyes at each others approach to life in general (we still do that, daily).
Then the renewable hydrogen funds started to be released for major projects, I flicked it to him and from there we worked on an application together. He was building financial models at 2am on weekends because he whole heartedly believed this was the work that needed to be done. I’d never met anyone more values driven in my life and as it turns out, I came to realise, accountants are actually pretty useful.
Fast forward six months and we were both working full time in our own company. We hired our first two employees, Toby and Kyle before we really needed another senior accountant. Entering via the back stairs of a highly questionable office in Burnie, Tasmania came Danny. He could understand the accounting world better than both of us after 17 years in the industry and he could actually write (which I have to say, is pretty rare for accountants), we offered him the job the same day.
Importantly, he was also an accounting software fan boy - often bragging about the one time he met Rod Drury at Xerocon (as the story goes they almost high fived). It’s probably no surprise he was the wise voice that suggested we would have far greater impact on the world if we stopped accounting ourselves and started delivering the products and education every firm needed to make a difference. Danny became a co-founder of Sumday from the start.
How can this possibly be the way it’s done?
We’d always set out to be a sustainability accounting firm. We wanted to provide advice to businesses through both a financial and carbon lens - what projects should be prioritised, who should they buy from to lower their impact, what would be the financial and carbon return?
When we landed our first carbon accounting client the task was to set the baseline, where are they at and where are we going. We jumped on demos with different companies- we were accountants looking for a platform to help us deliver the service.
At the end of nearly every call we asked how we would know the methodology that had been used to calculate the carbon impact and the uncertainty associated with it - the answer was always something like, that’s our IP. That obviously didn’t fly with accountants who could not possibly imagine telling clients we didn’t know how the numbers had been calculated.
As we pressed some more, we became obsessed with understanding what was actually going on. We read through nearly every page of the global carbon accounting standards, we’d skimmed through the sustainability reports of the largest companies in the world and the penny dropped.
Businesses were measuring their carbon impact, but the whole world was seemingly doing that based on how much they spent with suppliers, multiplied by an academic industry average from many years ago, to get an equivalent amount of carbon.
Nearly every platform was pulling from similar datasets, and they were often outdated.
We realised, the data we all need simply does not exist. Why?
Because businesses weren't carbon accounting properly. Why?
Because it’s kind of new and 90% are SMEs who don’t have the time or internal resources to do it. These SMEs also make up the majority of a large business’s supply chain, so the large businesses just have to use an industry average to estimate their impact.
How could that possibly go on…
Obviously it’s basically impossible to make decisions through a carbon lens if we have no idea of the actual emissions associated with a business. And if we can’t do that, the market mechanisms that accelerate decarbonisation don’t work as effectively as they need to. Most of us understand that we need an unbelievable level of transformation to reduce the impacts of climate change, and we need it fast.
But there’s another problem brewing. Large organisations have to do something, and they will. They will bring in procurement policies that require SMEs in the supply chain to lower their impact or there will no doubt be consequences, including loss of contracts. This will be with good intentions, but there will be losers and it won’t be because they didn’t want to reduce their impact, it will be an education and resourcing gap that we’ll struggle to fill as net zero targets fall due.
While I’ve always worked for large organisations, I come from a very small town in rural Tasmania, surrounded by farmers and small business owners. They’re being asked by customers to start providing some sustainability data, nowhere near a full carbon accounting assessment, and they are struggling to do this. They’re running farms, hospitality venues and selling agricultural supplies - nobody is available to start carbon accounting to an auditable standard off the side of their desk and another quick average based calculation is not the answer.
Most are willing to account for their impact, if they could just get to the start line with the right support.
Accountants make this accessible
We absolutely need to walk through the supermarket and trust the carbon impact printed on the milk bottle. We need to trust that when an airline shares its carbon impact, it reflects the same methodology used by a competitor, so we can choose based on who has invested in decarbonisation technology. We must know that when we select a super fund that is investing in ‘green’ companies, we know it’s true because we trust the data they have.
All of that is close to impossible unless every business is following carbon accounting standards, so we start getting actual data rather than industry averages.
Getting support for a carbon emission assessment needs to be as normal as getting help with a tax return - then we enter a world where a once impossible compliance burden becomes…pretty normal.
Where are we going
Sumday is on a mission to make non-financial accounting transparent, accurate and accessible. We will be crowd-sourcing one of the most accurate databases in the world, educating accountants and businesses every step of the way. I can’t wait for the day a large enterprise company starts accounting with Sumday and 90% of their supply chain are also sumday users, providing actual data. There’s so much more on the roadmap and we’re running towards those milestones as fast as possible.
We’re excited to grow the team as we support accountants and businesses here in Australia, in the US and UK this year. And in the background, we’re working hard to bring the same clarity and rigor to other non-financial accounting frameworks when the time is right.
A huge thank you to our early team members who have taken a leap of faith to join us on this mission - Toby, Andrew, Anubhav, Ayush, Nick, Clint, and Stu. And a huge thanks to the team at ER (our accounting firm) who worked hard to provide carbon accounting services as a brand new offering, well before Sumday existed.
A particular thank you to Simon who came on board as our very first developer. We hijacked his career break to Tasmania, presenting him with 100 poorly designed product slides and a vision for a platform our growing accounting firm would use. Turns out he built the foundations for a little more than that!
To all of our incredible investors - thank you for supporting us from the very beginning.
We couldn’t have better people on board if we tried…now let’s get on with it!