Driving Change: Q&A with Liam Salter, CEO, RESET Carbon

Supporting leading businesses to adopt carbon reduction practices demands expertise, collaboration and vision. Having been an environmental professional his whole career, with notable achievements such as co-leading the design and establishment of the Gold Standard Foundation, which is now a leading certification system for project level carbon offsets, we sat down with Liam Salter, our Founder and CEO, to ask a few questions. 

Liam shares his view of RESET Carbon’s journey so far, along with his most rewarding moments in the business and his ambitions for the future.

Can you specify the one moment or thought that inspired you to establish RESET Carbon?

In my previous role, I worked for the WWF (World Wildlife Fund). One of their programs, Climate Savers, helped companies to achieve key carbon reduction targets. After successfully rolling the program out in the West, we wanted to bring it to Asia. However, we couldn’t find a technical partner to support it. I realized that without the right type of support, it would be very difficult to make a real difference in driving markets through leading corporate practice in East Asian industries. That was what first prompted my thinking around RESET Carbon.

How has the journey been for you personally, from the beginning up until now?

We were in the market very early, starting out with just a small team. Things have changed a lot, particularly in the last three years, but the market in Asia is still relatively immature. While we’re proud of how we’ve grown, we’re aware that there is still a great deal to be done. Climate change means that we all need to urgently commit and implement radical reductions and doing that is something businesses have to take action on now. Every company has to ensure that their leadership team understands the urgency of the climate problem. Because, right now, a lot of leaders don’t. They need to be aware of two key numbers: the need for peak carbon emissions by 2025 and 50% reductions by 2030. Implementing this level of ambition is a really big mindset change for company leadership teams, and the speed at which the work needs to be done to achieve those targets is far greater than most realise.

What does helping to protect the environment mean to you personally?

I’ve been an environmental professional my whole career. For me, it’s about being able to look back at my life, understand where I made a difference and believe it was significant. I want to be able to show my kids that I did my best on issues they are highly aware about. It’s not good enough to just work in the environmental space, we have to make sure our work is ambitious enough. What we’re trying to do is to work in a way which means we’re confident that if RESET Carbon didn’t exist, change would happen more slowly. I believe that is the case so far. 

Tell us about your team and how you work together to achieve your goals.

As we grow as a consultancy, my job is to build and maintain a leadership group that has the confidence to iterate our vision and inspires us all to continue to develop our goals. As we grow, a broader group of people will be responsible for setting this vision and I’m confident that we have a team of deeply committed and astute individuals that can achieve this.

Our focus is always on how we’re going to drive the change we want to see in the sectors that we understand. One of our key differentiators as a solutions provider is our integrated services approach which combines our strategy and data concepts with very practical on-the-ground engineering perspective. A lot of business strategists don’t sufficiently understand the realities of say Asian manufacturing supply chains or real estate businesses. And if we want to cut emissions quickly, we need to. 

Members of our Taiwan Team

Our wide range of skill sets makes our solutions more effective. To maximise the impact of this we have to be collegial internally. We’ve noticed a lot of consulting businesses can become highly siloed which impedes their ability to learn. As a result, sharing valuable insights at all levels is crucial.

Members of our Hong Kong Team

Can you briefly specify some of your most rewarding moments in the journey so far?

A key moment for us was winning a global tender with Walmart in 2009 when we still had a tiny team. Even today, it’s still extremely unusual for an Asian-based environmental firm to win global tenders. This was one of those moments that really validated our belief in ourselves.

Another important step was developing the Carbon Leadership Program (CLP) with the Apparel Impact Institute. It’s the first time we have built a truly collaborative platform with large scale corporate buy-in and collaboration is essential to speed up the actions around carbon reduction. We simply don’t have time for each firm to go it alone. I really believe we are starting to demonstrate the value of that to those participating in our CLP – it is arguably the most effective piece of work we have done to date. A key outcome is that we have started to standardise methodologies and present suppliers with a cohesive and consistent set of standards to adhere to.

Finally, co-creating with BayWa r.e. our sister company, act renewable, an independent advisory firm focused purely on bringing our business model into the renewables space. We could see that the renewables sector was going to get too complex for us to handle purely in-house, and we are very excited with the work that act is doing.

What are your ambitions for the future of RESET Carbon?

Our goal is to find and answer the questions required to drive deep carbon reductions at scale. For example how are we going to monitor and report emissions from entire supply chains on an annual basis by 2025? How do we eliminate coal from a manufacturing supply chain in 8 years? How do we push solar rooftops across customer building portfolios in 3-4 years? How do we build a standardised approach to measuring and certifying carbon content of building materials in Asia? How are we going to scale circular economy thinking into current manufacturing models? All of our teams are working on questions like these and we need to unpick them in time.

As service providers, we must be advocates for our customers, remaining accountable at all times for the rate and scale of change that our advice drives. It is our responsibility to support and encourage industry to act in a way that can actually solve the climate problem, not just in a way that looks good from a distance.  

Next Steps?

If you would like to start driving change within your business that has a real impact on your carbon footprint, please contact our team and we can kickstart your journey to a greener organisation today.