Latvia-based sustainability app Kora has a deceptively simple premise: what if people could receive immediate monetary rewards for reducing their carbon emissions? By incentivising users to make greener daily decisions, the app removes one of the biggest barriers to leading a more environment-friendly life: where to start with a problem so large that it risks the entire planet?
When it comes to climate change, the urgency and gravity of the situation is debilitating for most. Gilad Regev, the founder of the Kora mobile app, knows this. “People don’t know what to do, because you can’t change what you can’t measure,” he says. He co-founded Kora to help individuals judge the impact of their daily choices. Walking rather than driving, buying local produce rather than shopping in supermarkets, or offsetting flight emissions are some of the carbon-reducing actions that Kora aims to monitor. Users receive one unit of in-app currency — also known as a kora — for each kilogram of carbon saved. Koras can then be converted into real-life discounts on specific products offered in the app’s online marketplace by the likes KeepCup, Ocean Bottle or Nike.
Regev believes that actively tying economic growth to carbon reduction will provide a much-needed push to consumers and companies afraid that going green will harm their financial well-being. For the moment, the app only counts the numbers of steps users take, when they choose to travel by foot rather than car or public transport. But the scope has the potential to grow much bigger. “We are planning to work with multinational companies, including oil companies, to reward the clients choosing environment-friendly products with koras,” Regev says, “If you choose a vegetarian burger instead of a meat one, you should be awarded koras, just as if you choose a low-carbon energy source for your car.” The idea is that, slowly, as more consumers are tempted to choose clean products, companies will see increased demand — and a growing incentive to invest more into environment-friendly portfolios.
“I talk about reducing our carbon footprint and not offsetting it, because offsetting isn’t enough. We have to actually reduce our emissions”
Large polluters such as oil companies or airlines are increasingly faced with the daunting task of balancing the needs of the planet with their commercial priorities, and Kora offers an alternative to offsetting. So far, offsetting (the idea that an organisation can cancel its carbon emissions by paying somebody else to start a sustainability project in another country or sector) has prevailed as a large-scale method of addressing climate change. But the practice of “passing the problem on to someone else” has been increasingly scrutinised as carbon emissions have kept increasing. “I talk about reducing our carbon footprint and not offsetting it, because offsetting isn’t enough,” Regev continues. “We have to actually reduce our emissions.”
But the crux of Kora’s approach — the idea that discerning shoppers can be persuaded to make greener choices and influence companies to change their ways — depends on the number of its users. Ultimately, thousands of people will need to subscribe to the idea of consuming less, in a cleaner way. And while apps such of Kora have already tapped into these shifting mindsets, it will take time to win over others — and time is already our scarcest resource in the fight against climate change.