The TH Interview: ZeroFootprint CEO Ron Dembo

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Dr. Ron Dembo is Founder and CEO of ZeroFootprint, a Toronto, Ontario-based organization created to build a marketplace for people worldwide to engage in sustainable commerce. Before founding ZeroFootprint, Dr. Dembo was President and CEO of Algorithmics Incorporated, an Enterprise Financial Risk Software Company. Prior to founding Algorithmics, he was a professor of Computer Science and Operations Research at Yale University.

CD: ZeroFootprint is just six months old. How has it gone so far? What successes can you report?
RD: We have found a large number of people are very receptive to our novel approach, which is unabashedly commercial yet done in a socially responsible manner. We are still in our infancy and expect to see an exponential growth in content in the near future and a growth in membership as a result of this.

Our current content, include the ZeroPages, which is a global directory of eco-friendly products, services and programs and ZFP, an online magazine of current motivational stories about people who are making a difference.Importantly, we have also had success engaging the public with ZeroFootprint’s 'Small Ideas to Sustain Our WorldTM.' These 'Small Ideas' are toolkits for change, which are easy to describe, scalable 'challenges' that anyone can implement for the purpose of creating a more sustainable world. ZeroFootprint’s Small Ideas are founded on the principal that in the aggregate many small changes, made by many individuals, can make a big impact.

CD: What opportunities for growth will keep you working?
We believe that the marketplace for sustainable commerce is in its infancy. As few as 10 years ago, scientists were still divided as to whether or not the planet was warming or cooling. Finally, there is indisputable evidence that demonstrates that we have surpassed the point where we are destroying more than can be renewed by natural processes. Within this context, individuals, governments and business must make more informed choices in a new type of marketplace, where more ingenious, environmentally efficient methods of production need to be used.

Our goal is to capture market share in this new marketplace by helping people ‘do good’ in a profitable yet sustainable way. Coming up with unique, ingenious ways to do this will keep us busy for years to come. The good news is that we are seeing a tipping point towards green. ZeroFootprint is definitely in the right place at the right time.


CD: ZeroFootprint’s stated goal is to create a common ground to enable people world wide to engage in sustainable commerce, and that you plan to develop a virtual green marketplace. How will you create this marketplace, and how do you propose to get millions of people on your side?
RD: We have entered a new stage of development on the web that will see societies forming and flourishing on the web. They will transcend geographical boundaries and will unite people who seek to be in the same club. ZeroFootprint aims to be the premier "green" club where people will congregate to discuss, trade and learn about green products and services.

To get there we are focusing on providing edited and trusted content around green products and services worldwide. We aim to be a hub for people interested in environmentally sound living, people who believe in the common ground: reduction of our ecological footprint.

For example, today if you wanted to understand green building and taking your home off the electricity grid you could go to Google and look for answers. You might find many but might lack the expertise to filter them. If you do your same search at ZeroFootprint, you will have the confidence that the information you receive has been distilled.

CD: Describe your ideal reader/listener/protégé. Who was ZeroFootprint founded for?
RD: There are over 100 million people in the G8, who are aware of Kyoto (Protocol), are not concerned about the basics of life, who have been recycling for years, but who don’t necessarily belong to any religious green movement, yet feel concerned about our environmental impact. This group has a combined spending power of over $3 billion annually. ZeroFootprint has been created to organize these people into a market that will foster the development of ingenious new green products that will replace the environmentally destructive ones we have become accustomed to. It is the same market that Whole Foods has addressed in North America to foster the use of organic products.

CD: Finally, why should people listen to you?
RD: People will use our site when it becomes apparent that it is reliable and extensive and its content can be trusted, just like people have learned to use Google for reliable searches , EBay for reliable trading and Amazon as a trusted bookseller.