In the midst of the climate crisis, it takes all hands on deck to push toward net zero carbon emissions. Companies in a wide array of industries, ranging from finance to food, depend on Greenly as their carbon accounting platform, both for measuring emissions and reducing them.
The core use case is the same for all Greenly customers: data in, emissions reporting and climate action plan out. Sector-specific complexities mean that the user journey (everything from the UI flows to the specific data points that get collected) can look wildly different for customers in different industries. Before using Retool, however, it wasn’t feasible for Greenly to differentiate experiences for their various audiences.
Greenly originally embraced Retool to rapidly build internal tools, but now also uses it for external tools targeted toward its myriad customer segments. This approach has improved the company’s time-to-deployment KPI by 3x, consistently saving 50+ engineering hours per month. We sat down with Matthieu Vegreville, Greenly Co-founder and COO to learn more—here’s Greenly’s journey from using Retool for internal tools to how the company is now on track to replace all of their React apps with Retool apps.
Spending less time on internal tools and more on carbon reduction
Growing companies have new internal needs all the time: managing relationships with vendors, producing regular reports, analyzing niche datasets, scheduling equipment maintenance. Beyond a certain scale, it becomes necessary to develop systems and processes around these needs.
Before Greenly discovered Retool, they generally responded to these types of internal needs in one of two ways: a scrappy spreadsheet or a full-fledged React application. While both options can theoretically get the job done, they also each have their shortcomings. Spreadsheets are notoriously brittle—they can be hard to maintain and aren’t always friendly to end users. React applications, on the other hand, can be sophisticated tools—but they can also be time and resource intensive to build, which can detract from other company priorities.
Retool strikes a balance between the two previous options, which enabled Greenly to quickly build internal tools without compromising on extensibility, version control, or user experience. Out of the box, Retool provides data connections, API configurations, user permissions, and more. Greenly went from needing to staff a full team of engineers, designers, and product managers in order to build internal tools to having just a single team member achieve comparable results in a matter of days or less.
As just one example, in about half a day, Greenly launched a v1 of an app the sales team uses to look up pricing information. The Greenly sales team uses HubSpot as its CRM, but was pushing the limits of the platform’s quote generation tool. They needed a custom solution that could accommodate increasing complexities and customer edge cases. To keep the sales team nimble, it was important that the quote generation process remained straightforward.
With Retool, Greenly’s sales team can follow an intuitive set of prompts and arrive at a detailed quote that they can then share with prospects. Unlike HubSpot’s quote generator—which worked well when Greenly was starting out but didn’t flex the ways they needed as they introduced more and more pricing options and customer types —this solution works exactly for Greenly’s needs and can easily be adjusted as needed down the line.
Greenly has since built many other internal apps, including Carbon Calculators. For example, climate experts at Greenly use a data administration tool built with Retool to oversee CO2 emissions factors that map business activities to carbon output. Retool streamlined the internal tool development process dramatically. This led the Greenly team to wonder: could they use Retool to build apps for external customers and similarly boost efficiency?
Rapidly iterating on customer-facing products with Retool Embed
Carbon management is very sector specific; an insurance company’s emissions profile looks very different from a retailer’s. To best serve its customers, Greenly needs to deliver experiences tailored to the unique qualities of each industry. The traditional application development model takes too long, however, and it isn’t realistic to build so many versions of the platform from scratch.
Leveraging Retool radically shortened Greenly’s development cycle, allowing them to save 50+ engineering hours each month, and no longer limiting them to a one-size-fits-all approach to product. With Retool Embed, Greenly was able to integrate a series of Retool apps into an existing web portal built with React. A common backend layer underpins these apps, which are individually customized to meet the needs of various customer segments.
This architecture keeps each app’s time-to-deployment short, helping Greenly achieve the gold standard of product development—quick feedback loops for frequent iterations.
Example: Measuring emissions for food versus financial services
Consider the differences between a financial institution and a food company. In finance, how institutions allocate capital and whether their investments support environmentally responsible causes plays a large role in a firm’s climate impact. In the food industry, menu design and ingredient selection, like sourcing local produce or prioritizing plant-based proteins over meat, are major levers impacting carbon output. Greenly leveraged Retool to quickly build both a custom investment portfolio analysis dashboard and a “Foodprint Calculator” to serve these distinct use cases.
On the backend, however, Greenly uses the same methods to process all of their customers’ data. The logic around measuring and reducing emissions is the same for everybody, even if the inputs from a food company and a financial institution look completely different. Differentiated Retool frontends help collect the right data from each kind of business and package it in a way that Greenly’s APIs can ingest.
Embedding Retool apps in a unified customer portal
Greenly used Retool Embed to build an entire suite of applications like the finance and food ones mentioned previously and add them to their customer portal. Designed for customer-facing tooling, Retool Embed enabled Greenly to continue to use their authentication flow and simply plug new Retool applications into the existing framework. In a matter of weeks, Greenly achieved what would likely take months—if not quarters—from a fully staffed team of engineers.
Every feature of Greenly’s portal is actually its own Retool app, seamlessly integrated into a common experience. To give a few examples, there’s one Retool app customers use to securely input their financial data, which goes into estimating scope 3 emissions (emissions from assets not owned by a business but that the business indirectly affects). A separate app allows customers to enter information about the buildings they occupy and to connect utilities data. Yet another shows personalized carbon footprint analytics depending on the customer’s sector.
Greenly gives a lot of attention to fine tuning its user flows. For instance, is it better to collect data using a set of form inputs or a series of steps across multiple pages? Sometimes, it depends on the specific type of customer or use case. Because Retool apps are so fast to build, Greenly makes data-driven decisions by trying multiple options, sending the data from those trials to Segment, and then choosing a user flow. This sort of A/B testing is possible with traditional apps, too, but the longer development time often reduces the amount and frequency of experiments companies can—or are willing to—run.
Any discussion about Greenly would be incomplete without acknowledging the company’s commitment to data security. Carbon management inherently requires processing sensitive customer records, making security essential. Retool’s enterprise feature set, including on premises implementation, SSO authentication, and full versioning, gives Greenly the confidence to deliver high quality customer experiences built with Retool.
Empowering everybody to have a stake in the product
COO and co-founder, Matthieu, shared that at Greenly “we want to enable everyone in the company to be builders.” Retool is part of their plan to achieve “the shortest distance between an idea and production”—and Greenly is now on its way to building even more of its product with Retool.
Retool helps realize this vision by providing an accessible drag-and-drop interface. With some examples and templates in Retool, Greenly has made it easy for team members to take ownership of the platform and shape it to suit each customer’s unique needs.
Companies historically have had to choose between building custom software from scratch (which can be slow and costly), or buying a product that solves a similar need (which can be efficient but rigid). When asked his perspective on building internal tools from scratch, Matthieu said, “It’s about what your focus is. What’s your core expertise? To build [your internal tools from scratch] is a mistake to me, just because it’s probably not the core of your business.” Retool gives companies like Greenly the best of both worlds—flexible, bespoke solutions without the hassle of developing software from scratch. Retool is a foundational layer that frees up Greenly team members to focus their efforts on the particulars of climate tech.
For companies coming from a legacy system, Matthieu encourages having a wrapper compatible with Retool Embed. Then, it’s seamless to build components and swap them in and out of the wrapper. The other advantage of this approach is that it allows the transition to Retool to be as gradual as a company wants. Instead of having to tear everything apart all at once, Retool Embed enables companies to augment legacy tools, one dashboard or app at a time. In Greenly’s case, their legacy tools are on the way out and being replaced with new systems built with Retool and Retool Embed. The new platform is faster to build and easier to maintain, saving them 50+ engineering hours each month. As Greenly continues to grow, their tooling will grow alongside them.