Breaking Ground in Sustainability: Namrata's Story at Vaayu

Published on

May 9, 2024

Voices of the industry

Welcome to an exclusive interview with Namrata, the Co-Founder and CEO of Vaayu, a company leading the way in sustainability for retailers. Namrata's journey from heading sustainability at Zalando to founding Vaayu shows her dedication to fixing the problem of not having real-time data on how sustainable businesses are. Through Vaayu's work with big partners like Klarna and Otrium, Namrata is using technology to help companies track and reduce their carbon emissions. Read on as she talks about Vaayu's mission, why technology matters in sustainability, and her vision for a greener future in retail.

Empowering Retailers with Real-Time Data

Your journey from Head of Sustainability at Zalando to Vaayu Co-Founder and CEO is impressive. What specific experiences or insights from your tenure at Zalando and the Arcadia Group influenced the creation of Vaayu, and how did you identify the critical gap for a real-time carbon-tracking tool in the retail industry?

Namrata: My previous experience working within sustainability greatly influenced the strategic vision for Vaayu. It was during my time as Head of Sustainability for Arcadia and more recently Zalando that I noticed the industry lacked meaningful, real-time data to inform decision-making. Calculating impact typically required teams to manually gather data, which was time-consuming and resulted in inaccurate calculations, making it incredibly difficult to identify reduction opportunities. This critical gap was actually more of a chasm for the industry’s sustainability efforts, and it felt incredibly important to solve it.

I realized the problem could be solved by building automated software to provide businesses with the granular data needed to cut impact industry-wide, unlike anything that already existed in retail. So, in December 2020, I founded Vaayu alongside Luca Schmid (Co-Founder & CTO) to deliver the world’s first automated software and much-needed tools and data to help retailers visualize hotspots and lead them toward more sustainable choices. Alongside our partners, we are now pioneering impact calculations in the industry, driving tangible reduction at scale.

Vaayu's Partnership Success Stories

Vaayu's mission is to empower brands and businesses in the retail ecosystem to track and cut their carbon and environmental impact in real time. Could you share an example of a significant positive impact that one of Vaayu's global partners achieved through using your automated carbon software?


Namrata: We are lucky to work with more than 100 incredible global brands and other businesses within the retail ecosystem including Veja, New Balance, Axel Arigato, Ace & Tate, Vinted, Missoma, Carousell Group, Redcare Pharmacy and Wunderman Thompson Commerce. We’ve done groundbreaking work with Klarna providing product footprint data on over 160 million items, and also currently work with partner Otrium to quantify the avoided carbon emissions and waste of modern off-price business models, including Otrium’s own circular model.

By using our proprietary AI and machine learning technology and in-house team of LCA experts, we gathered insights from over 45 fashion brands and data from almost five million fashion products live on Otrium’s site to provide science-based granular carbon calculations. Together, we calculated that Otrium prevented 6,496 tonnes of CO₂e and 104 tonnes of waste in 2022.

Our work with Otrium is the first of its kind to investigate the carbon emission and waste-saving potential of off-price business models and, as one of the largest primary datasets on unsold stock practices, it’s a major contributor to the understanding of more circular fashion and its environmental impact, bringing us one step closer to lowering retail’s impact globally.

The Role of AI and Machine Learning in Driving Sustainability

With research suggesting that retail is responsible for 25% of global carbon emissions, how do you see the role of technology, particularly AI and machine learning, evolving in helping retailers achieve meaningful reductions in carbon emissions and environmental impact?

Namrata: As a company that is constantly building and leveraging proprietary AI and machine learning, we know the positive opportunities this technology provides for reducing retail’s impact on the environment. At Vaayu, technology is enabling us to calculate impacts such as carbon emissions, water and waste across product, packaging and logistics, and then present the real-time data in a tangible way to help lead partners toward more sustainable choices by visualizing hotspots and testing alternative impact scenarios.

Getting a bit more technical, Vaayu’s automated AI software accurately calculates the impact of all transactions daily using Kria, our proprietary impact modeling engine and database of more than 600,000 data points. Generating over 50,000 unique data points for every product calculated, the model creates a digital twin to mirror the complexity of the supply chain in real life. The engine then deploys machine learning algorithms and predictive AI to fill in data gaps, providing a granular product footprint and an Accuracy Score per calculation as standard. And, as we continue to grow our database and increase the volume and diversity of the data processed, Vaayu’s learning models are evolving to support the engine in reaching more precise and granular results at scale.

With just six years to reach the Paris Agreement targets and limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C, retailers really need to have access to the best data possible. AI and machine learning technology is becoming even more crucial for data-driven decision-making in the industry and scaling the critical reduction that is required.

Bridging Sustainability Across Industries

You co-founded Nalen Ayurveda in 2019, an organic skincare company, and then Vaayu in 2020. How have your experiences in the skincare industry influenced your approach to sustainability in the retail sector? Are there any key lessons or strategies you've carried over from your work in skincare to Vaayu?

Namrata: All retailers across all verticals face the issue of sustainability and supply chain transparency, and through my experiences with Nalen Ayurveda, it was obvious that there are complex nuances within the Health & Beauty sector when it comes to the impact of various life cycle stages and how these can greatly vary.

We are building Vaayu to transcend verticals and we currently offer solutions for companies from Consumer Health to Fashion and Electronics, but there are always nuances. We wanted to shed light on these in order to support more businesses and consumers in making impact-reducing choices, so that greatly influenced our decision to expand our technology and specifically Kria’s abilities in order to calculate climate impact for the Health & Beauty sector. Since we made this expansion, using our in-house LCA expertise and proprietary technology, we have provided granular product carbon footprint data for companies in the sector including Redcare Pharmacy, Europe’s leading online pharmacy, so its teams can make more informed commercial decisions with the climate in mind.

Challenges and Opportunities for Vaayu

Vaayu has successfully raised over $13 million in seed round funding and has onboarded more than 100 global partners. Can you share some insights into the challenges and opportunities you faced while building and scaling Vaayu, especially in driving collaboration and adopting sustainable practices within the retail industry?

Namrata: Since founding Vaayu in 2020, we’ve seen a seismic shift in attitudes towards brands and businesses prioritizing sustainable strategies. This has, in some part, been driven by the growing consumer demand for transparency into the environmental impact of the products they buy from their chosen brands. Because of this, we’ve seen a growing interest and investment from brands wanting to communicate these insights to their customers and looking for ways to reduce impact while achieving growth. 

We work collaboratively with our partners on how to get this communication right while also helping them understand the significant opportunity circular business models like e-commerce, repair and the increased use of recycled material can have in terms of economic growth, reduction opportunities and meeting shopper demand. Vaayu is driving the adoption of circularity while contributing to leading standards including guidance supporting the Circular Transition Indicators by WBCSD. Progress is a collective effort that combines corporate and consumer efforts and Vaayu is at the forefront of this educational mission to drive change.

One of the more complex challenges facing businesses is preparing for new legislation. Extensive regulation continues to roll out across Europe and worldwide, and sustainability reporting and compliance are becoming non-negotiable. In parallel with these changes, we’ve scaled our technology to ensure our partners can meet these demands while also being future-proof — offering purpose-built solutions for requirements including traceability-focused Digital Product Passports to help you remain compliant with evolving legislation like France’s Loi AGEC Decree 2022-748 and the EU ESPR.

With our global partners’ sustainability needs at the heart of everything Vaayu does and develops, we’ll continue to work closely with them and the wider industry to empower better navigation, compliance and impact reduction industry-wide.


Closing our interview with Namrata, we extend a heartfelt thank you for sharing your inspiring journey and insights. Your dedication to sustainability and technology in the retail industry is truly commendable. Your leadership at Vaayu is making a significant impact, and we're grateful for your contribution to Pixyle AI’s interview series. Thank you for being a transformative voice in reshaping the future of retail.