By Sara Stroud, Sustainable Industries

Karla Bell 

Co-founder, CarbonFlow Inc. 

San Francisco 

In a career that has touched upon many facets of sustainability, from green building to carbon markets, Karla Bell says some of the most helpful lessons were the ones she learned growing up in Australia as a competitive springboard diver.

“There’s no such thing as ‘can’t,’ and ‘Don’t look down,’” Bell says. “When you take off, you’re not worried about when you’re going to hit the water.”

Certainly, if Bell had tried to imagine her trajectory through the growing sphere of sustainable business, she probably couldn’t have imagined the path of her career, from being the project manager on what she says was the world’s first green building program—the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney—to co-founding CarbonFlow Inc., which develops software for companies participating in carbon markets. 

“I always did my own thing,” Bell says. 

A willingness to step away from the expected was what drove Bell, who worked for Greenpeace’s Atmosphere and Energy campaign, in the early 1990s to enter a design competition for the athletes’ village in Sydney’s bid to host the Olympic Games. Sydney ultimately won the bid, and many of the concepts Bell proposed for the village were expanded to include to the rest of the games, as well. 

“The legacy is that all bidding cities have an environmental component,” says Bell, who also worked with Stockholm on its bid for the 2004 games. 

After her experience with the Sydney Olympics, Bell worked as a consultant to the construction industry. In the late 1990s, she grew interested in carbon markets, and in looking for ways to speed up the transaction process, co-founding CarbonFlow with Neal Dikeman in 2006. With its software, CarbonFlow aims to decrease the time and cost of creating carbon credits.

“CarbonFlow is completely consistent with everything I’ve done,” Bell says. 

The common thread among her various endeavors is that they are at the intersection of innovation and regulation. In that respect, she says carbon markets represent enormous opportunities, especially in the United States. 

Bell credits her prescience to having spent years involved in sustainability, following emerging markets and getting a sense for how they are developing. “When you’ve been around, you see strategic opportunities,” she says. “You see business opportunities and opportunities for policy change.”

Originally article from Sustainable Industries.