There are lots of things we can do as citizens concerned about climate, and shopping with companies that are doing business better is a huge part of daily climate action. Our collective purchasing power is growing and businesses are increasingly responsive to consumer demand.
The newly launched Climate Neutral certification gives consumers a clear way to see that a company is taking action on climate. This gives consumers more power to make decisions that align with their values, and gives companies an opportunity to show their leadership as a climate-friendly business.
I spoke with Austin Whitman, who founded Climate Neutral with Peter Dering of Peak Design and Jonathan Cedar of BioLite. They founded the company in early 2019, and within months had 16 companies committed to getting their certification. The certification will be officially launching on Earth Day 2020, and the list of partner companies is growing everyday – it’s currently at 115 companies at the time of publication.
Much like the USDA Organic certification (or other third party certification), the Climate Neutral certification ensures that companies are using the best-in-class data to estimate their carbon footprint, and then requires companies to reduce and offset their emissions. Austin described their certification as “1% for planet meets USDA organic.”
The certification opportunity has already attracted some established brands, like Klean Kanteen, Numi Tea, Reformation, AllBirds, ETHO Capital, and Avocado Green mattresses. There are also a lot of startups onboard – Austin says that these newer companies are building this type of climate commitment into their business planning as it can help with B2B relations, recruiting, and building a more mission-focused business.
They have developed their own tool for measuring upstream emissions. As an example, think of the humble teabag. Even though the tea that’s purchased by the consumer doesn’t have much embedded emissions, there is the water use, all inputs, travel of tea around the world, packaging, and ALL THE THINGS that go into making one tea bag. This is included in the entire footprint of the tea. In fact, the emissions from manufacturing a bag of tea weigh more than the tea itself.
This full footprint is what’s being estimated and then offset using their measure tool. I asked Austin if there was an issue of pay-to-play for some companies, and he said that the way that software was designed makes it ‘fairly objective.’ He did say that for brands over $100 million in annual revenues, Climate Neutral does require hiring a third-party to verify the submissions to ensure compliance. And the money a company pays to get certified goes into carbon-reducing projects around the world.
Climate Neutral also arranges carbon credits for its certified brands. Austin said his organization is ‘carbon credit agnostic’ — they have built out relationships with many sellers of carbon credits, and they have no preference whether you want to plant trees, grow seagrass, install EV chargers, or replace cookstoves.
“We’re not partnering exclusively with any project type – we want to build diversified portfolios and embrace new standard of carbon credits.” He went on to explain some of the challenges in the offset market: “There only so many nature based offsets we can do – so we need to explore tech solutions and expand the offset market. There is increased potential supply within the transport sector and so much more.”
I think this idea is awesome – and long overdue. There are lots of ways to make more conscious purchases, and for those of us interested in having a lower impact with our daily products, this certification could be really helpful as we choose between brands and stores to support.
Stay tuned with Climate Neutral online or by following them on the platform of your choice: Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
Screenshots from the Climate Neutral website and Instagram.
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