Climate Neutral helps brands calculate, offset emissions and tell the sustainability story

According to NielsenIQ’s Global Health & Wellness study conducted last fall and presented last week at the 2022 Food Edge Summit, one-third of US consumers are more likely to buy products with sustainable credentials – triggering an increase in 16.5% of environmental sustainability claims and certifications on packaging in the last two years. These include a 60.3% increase in zero carbon claims, a 37.6% increase in renewable energy claims, a 36.7% increase in emissions reduction claims and an increase in 29.8% and 17.5% claimed zero waste and certified sustainable, respectively.

While powerful buying drivers, earning and responsibly communicating environmental sustainability success stories without breaking the bank can be overwhelming, if not impossible, to do alone, that’s where organizations like the nonprofit Climate Neutral come into play.

In this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts podcast, Austin Whitman, CEO of Climate Neutral, discusses how his independent organization helps brands access the tools and networks they need to measure, offset, and ultimately reduce their total carbon footprint. . It also explains why undertaking this approach is essential today, both for the planet and for the economic success of brands. And finally, it shares marketing strategies to maximize the impact of companies’ environmental work without confusing consumers or falling prey to greenwashing and the value of having a reputable certification.

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The time to act is now, not in 30 years

Climate Neutral was founded on the premise that urgent action is needed to combat climate change and that carbon responsibility should be the new normal for responsible business. And while the founders think calculating and offsetting footprints is “remarkably easy and surprisingly affordable”, they also acknowledged that the carbon conversation is “really complicated” even if it “basically doesn’t have to be be”.

Part of what makes the carbon conversation confusing or intimidating for many businesses and individuals is the whirlwind of information and misinformation that surrounds the topic, making it difficult to understand the full extent of climate change, the speed at which it is progressing and why immediate action – not just 20, 30 or even 50 year targets – is needed.

To better understand the need for change, Whitman said he likes to think about the evolution of climate change not in the context of the planet’s long life, but his own short one.

“In my lifetime, carbon emissions have gone up 100% around the world. And that’s basically from the late ’70s until now. And in my careers, they’ve gone up 30%, either in big for 200, the last 20 years.”he said.

At this rate, climate models indicate that many places will be unlivable or heavily disrupted as we head towards 3.5 to 4 degrees Celsius above historic ranges, he added.

To reverse this trend, carbon emissions need to fall on the order of 8-9% per year, which represents a difference of 10-11% in the trajectory between what we need and what we have, a- he declared.

Sustainably marketed products increase unsustainable options by 5-6 times

Slowing and potentially reversing climate change for the good of the planet and future generations isn’t the only reason Whitman says companies should act now to track, offset and reduce their emissions — they should do it for their own, too. net profit.

He explains that from a business perspective, companies focused on environmental sustainability are a carrot and stick. On the rewards side, sustainability is a sales driver, with consumers increasingly buying from environmentally conscious companies. And the stick comes from employees and investors who increasingly distance themselves from companies that don’t advance sustainability.

“Sustainably marketed products grow five to six times faster than non-sustainably marketed products…and they are more resilient to economic downturns,”Which is a compelling case for embracing this trend on a financial basis, Whitman said.

“We’ve also seen it very strongly in the form of employee pressure on companies to do more about climate change, to the point that people interviewing for jobs are asking the hiring manager “,he noted.

In response, some companies and investors are beginning to sever relationships with others who are not acting sustainably or whose behavior is negatively impacting their footprint.

Seize the opportunity with Climate Neutral

Given the scale of the price for adopting more sustainable practices and the reputational and financial threat of not doing so, why aren’t more companies taking action and not not talk about it in their marketing?

One of the reasons, says Whitman, is that they thought about it too much and got upset.

To help companies overcome their fears and better understand what it takes to reduce their emissions, says Whitman, Climate Neutral has created a three-step roadmap and set of tools to “democratize the information businesses need to start taking action immediately.”

He explained: “Most companies don’t know what to do and probably overestimate the cost and time involved.”

And so, Climate Neutral sought to facilitate action by creating a USDA Organic Certified-like roadmap and label, which could also engage consumers and drive business, Whitman said. This model allows the association to work with a hundred brands for the same price and the same effort as a single brand working with a consultant.

First step: measure

To make this information as easy to understand and use as possible, Climate Neutral divides its certification process into three stages – measure, offset and reduce – which are developed around peer-reviewed standards.

The first step, measurement, may seem complex and resource-intensive, but Whitman said it only takes one to two hours for small brands and one to three months for large brands, including data aggregation. , in part because Climate Neutral’s software tool — branded The Emissions Estimator, or “BEE,” streamlines everything.

Step Two: Shift

Once companies know the extent of their emissions, Climate Neutral helps them identify how to offset and potentially reduce them, which Whitman says is the opposite of most other players in the space.

“The first thing any company should do is offset historical emissions while it works to reduce future emissions…due to the urgency of the issue,”Whitman argued.

Third step: reduce

When it comes to reducing emissions, Climate Neutral encourages businesses to take a long-term view and tackle the low-hanging fruit first while working towards larger, more complex and far-reaching goals. longer term.

It also understands that companies of different sizes and at different stages of development have more or less resources at their disposal, which is why the association creates a sliding scale for reduction targets. For example, companies with revenues over $100 million are required to meet reduction targets for 2030, while those earning between $5 and $100 million are strongly encouraged to do so, but not required. .

Maximize impact

After businesses complete Climate Neutral’s three-step process, the nonprofit ensures they get their due credit by helping them craft an accessible marketing message around their efforts.

“Certification is something that takes on a different meaning as companies grow. And as companies progress, and thus the first year of certification, we allow them to market around the exciting fact that they have achieved certification and what it means,”said Whitman.

Over the next few years, Climate Neutral helps brands articulate different aspects of their story in a way that consumers can understand, including complex topics like climate neutrality, zero carbon, etc., and in a way optimistic and hopeful.

Already working with over 350 brands, Climate Neutral is eager to expand its impact with a common goal of pushing the needle on climate change. For those interested in learning more about the Climate Neutral certification process or interested in partnering with other organizations that are already certified, check out climateneutral.org.