A nonprofit is trying to provide consumers with a new product label an easy way to understand the flood of environmental promises that companies are suddenly making. Kickstarter and Klean Kanteen are two of the 135 brands that have been certified as “Climate Neutral Certified” by the non-profit organization Climate Neutral.
In order to be climate neutral, a company must essentially remove all of the pollution caused by heat storage. This could be done by investing in tree planting efforts or in new carbon capture technologies. However, buying these carbon offsets or credits is no substitute for actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And as ever larger polluters, including Delta and BP, make their own commitments to become carbon neutral, uncertainty about what a company needs to actually achieve these goals is growing. Who will hold them accountable?
Who will hold them accountable?
Climate Neutral was introduced last year with the hope that when consumers see the Climate Neutral Certified label on a brand, they can be sure that the company's environmentally friendly efforts are legitimate. The Verge spoke to climate neutral CEO Austin Whitman about how to know when a company's promises to tackle climate change are good or green – what happens when a company tries to target environmentally conscious consumers without taking serious environmental measures . This interview was edited slightly for the sake of length and clarity.
Courtesy of Climate Neutral
What does it essentially mean when a brand bears this climate-neutral certified label?
The effective certification of these companies means that we help them estimate their CO2 emissions – including their supply chain emissions, everything they need to manufacture and deliver their products to their customers. And then we ask them to buy carbon offsets because we're measuring (last year's) footprint. To claim CO2 neutrality, you have to balance the whole thing.
You must also provide us with a reduction action plan that is predictive and states that I will reduce emissions from one source here by 15 percent over the next 12 to 24 months. another source here by 5 percent and so on. And the last step is that we authorize them to use our label, which then goes out into the world on their products, their marketing materials and their communication.
It is all self-reported data. We can pretty well predict how big their footprint should be. So if someone comes to us and says that their footprint is 20 percent of what we expect, we will delve deeper into these numbers and actually ask them to give reasons. For companies with sales of over $ 100 million, we need a third-party review.
Did you have to deny someone certification to ensure the integrity of your label?
We have had some instances where companies have indicated that they want to use unverified carbon credits that do not meet our standards. We had to tell them that if they are not ready to comply with this part of the certification, we cannot certify them. We had a couple of companies that came to us and said, "We want to do this, but we don't have the ability to balance our entire footprint." Can we only make one specific product? “And we basically say no, this is a brand-level service. We consider it too confusing for consumers and openly invite greenwashing so that a company can select a product from its product line, certify it and then boast of carbon neutrality.
There is a lot of climate neutral chatter now. Many companies will say, "Oh, we're carbon neutral for our corporate headquarters and one of our factories." And that's the scope of their claim. Nobody looks at how much of their footprint is actually represented. He just says, "Hey, it's cool that the company is doing something that is good for the environment." However, if we want to take the need seriously (to achieve net zero CO2 emissions worldwide by 2050) (editor's note: the United Nations Panel of Climate Researchers has set this as a goal to avoid the more catastrophic effects of climate change) me must stop accepting very incomplete commitments.
"We have to stop accepting very incomplete commitments."
Will there be greater challenges when it comes to certifying companies such as BP that want to be carbon neutral by 2050?
We will not certify BP, a fossil fuel company. The math just doesn't work to balance the entire carbon footprint of fossil energy production and consumption. There are not so many carbon offsets in the world. So we stay away from raw material suppliers, cement and fossil energy etc. We really focus on the brand level.
Are we in a unique moment when we will see more of these types of commitments?
Things are fundamentally different now with regard to climate policy, consumer awareness and the commitment of employees and experts on this topic. There is no question that we have reached a turning point. This will force companies to do more.