Thanks to the UN who boldly ignited the sustainable development goal (SDG) era in 2015 not only have we become aware of the major impact we can make. We also genuinely believe that every individual can make a difference. So, what to think about the sustainability battle?
Is it time?
More than half of consumers surveyed by Mintel in 16 countries in July agreed that there’s still time to save the planet from a calamitous temperature increase – and that their own actions can make a difference in this respect. Furthermore, almost half of the respondents wanted products to include environmental impact labelling.
So, is it time for eco-labelling products or services?
Well, that depends. Yes, conscious consumerism is here to stay – and multiple brands have paved the path towards sustainability, such as:
Provide a free app, which quickly estimates a product’s social and environmental impact.
Tenzing Natural Energy
Is a plant-based energising drink that introduced carbon labelling on its cans.
Is an online grocery app that has used third party data to apply food ratings to 350,000 consumer products.
Google and WWF Sweden
Provide a new environmental data tracking platform that will use Google Cloud’s big data analysis and WWF’s expertise in raw materials to rate textiles with environmental scores.
Stamped their products with a label that outlines its impact across four lifecycles, from sourcing through to disposal.
Puts carbon emissions on the menu
For newcomers in the market it is an opportunity up there for grasp. It makes sense, as SDG based market opportunities are growing. Consumers will try to reach their own ethical benchmarks by empathizing with brands that are favouring sustainability.
But there is a long way to walk from consumer intent to purchase behaviour. The mass market doesn’t change that quickly. As Tesco experienced, after the labelling trial back in 2008, which was dropped in 2012 due to the resources required to calculate each product’s footprint accurately – and the fact that no other big retailers had followed its lead.
The key challenge is standardization – the answer to how we seamlessly assess the carbon footprint of a product or service. The development of such a standard will take tremendous of time because of the extreme complexity and resource requirement. Until then, everyone has their own method to the disadvantage of the consumer.
Some early entrants are trying to deal with standardization, such as:
Provides a scheme that shows products’ environmental impact.
And while we honour the spirit and the courage of FoundationEarth and others, we don’t just have to sit and wait. Your brand can be a role model, but expect considerable upfront investment. If you are tempted to go early to position yourself and establish a strong relationship with customers based on sustainable values, here is a few ideas to get you started:
Some notes to get you started
Identify the material sources of emissions
Burning fossil fuels is the main source of human-produced carbon dioxide emissions. Thinking about all the ways your business uses electricity and fuel – power to run your offices, shops and facilities; vehicles used for transporting goods and the machines used to make them; or to run the servers hosting your platform or website. Also consider raw materials extraction processes at the start of any of your supply chains.
Remember, your carbon footprint only covers part of your company’s environmental footprint. A carbon footprint is all about your carbon emissions. It is not a measure neither of your use of natural resources, nor of the waste your company produces – though those might affect the calculation’s results.
Collect data on quantities
Collect any electricity and gas bills, add up the kilometres your team and products have travelled (along with the modes of transport) and work out the total quantities and weights of products produced, broken down by key component materials.
Calculate a footprint
Convert it into carbon emissions. A specialist sustainability consultant will likely have access to detailed databases with highly-specific data that could lead to a more accurate calculation. But you can work out ballpark figures in-house. Look for sources of emissions factors (e.g. transport, electricity and waste, emissions factors for materials, etc.). There are also numerous of online calculators that can do the converting for you.
Look for potential reduction opportunities
Once you have your footprint, delve into the results to identify opportunities to reduce your footprint. For companies working with physical products, the way you freight your goods can make a huge difference to your footprint. For a business operating a lot of spaces, bringing energy use down is probably the way to go. Learn how to limit your carbon footprint by searching sources such as:
The Carbon Literacy Project
Or check out resources like these to benchmark against:
Provide an easy-to-use platform that unites the entire carbon management process in one.
Start-up plans to track carbon footprints of every product in the world.
Critics of offsets often point out that offsets absolve organisations of environmental guilt without forcing any serious changes to their business. However, as long as you are thinking about reductions first, some offsetting of your footprint is better than none. Purchase them from a provider like:
Prices range from DKK 20 to DKK 100 per offset (1 offset = reduction of one tonne of carbon emissions) depending on the project you want to support.
Establish a process
Set up a process to make it easier to repeat the exercise again when you launch a new product. Establish a framework so you are processing data in a similar fashion each time for comparisons purposes.