Inside Climate Neutral’s Mission to Ignite Change

The organization's executive director explains how consumers and companies can drastically cut their footprint

It’s difficult to imagine the consensus adoption of uniform environmental consciousness, but as Climate Neutral (a new certification organization) insists, it’s far from impossible. If we document habits across almost all industries, the results prove disheartening as companies continue to rely on outdated production methods. Changes may happen more slowly and the push for sustainability may trickle upward from consumers. But Climate Neutral works “to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon world by putting a price on carbon emissions.” They understand that material innovation is well on its way and they want to address the processes on which companies rely—and reward those that offset them. The Climate Neutral certification will be awarded to companies that zero out their emissions by buying into one of the organization’s approved plans—and they’ll don a tag saying so, making it easier for customers .

For those companies that have already pledged, sustainability is more than merely a mission. And, according to Climate Neutral, it should be a universal mindset. That mindset has certainly pervaded the industry since Climate Neutral’s soft launch at Outdoor Retailer earlier this year. Now that their official launch is here, alongside its first two certified brands, BioLite and Peak Design, they’re encouraging others to make the jump.

“Companies are in a unique position to show consumers that good business practices can produce positive environmental results,” Austin Whitman, Executive Director at Climate Neutral, tells us. “Leadership by responsible companies has a long history in raising the bar much higher than governments set it. Corporate responsibility is only just starting to directly address the effects of climate change. Companies can be role models for consumers by measuring and disclosing their climate impacts, and then choosing to make the necessary investments to reduce and offset those impacts. If consumers see companies doing it, they will be inspired to do it themselves.”

And companies’ influence is obvious. Patagonia, for instance, is setting the benchmark and others rush to follow. When they do, Climate Neutral wants to be the first resource they turn to. “Many companies are leading the way with ambitious corporate sustainability plans, and the ones that are particularly important are those taking climate change head-on by assessing themselves an internal tax on carbon,” Whitman adds.

“Beneath every product is a carbon footprint, and two-thirds of that footprint comes from the energy used to make and ship the product,” Whitman says. “We need to leave behind high carbon ways of generating electricity. We also need to discontinue the irresponsible use of certain chemicals that contribute to climate change.” Transparency is an oft-unmentioned part of the equation for being a better consumer. If companies do not disclose how or where or from what items are made, consumers can’t make informed decisions. Being bold enough to ask, or to demand to know, will pull shadier practices out from the dark and force companies to do the right thing. Climate Neutral also wants to act as an informative resource for information-hungry customers.

“Plastic trash is an environmental problem because it is poorly managed and ends up in the environment. Many other products are also harmful to the environment. What’s perhaps easier to define is a set of things that the least harmful products are: produced from renewable energy, using high percentages of recycled or renewable materials, without the release of harmful chemicals during manufacturing, transported efficiently, and easy to dispose of after a long lifespan,” Whitman says.

But above all else, the organization wants to be an inspiration for change. Their site documents the direct impact of our carbon footprints and lays out ways to make foundational fixes—including the potential costs. And while Whitman is hopeful companies can be relied on to make changes on their own, their innovations and advancements have limits. Thus offsetting remains the most pragmatic way of reaching net zero.

“Many advances in materials technology are improving products’ environmental impact, such as stronger plastics that require less material, recycled materials that perform like virgin material, dyeing processes that use less water, and so on. There are as many opportunities for advances as there are products, and then some. There is no single material that will save the world, so it’s essential that product makers look for ways to improve their impact out there.”

Images courtesy of Climate Neutral