New 'Carbon Neutral Certification' Isn't Perfect, But It Makes Sustainability More Accessible (and Appeals to Younger Buyers)
Take a peek around any trade show that caters to apparel, housewares, really any consumer product under the sun, and you’ll probably notice that a good many of those companies boast how eco-friendly they are.
Their T-shirts are made with 100% recycled cotton and the production process uses X% less water than others. Their drinkware products are made from recycled single-use bottles salvaged from the Chesapeake Bay.
It all sounds great, because it is. And many consumers feel better when we know we’re buying a product from an ethical company. But it’s not always easy to verify that a company’s environmental promises are anything beyond surface-level.
That challenge could be made easier by a new certification label. The Climate Neutral Certified label would verify that a product “comes from a company taking responsibility for the carbon emissions of its entire supply chain,” according to Grist.
Grist reported that sustainability is a factor in purchasing decisions for nearly 70% of North American shoppers. That number skews toward younger generations like millennial and Gen Z buyers, too.
To earn the Climate Neutral certification, companies have to use the nonprofit’s Brand Emissions Estimator tool, a tool that’s less precise but also much less expensive than hiring outside consultants. After that, the company has to make purchases that actively mitigate its entire carbon output from the previous year, and commit to reducing its emissions by documenting each incremental bit of progress through carbon offsets.
These carbon offsets can be planting trees, financing the construction of wind turbines, or other ways to limit greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacturing process.
The issue is that it can, in theory, just be a 1:1 solution, meaning a company could pollute as much as it pleases, as long as it pays for offset measures. It’s not an instant fix, but it at least creates some incentive for companies to do something more than they had been.
So far, Climate Neutral has worked with 150 brands, including Allbirds, Kickstarter and more, and estimated that it offset 228,314 metric tons of carbon in 2019. The organization hopes to get an additional 250 brands on board by the end of 2021.
The Climate Neutral Certification is not a totally new concept, but it’s another way that brands can stand out among the competition and put their money where their mouth is. In the promo industry, we've seen an increasing number of companies prioritizing sustainability, including some of the industry's largest.
As Gen Z and millennials continue to age into power as consumers and leaders, this will only grow in importance. Companies will need to prove that they are committed to the causes that influence their buying habits, and environmental stewardship is close to the top, if not No. 1.