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Get sustainable or die trying

March 20, 2019: Icebug – the world’s first climate positive outdoor footwear brand.

The goal was to become climate positive 2020. But why wait, when we could do it now?

In January 2018 when we were at the biggest stage we get in our industry – Outdoor Retailer in Denver and ISPO in Munich – we fully expected that some other outdoor brand would have beaten us to it and be climate positive already. But instead what we heard was: “2020… that’s soon”.

“Yes we know.”

Mid-February we had a pretty good guess of what our total impact for 2019 would be: A little less than 4,000 tons CO2 equivalents, of which product account for around 90%. This emission figure is not exact. It’s based on the LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) of one style. But we know for a fact that we do create emissions, and that we can’t wait with trying to balance that negative impact on the climate by hiding behind waiting for exact figures.

This is our best estimate right now, and we balance the uncertainty of the figure by adding 30% surplus CO2 equivalents, totaling 4,755 tons. At about 4US$/ton in the project we have chosen, that amounts to a cost of about US$20,000.

Shortly afterwards we received an e-mail form UN climate neutral now, saying that we were the first company in our sector to become climate neutral – which is both encouraging and depressing)

So six months after the decision and from here onwards, we’re climate positive. But, this is only a small first goal achieved. The first sprint in an ongoing ultra. We’re interested in maximum effect.

5 January, 2019: Icebug to become the first climate positive outdoor footwear brand

Icebug has been empowering people to get outdoors since 2001. Next step: Climate positive 2020.

– We’re willing to invest all of the profit into this change to become sustainable. After all, that’s a small price for doing all that we can to stay within a safe temperature for the planet, David Ekelund, CEO of Icebug, says.

Talking about sustainability, the starting point has to be that we need to consume less to get within what the planet can regenerate. From a brand perspective, that means making things that people need. In the case of Icebug, that is footwear that can cope with cold, wet and slippery conditions. Next, it’s about making stuff that people can and want to use for a long time and do it in the best possible way.

– To become a sustainable company has been our target for a long time, and we have done a lot of good work already when it comes to decreasing negative impact, but climate positive 2020 is the game changer, David Ekelund says.

This is truly a leap towards unknown ground, and the big question is: Can such a small company do this in such a complex and difficult industry?

Icebug’s answer is yes. The Swedish company will, to our knowledge, become the first climate positive outdoor footwear brand. Our pledge for 2020 looks like this:

Icebug will put considerable resources into measuring our footprint on the planet with an initial emphasis on greenhouse gas. We will then offset and overcompensate by 10 % what’s left of our CO2 footprint after having minimized our resource use. We include all our activities in this: Products, logistics, operations, travel. The climate cost will be integrated into our core business model. We are not sure what the cost will be at this point but we are willing to invest all our profit into this change to become sustainable.

– We’re not perfect, and right now we don’t exactly know what our footprint is, or how to get to climate positive. But we’ve made a conscious choice not to wait to talk about this until it’s a done deal. We want this process to be transparent, since we don’t have any interest in doing this alone. We want others to be able to hold us accountable, and we want to give other companies the opportunity to join us as soon as possible, David Ekelund says.

David Ekelund

''If we can succeed in getting climate positive, most brands around us can – if they want to''

Potential to fundamentally change the way we do business

To be climate positive 2020 Icebug will have to offset. It will mean getting a clear idea of what the carbon footprint is and then compensate that with an extra 10% added, in projects which reduce CO2 emissions.

Offsetting is not a green card to carry on with business as usual. The process will involve setting a data-based baseline for actual emissions caused and then ambitious targets for reducing these. It will also not narrow down Icebug’s scope for the sustainability work to just be about climate; it will still be based on the four principles of sustainability of the natural step (

We firmly acknowledge that the climate is not the only planetary boundary that human activity is in high risk of passing. But at this point, the scope of the pledge is for the climate, because there is a mechanism to change CO2 emissions into money, which means that it can be built into the core of the business model. This also means that it has potential to fundamentally change the way we do business.

And offsetting also isn’t a letter of indulgence. To offset emissions that you have created with a surplus helps to improve the skewed balance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

– If we can succeed in getting climate positive, most brands around us can – if they want to, Ekelund says.

Icebug is an outdoor brand, and as such we believe that we have an extra obligation to take care of nature. And that outdoor customers will expect outdoor brands to take that responsibility.

– The more successful we are with this, the more incentives and pressure for our colleagues will increase. If the first phase is a brand being chosen by more people because it does good sustainability work, then in the next phase a brand that doesn’t reach the sustainability bar is not on the table to be selected at all. That’s when change gets disruptive.

– Alone, we are small, but if we can prove to other giants in the industry that this is actually good for the business in the long run, then we have made a real impact, Ekelund says.

Want to know more about Icebug's sustainability work?

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