Being a forerunner comes with a responsibility of trying to show the way
When we decided to get climate positive at the end of the Summer of 2018 we didn’t really know what we were getting into.
From a narrow Icebug business perspective it was pretty irrational. We didn’t have any customers asking for this and our early estimates of what it would cost had a wild range: Between 50 cents and 20 dollars per pair of shoes. But from a wider and long term perspective it made total sense. If you listen to science, global warming is one of the major threats to human life on this planet.
We had to find a way to take our responsibility and there were basically three questions we had to address: What emissions are we causing? Which measures can we take to reduce emissions we cause? How do we take care of what’s left, moving from having a negative impact to having a positive impact?
We decided to commit first and work it out later. Setting ourselves what we believed to be a very aggressive timeline: Getting climate positive by 2020 and making it impossible to back pedal on our pledge by putting it on the back of the shoe boxes of all our products coming out already fall 2019.
It proved to be easier than we believed, and we managed to get climate positive ahead of schedule, already in half a year. (For a deeper peak into the behind the scene stories of how it developed, head over to the blog.) That doesn’t mean that we can promise anyone that the transition to a carbon balanced planet will be a smooth ride. It will require sacrifice and lots of hard work.
There will be gains as well, for individuals, for companies and for society, and the alternative of collectively not doing our outmost to address the climate emergency is one of extreme risk, with the truly vulnerable being the future generations.
''Becoming the first climate positive outdoor footwear brand meant that Icebug took a lead. But we’re still just at the beginning of the race''
Becoming the first climate positive outdoor footwear brand meant that Icebug took a lead. But we’re still just at the beginning of the race. Working out how we can decrease the emissions we cause sufficiently is an ongoing challenge that will continue for a long time.
Being a forerunner also comes with a responsibility of trying to show the way. When we set out as new in the field, we did a lot of work by ourselves. Formulating the commitment, drawing the road map, learning how to measure, setting targets and getting practical about reductions and trying to find the best ways to offset. We’ve spent a lot of time telling our story at conferences and through the website, sharing our experiences as transparently as we can. It’s been very rewarding to learn that we have inspired quite a few others. Together we’ll be much stronger in creating much needed momentum and along the way we have gathered what we find to be the best joint initiatives – so now we’re sharing those along with what we have developed ourselves. With the intent to remove unnecessary obstacles for others who want to take responsibility and join the global movement of taking climate action.
The UNFCC Climate Neutral Now pledge is a perfect foundation for your climate commitment, whether you’re a brand, an individual or an organisation. https://unfccc.int/climate-action/climate-neutral-now
You don’t need to become a climate change expert you just need to follow the best available knowledge which is the science gathered by the IPCC and then apply it to your situation.
The offsetting is the easiest part, it’s mostly a matter of cost and that’s relatively low – much lower than what an actual correct price of carbon should be to drive the change needed. That’s why offsetting only has merit if it’s part of the full package. The difficulty of measuring and reducing varies. For individuals, measuring is pretty easy. There are plenty of calculators available for free online that will give you reasonably accurate numbers and a good sense of proportion between the CO2 footprint of different activities. The hard part will most likely be changing the lifestyle if you see that some of the things you do have a very high impact.
For those brands that make products the measuring is vastly more complex. It’s a lot of data. Particularly if you do products that have global supply chains that run 5-6 steps deep.
But it can be done. Icebug is a proof of that. Even a small brand with limited resources in the dirty footwear industry with complex global supply chains can get climate neutral or even positive. We're still in a learning process to measure with greater accuracy down to the footprint of each individual style across the entire line. When we have set a more accurate base line, we will also be able to establish how much the changes that we have done in changing materials and processes from the standard ones have decreased the CO2 footprint already.
Since may 2020 we’re a supporting partner of the 1.5°C Business Playbook, simply because it’s the best general starting point for doing practical work that we have seen so far. The Playbook is free to download here: www.exponentialbusiness.org.
The Playbook is a spin-off project of the Exponential Roadmap, highlighting the 36 solutions that can scale exponentially to halve Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2030 worldwide.
Based on the experience we now have, if we would start gearing up our climate work today, we would start with this Playbook. It’s not just to get started,it will also be very useful for our further work. The Playbook is in regular up-dating with input from supporting partners and it will continously improve and add helpful tools.
We also share our humble own attempts in this field ''Road map to Climate Positive'' as this can have some practical value, particularly for brands that are very similar to us.
The standard for setting your own emissions reduction targets according to best available science and integrating them into your business strategy is the Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi). The SBTi program was originally set up for much big companies and, but since April 2020 SBTi has created a new pathway for companies with less than 500 employees, so this can now indeed be interesting for a small or medium sized company to look at.
At Icebug, we have indeed aligned our reduction targets with what science says – committing to reduce emissions caused at least by 50% by 2030 and then cutting them in half every 10 years to stay below a 1.5°C temperature increase. As this commitment is made both in our UNFCC Climate Neutral Now pledge and by following the 1.5°C Business Playbook we have decided not to be part of the SBTi as we see that this would create little extra value.
Our next practical reduction target to reach is to have >50% renewable energy in our Tier 1 factories (Tier 1 means that it’s the factories that produce our footwear) by 2022.
The principle is straight forward. There is a balanced state of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere where the risk of increasing temperature is acceptable. At this point, we’re way over that balance, and human activity keeps emitting more than the planet can absorb. But if you offset greenhouse gases emitted with actions that decrease the same amount of greenhouse gases, your greenhouse gas balance sheet is in check. If you offset more than you cause, you are part of the solution in getting closer to a balanced state. Offsetting is not a green card to carry on as before, and actual emissions have to go down. But it’s also not a letter of indulgence. It has a real effect.
Offsetting is the last step in the chain, and most of our time and focus goes into measurement and reduction. But we need to be realistic and acknowledge that we cannot reduce our emissions down to zero, so we offset twice of what is left of our emissions, thus making us climate positive.
The GHG protocol states that purchased offsets should be disclosed so that it is clear if they are verified/certified. We have chosen to purchase offsets mainly through the UN carbon offset platform https://offset.climateneutralnow.org/. That system is called Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and the basis of it is that you finance emission reductions in development countries that would otherwise not have happened – and all money goes straight to the emission reduction programs without the UN charging a commission. Purchasing CDM offsets you get a Certified Emission Reduction (CER) and the currency is tonnes of CO2 equivalents (CO2e). Equivalents meaning that it can also be other greenhouse gases avoide, such as methane that is much stronger than CO2. CDM is mentioned in the GHG protocol as an approved verifier of offsets. A climate-offsetting project that has a CDM rating is thoroughly controlled/audited and delivers both the promised offsetting as well as co-benefits for society as a whole (varies from education to improved air quality, generally tied to the SDG´s defined by the UN). No system is perfect, so we apply some further restrictions on our CDM offsetting portfolio: We don’t purchase offsetting from industrial gas destruction, neither from large hydro projects (as the social benefits of these are in doubt and there are is other negative impact on the environment). Since there have been some questioning of the additionality of the CDM system, we have also decided to offset at least 200% of our calculated actual emissions caused, to have some margin to back the claim that we’re climate positive.
Of the 7 750 CER that were purchased for 2019/20 (Icebug’s year ends the last of February), 7 500 came from a wind farm project in Maharashtra, India. It is called project 2342 and can be found on https://cdm.unfccc.int/Projects/DB/RWTUV1229007791.61/view. The last 250 CER came from our membership in climateneutral.org and came from a project that captures methane gas from landfills. For future offsetting purchases we intend to follow guidelines from climateneutral.org. These will be publicly available from July 2020.
To leverage beyond how you effect your own footprint, you can send signals of the change you want. One signal is weak, but every single choice makes a difference. Choosing a better option makes a difference. Fridays for Future has shown us how one voice can start a movement.
The same way you can increase momentum for change by asking the brands you like about their commitments. If it’s someone that companies really listen to, it’s their customers. You can ask them the three simple questions, using social media if you want an amplifier for you signal:
Knowing what science says is needed to stay with the (relatively) safe 1,5 degrees warming - cutting CO2 emissions by half by 2030. And then half again every decade. If Icebug could became climate positive in 6 months, everybody else can if they want to, at least within a year. You have the right to expect that from companies. And to expect commitment now.
Don’t wait for perfect to start taking climate action
For individuals: climateneutralnow.org, goclimateneutral.org
* Icebug’s roadmap to Climate positive (pdf for download).
* Methodology (pdf for download – coming soon)
* Link to video with the presentation from the European Outdoor Summit?
Climate action organizations that we’re part of: www.exponentialbusiness.org, climateneutralnow.org, clipop.org, climateneutral.org, www.fossilfritt-sverige.se, klimat2030.se
Other useful links: https://sciencebasedtargets.org/, https://quantis-suite.com/Scope-3-Evaluator/