Follow our journey towards a more sustainable shoe industry
To be the front runner also comes with a responsibility to share and help others to follow. Our sustainability section of the web is one way of doing this. This blogg is another. Here we can keep you posted on what's happening, both good and bad, in real time and as transparent as we can.
But when we found the UN carbon offset platform, we saw that the average cost for offsetting carbon emissions was a little more than $1 per tonnes of CO2e and that you could find a lot of projects that was less than $0,5 per tonnes.
Since our emissions calculation for one pair of representative Icebug footwear, the Ivalo2 BUGrip, even with adding 30% extra for uncertainties was less than 15 kg of CO2e it meant that the actual cost for offsetting could be less than 1 cent per shoe. Our first reaction was shock. Could this be right? And if it’s the cost is this low, how come everybody aren’t doing it already?
We decided to jump ahead of our 2020 schedule and do the full offsetting already for 2018, but we still thought it was too cheap and we offset with a double standard. Both UN’s CDM (clean development mechanism) and WWF’s gold standard.
But after a while we started rethinking. What we’re really after is the effect of offsetting carbon, and as pointed out to us by the UN, the CDM standard alone does this job. The CDM standard is robust for creating CERs (certified emission reductions) which is a kind of carbon credit.
Better than offsetting at a higher cost, would be to use the same money to offset more. So with that new principle, we went ahead and did an estimate of emissions that we had caused since the start of Icebug in 2001, for more than 2,5 million pairs of footwear and our operations, travel and transports. In June 2019 we made a historic offset. And we decided that from here onwards, we will double down our climate positive action – offsetting 200% of emissions caused (so if the carbon emissions of a pair of footwear is 15kg, we will offset 30kg).
The historic offset costing us less than US$10,000.
Having done this doesn’t make Icebug all that great. Sure, we had the dedication to get climate positive, we were committed to doing the work of measuring, but then we got lucky when we found out that carbon credits were actually extremely affordable.
And we’re still looking for maximum effect in greenhouse gas reductions, that a small player like Icebug has done it will have a very small impact. We’re still battling with the question: How come everybody aren’t getting at least climate neutral already?
Well maybe it’s because other brands don’t know. So we have decided to use all the platforms and contacts we have to spread this knowledge. We all have a shared responsibility to take action for the climate and that responsibility grows with power and influence. Our closest sphere of influence is the outdoor industry, where we now take action to mobilize for all to take the pledge to join UNFCC’s Climate Neutral Now no later than 2020. Fridays for Future has showed us that a lot of positive momentum can happen in one year, and we’re sure that if Icebug could get climate positive in six months, all of our colleagues will be able to do it in one year.
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.
It became a no-brainer to do it ahead of the time table and we purchased the offsets on Feb 21st. (Type in ”ICEBUG” in the top left search field of https://offset.climateneutralnow.org/vchistory to see what we have done.
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.
– 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:
– 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.
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 (www.naturalstep.org).
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.