On Tuesday, the two executives used the Colorado Convention Center floor as a launching pad for a new certification effort they’ve helped bring about: Climate Neutral.
Like a farmer who puts a “certified organic” sticker to a bag of oranges to demonstrate that no synthetic chemicals were used to grow them, the Climate Neutral badge would be a clear sign to consumers that the companies they buy from are tracking their carbon footprint, reducing it and paying to offset it 100 percent.
Dering, Cedar and partners have created an independent nonprofit organization — called Climate Neutral — to help brands measure, reduce and offset their carbon footprints and award the certifications. The nonprofit has its own booth on the exhibition hall floor for Outdoor Retailer’s summer show where interested companies can sign up and learn about carbon-reduction strategies and even get help buying carbon credits.
Cedar, whose company creates products that use off-grid energy such as solar-charged home lighting systems, is no stranger to thorny world issues. BioLite is committed to bringing safe energy to sub-Saharan Africa. At a breakfast held Tuesday morning, it was estimated that the outdoor recreation industry generates about $887 billion per year, around 2 percent of the U.S. economy, Cedar said. With hundreds of companies present at this week’s show, the impact of Climate Neutral — both politically and in terms of carbon reduction — could be massive with strong participation.
“We’ve got about 10 years to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change,” Cedar said. “The reason Climate Neutral is so exciting for me is it offers an opportunity for all of us to get involved today. I think the biggest thing we need is membership.”
Calculating a company’s carbon footprint involves looking at factors including energy used at manufacturing facilities, during shipping and at corporate offices. Part of the reason the nonprofit was formed was to make the process of buying offsets easier to understand. Dering pointed out that — for now, at least — carbon credits are cheap. His company, Peak Design, which makes high-end bags and backpacks, offset its entire 20,000-ton carbon footprint for $60,000 in 2017, a year in which it brought in $30 million in revenue. Efforts the business has undertaken included paying to cover a landfill with a tarp.
“That’s what started this whole thing,” Dering said. “It was this realization that, holy (crud), this is achievable. How come everybody isn’t doing this as the low bar for responsibility?”
So far, 18 brands have signed on to be launch companies for Climate Neutral. They include environmentally friendly footwear brand Allbirds. Hana Kajimura, Allbirds’ sustainability manager, appeared as part of Tuesday’s panel where the effort was announced. The company is actively looking at ways to reduce the carbon dioxide production and shipping of its products put into the atmosphere, including through the use of on-site renewable energy at its facilities.
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Dering made it clear that not only does he feel Climate Neutral is the ethical thing for companies to do, but he also views it as a political act at a time when leaders in the U.S. and abroad are not adequately responding to a climate crisis or regulating greenhouse gas output.
“Climate change is seen as this problem that we can’t do anything about, but, in actuality, we have to pay for it to be fixed as a society,” Dering said. “Governments ought to make us do it. They’re not. Businesses, step up. Do it.”
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