On the heels of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s newest report, there has never been a more pressing time for a brand to make a climate commitment. Anthropogenic, or human-caused, climate change is now a part of modern life—and will only become more pervasive in the next 30 years. But with the report's findings comes a small glimmer of hope; there is still time to meet the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting warming to 1.5C if we can transition away from fossil fuels, decarbonize, and finally, significantly scale up carbon removal technologies.
We've seen several brands and retailers define their climate goals this year (check out the complete list of Net Zero commitments compiled by BCorp here). But as with all goals, they must be defined by one unifying metric. And in this case, it's carbon. If we can't quantify it, we can't change it.
Businesses that make climate commitments will require rapid operational decarbonization, and in tandem, investment into carbon dioxide removal (CDR) offsets for all emissions the company cannot reduce. Decarbonization for retailers happens cross-functionally across a wide range of business lines. For brands, these emissions-reducing activities include switching to 100% renewable energy, optimizing transportation and logistics networks, investing in EVs for last-mile deliveries, and engaging with third-party manufacturers to cut energy use and carbon emissions.
While retailers are still not at the point where they can reduce all carbon from their operations, high-quality carbon removal offsets remain essential to achieving this Net Zero balance. Aptly, the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report includes a Summary for Policymakers that highlights how CDR can "compensate for residual emissions to reach net zero emissions" and can ultimately lower global surface temperatures.
From a brand perspective, carbon removal offsets enable merchants to mitigate the increased carbon intensity of e-commerce fulfillment from sectors that are still unable to decarbonize, like air and sea freight shipping to manufacturing.
This post will focus on how a retailer can programmatically build carbon removal into their products and services using Patch's infrastructure. Here at Patch, we believe businesses should automate carbon removal at the point of sale. The advantage of having this carbon removal on "autopilot" enables sustainability teams to then focus their time and energy on emissions reduction and decarbonization efforts. So here's to having all hands on deck!
As an ecommerce brand, you'll first need to figure out who's paying. There are two uses cases to consider when building out your brand's climate program:
- Merchant Pay: The brand covers the entire cost to offset unavoidable emissions.
- Customer Opt-in: The customer can pay an additional fee to neutralize their order. Data from Patch's customers shows that typically 20% of customers are opting into this type of carbon neutrality feature at checkout.
Once you've figured out who will cover the cost, you'll need to decide which use case to launch with. Here's a breakdown of some of our most impactful ecommerce use cases:
- Carbon Neutral / Climate Positive Shipping: Patch can help estimate emissions generated from shipping based on package weight, mode of transportation, and distance travelled. Our proprietary emissions estimation model can create a carbon dioxide equivalent estimate and then neutralize these emissions in real-time with Patch's project network.
- Funding frontier removal: Increasingly, we've seen brands choose to forgo footprint estimations, and instead contribute $1 - 2 or a percentage of total order value directly to high-quality carbon removal projects.
- Account Settings: With Patch, you can enable your customers to make every delivery carbon neutral without having to opt-in at check-out every time.
- Post-purchase experience: Using Patch's check-out link feature, retailers can send an email to customers enabling them to neutralize their emissions after the customer has transacted.
- Carbon removal as a reward: Does your brand have a rewards/loyalty points system in place? Using the API, you can enable your customers to contribute their points towards funding frontier removal offsets.
These use cases are just the start. An advantage of using Patch's API means you can get creative with how you build climate-embedded features into the ecommerce experience.
Once you've decided on the use case, it's time to pick which projects you'd like to begin contributing towards. Patch enables your team to choose projects based on your budget, region, or technology type. With over 40 traditional + frontier carbon offset projects to choose from, we'll help you craft a project portfolio that resonates with your brand's story.
Our favourite example of this is one of Patch's early adopters, Londre Bodywear. Made sustainably from recycled plastic bottles in Vancouver, BC, Londre wanted to contribute towards frontier carbon removal projects that matched the ethos of their customer base. After diving into the research on the state of offsets, the team at Londre decided they were going to neutralize their shipping footprint by contributing to Running Tide, a kelp sequestration project off the coast of Maine. Kelp removes CO2 from the ocean as it grows (20x faster than trees) and Running Tide is building the most efficient carbon removal system in the world by scaling this natural process.
Carbon removal technology will continue to play a critical role alongside decarbonization in the next 20 years. Fortunately, IBM recently surveyed 1,900 executives globally and found 9 out of 10 companies will be working on sustainability initiatives by end of 2021. It's encouraging to see companies beginning to make climate a strategic priority. And while recently it's been easy to feel overwhelmed by the news, brands empowering their customers to live more sustainable lifestyles while minimizing their carbon footprint make us all a little more optimistic for the future.
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