In a sudden and unexpected move, Senator Joe Manchin approved a legislative bill that would raise the highest ever federal climate spending, amounting to $369 billion. Lawmakers suggest this would allow the US to reduce carbon emissions by 40% of 2005 levels by 2030. But it hasn’t passed yet, and despite the hopeful moment, the Inflation Reduction Act leaves gaps. Biden aims to reach 50% by 2030, in line with the Paris Agreement, which will keep global warming at 1.5°C.
For a long time, Austin Whitman has been frustrated by the lack of meaningful climate policy action on the part of the federal government. “Whether or not climate policy happens at the federal level for me is, at this point, somewhat controversial,” he says. The policy gap has left “this huge huge hole in how we’re actually going to reduce emissions.”
His answer in 2019 was to establish a nonprofit that would help companies meet their carbon emissions reduction goals. organization, climate neutral, of which Whitman is CEO, certifies small and large businesses that prove they’re replenishing their carbon—and, crucially, also ensures they’ve set a carbon reduction plan for the future. is of. Reward: A product label that consumers can see when they make a purchase. While it is one of several private eco-labels, experts say its approach stands out from the most, and that expanding its dominance from the group will help customers build trust in the system.
Earning certification requires a process that takes about four months. Companies must detail their full emissions for the past year in the supply chain, and how they are offsetting those emissions, whether through carbon credit programs, power purchase agreements, or renewable energy certificates. Then, they must demonstrate how they will reduce their carbon footprints over the next 18 to 24 months. They must reapply annually to reflect the group’s annual updated criteria (for 2023, for example, it would prohibit the use of crypto credits).
So far, Climate Neutral has certified 294 companies, 80% domestically and 20% overseas, including Allbirds, Kickstarter, Klean Canteen and REI, measuring and offsetting 1,077,544 tons of carbon so far. Have a recent brand to join Bud Light Next; Anheuser-Busch will be the group’s first Fortune 500 company partner. The beer brand will be the company’s first zero-carb beer and its first net-zero beer. Steve Wolf, the brand’s vice president of marketing, says he chose Climate Neutral because it is “a leading authority in the environmental sector that is aligned with our sustainability goals.” Whitman would like to have a one-day partnership with the entire Anheuser-Busch company, which aims to achieve net zero by 2040.
Michael Vandenberg, professor and director of the Climate Change Research Network at Vanderbilt University Law School, who co-author of a paper on carbon labeling system The approach, earlier this year, attaches importance to the climate neutral approach, especially its urgency. “Doing something right now is many years better than the right solution,” he says. He notes that there is a common trap other labels fall into, which relies heavily on offsetting, but that Climate Neutral makes a dedicated effort to focus on future carbon reduction plans. He likes that it considers the entire supply chain (what Whitman calls “cradle-to-consumer emissions”), noting that, for many companies, most emissions come up quickly in the chain.
Still, Whitman says offsets are necessary, especially at this early stage, because it’s usually not possible to reach net zero with only future reductions. “Companies will tell you, ‘We’ll get to zero by 2040’, but they don’t know how to do that,” he says. And the urgency of the offset is necessary, “to reduce the risk you get by 2040, and there’s no way to supply the level of mitigation that needs to happen.”
The labeling field is jam-packed. ecolabel indexA tracker of these tags says there are 456 in 199 countries. But they differ on their focus, from the recognition of responsible composting to eliminating animal testing. For Vandenberg, no carbon label has taken effect, which presents an opportunity for climate neutrality. “It’s a crowded place,” he says, “but it’s also a place where a well-designed, NGO-backed label can move forward.” That is what Whitman intended; For that, it is important to narrow down the field to eliminate consumer confusion and build trust. “There’s only one USDA organic label,” he says. “One is Fair Trade. I think there needs to be convergence on a single standard.”
Even if the climate bill passes, Vandenberg agrees with Whitman that the private sector still has a role to play in filling government gaps. “Carbon labeling is important, because the government is not going to address the climate problem in a timely manner,” he says. Furthermore, he believes consumer behavior will be a major driver of corporate decarbonization, as the public becomes more and more determined to actively choose carbon-friendly goods. When this happens, companies will have to respond faster than politicians. “Politicians can surround their districts,” he says. “But companies can’t control their markets.”