Friele’s Olav Munch says it has been important for the company to select offset projects with which it has a direct connection, rather than simply buying credits “off the shelf”.
“We realize that as a corporation we impact local communities in developing countries, and much of the CO2
emissions that are
created in the production process of our coffee affects them as well. We therefore consider it our responsibility to invest in clean energy projects in the regions where our trade is set,” says Munch.
“Also, the measurement of CO2 emissions is rather intangible. Who can really picture how much 500 tonnes of CO2 is? Hav-
ing something to invest in that we can relate to, with the same quantity, makes it all seem a little bit more tangible.”
Even so, says Munch, it hasn’t been easy to communicate the company’s efforts to its employees and customers. “There has been a lot of bad press about companies falsely advertising cli- mate neutrality, so we’ve often felt like we’re met with more resistance than approval by the public when we announced our carbon neutrality. It would be nice if there was a consensus about the requirements to make the claim that you are carbon neutral.”
Andrew Railton of New Zealand’s Antipodes Water, another Climate Neutral Network member, agrees: “The biggest chal- lenge is getting people to see carbon footprinting as more than a marketing ploy. Everyone is skeptical the minute you mention carbon emissions, and a lot of time is spent explaining the pro- cess to new team members and distributors. However, once they are on board and see the processes in action, they are converted.”
Antipodes Water offers carbon neutral bottled water, drawn from a deep aquifer. The company has explored every oppor- tunity to reduce its footprint, for example using recycled glass instead of plastic for its bottles, keeping staff in all its main distribution regions to minimize the need for business travel, sending its bottles via rail freight, and installing solar paneling for heating.
The company offsets all unavoidable emissions using projects approved by New Zealand’s Landcare Research through its car- boNZero programme. Antipodes Water has also carved out two wetlands and reforested an area with 2,000 native kahikatea
trees on the site of its bottling plant, and the company argues that this makes its product carbon positive.
“We look at every new market we enter from a carbon emis- sions point of view before we commit to a distribution agree- ment,” says Andrew Railton. “We discuss our goals with the distributor candidly, which helps us form long-term relation- ships built on a strong environmental belief system. It is also a great instrument for change internally: with every new idea, someone automatically comments: ‘And what is the carbon footprint impact of this?’ ”
Railton’s advice to other companies considering a pledge of carbon neutrality: “It shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. Under- stand it, believe in it—if you are looking for a quick fix market- ing gimmick this isn’t it. Becoming a carbon neutral company should force you to turn your company inside out and make you look at all the pieces differently.”
If water can be carbon neutral, then so can wine—at least in New Zealand. The New Zealand Wine Company, which grows grapes, makes and bottles wine in the Marlborough region, has been carbon neutral for four successive growing periods. Af- ter calculating and minimizing emissions from all stage of the production process, the company also offsets the remainder through the carboNZero programme, in this case through a wind farm in New Zealand.
Craig Fowles of the New Zealand Wine Company says one of the biggest challenges of calculating emissions in this industry is the variation of the seasons—the weather conditions will dictate needs such as irrigation, frost protection and weed con- trol, which in turn have significant impact on the company’s energy use.
Nevertheless, Fowles argues that the process of mapping out the company’s footprints helps to identify areas where efficien- cy can be improved. “This not only improves the company’s footprint but can highlight areas to save financially also.
“In a world requiring further and further transparency into the full life-cycle of products, this information is going to be required by regulation and not voluntarily—so why not get in- volved now whilst you are one of only a few?”