Reduce. Rebalance. Repeat. Meet our Climate Action Plan
September 2020, just a few weeks ago, was the hottest month on record globally (1). If we want to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, scientists say Earth’s temperature cannot increase by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels—and we’ve already raised it by 1.1 degrees (2).
Greenhouse gas emissions are a fact of life for all companies, including ours. It’s our responsibility to act now. We created Versed knowing we wanted, or rather needed, to do things differently. We started with vegan formulas, a stringent no-list which bans environment-damaging ingredients, education on reducing waste and recycling, and packaging made with post-consumer recycled plastic and FSC-certified paper whenever possible.
In our second year in business, our commitment has only deepened. We’re going beyond sustainably-minded—we’re focused on environmental accountability and that means paving the way for a climate free from warming. We’ve put initiatives in place to reduce our per unit GHG emissions by 25% over the next year, purchased 2,600 tonnes of carbon credits to offset our emissions since launch, and signed the UN’s Climate Neutral Now Pledge. But don't call us “carbon neutral”. For us, it's not about labels. It's about environmental accountability and action.
What Are Greenhouse Gas Emissions And How Do They Affect Climate?
First things first, let’s talk greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Human activities, such as cutting down trees and burning coal, release greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere. Emitting too many of these GHGs (appropriately named because they act similarly to a greenhouse by trapping heat) leads to an increase in Earth’s temperature—disrupting ecosystems, endangering wildlife, causing an increase in natural disasters and more. The best way to halt increases is to significantly reduce our emissions. In a perfect world, humans would release zero emissions, but that’s not realistic with today’s technology. Which is where “offsetting” emissions and the idea of “carbon neutral” comes in...
What Does “Neutrality” Mean? (And Why We Don’t Use That Term)
When it comes to greenhouse gases, “neutrality” is often associated with reaching net zero emissions—the idea is that whatever you release into the atmosphere is later offset through projects like forest restoration (remember, plants absorb CO2). “Carbon neutral” (net zero carbon emissions) and “climate neutral” (net zero for all GHG emissions) are the two “neutrality” terms you’re probably most familiar with.
The truth is: Offsetting emissions is not the same thing as never having emitted them in the first place. Versed is reaching net zero for all greenhouse gases by first reducing emissions, and then offsetting what we can’t eliminate—but don’t call us “carbon neutral”. Achieving “neutrality”, the math for which can vary depending on which calculation tools you use, is good, but our priority is to reduce emissions to get as close to zero as we can before we offset the balance. Here’s our plan to achieve that:
Step 0. MEASURE
Of course, none of this is possible without knowing how much you emit to begin with. We measure all 'cradle to gate' emissions—from when resources (like the raw ingredients that go into our formulas) are extracted through when our products are sold—and operational activities that include both direct (like maintaining an office) and indirect (such as business travel) sources. Emissions fall into three different buckets, referred to as “scopes”(3):
- Scope 1: Direct emissions controlled by an organization (example: shipping online orders)
- Scope 2: Indirect emissions that are controlled by an organization (example: the electricity used in a warehouse)
- Scope 3: Indirect emissions that are not in control of an organization (example: customers tossing their empty products in the trash) *this is the hardest scope to quantify
Calculating these emissions is no easy feat, so we lean on tools provided by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. Our “upstream emissions” (an indirect, Scope 3 emission that comes along with producing a product, such as sourcing ingredients) are calculated using the spend-based method and we use average emission factors provided by EPA Emission Factors for Greenhouse Gas Inventories, Carnegie Mellon EIO-LCA, and Carbon Footprint Grid Electricity Emissions Factors. Here is where we stand today, by the numbers:
Once we understand our numbers, we reduce. Currently, we’re focused on reducing one of our biggest sources of emissions, freight, through energy-efficient transportation. In 2020, we will reduce the footprint of our freight by over 65% through three primary tactics: Prioritizing domestic and local manufacturing, transitioning to renewable-fueled freight and shipping methods, and minimizing our use of air freight. We also reduce emissions by manufacturing with recycled materials and eliminating excess packaging (like inserts and secondary boxes). We’re on track to reduce our per unit GHG emissions by 25% over the next year.
One way to compensate for the excess of GHG being emitted into our atmosphere is to balance it out through offsetting. We are currently offsetting all our Scope 1 and Scope 2, and parts of Scope 3 emissions by supporting projects certified through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). And we’re not just talking about 2020; we’ve cumulatively offset all emissions since our launch in 2019 (that total number from the graphic above), and moving forward, will be calculating and offsetting our emissions annually.
This year, we've purchased 2,600 tonnes of carbon emissions through two offsetting projects: 6 MW Solar Power Project by Arhyama Solar Power, which installs solar farms to replace fossil fuel based power plants, and the San Antonio El Sitio Wind Power Project, which, as the first wind power project in Guatemala, provides green electricity to 20,000 homes in need.
It doesn’t end here. Our 2021 goals include even greater reductions and expanding our calculations to include more Scope 3 emissions like those associated with employee commuting, end of life treatment for products, and other indirect sources. As part of our commitment, we’ve signed the United Nations’ Carbon Neutral Now Pledge, joining the growing movement of companies and governments taking the lead on reducing emissions and accelerating the global journey to a warming-free future.
We can’t do this alone. Every single one of us is responsible for the health and longevity of our planet, our home, and that means taking action now. Habits like biking instead of driving and cutting back on meat may seem small, but together, they make all the difference to Mother Earth.
What are you doing to be environmentally accountable and take action? Tell us on social, on chat, in an email, or text us—we’re in this together.
Newburger, Emma. “September 2020 Was the Hottest on Record Worldwide.” CNBC, CNBC, 7 Oct. 2020, www.cnbc.com/2020/10/07/climate-change-september-2020-was-the-hottest-on-record-worldwide-.html.
“Climate Neutral Now.” Unfccc.int, United Nations , unfccc.int/climate-action/climate-neutral-now.
“What Is the Difference Between Scope 1, 2 and 3 Emissions?” Compare Your Footprint, Will Https://Compareyourfootprint.com/Wp-Content/Uploads/2016/10/Logo-1.Png, 2 Nov. 2018, compareyourfootprint.com/difference-scope-1-2-3-emissions/.
Brander, Matthew. “Greenhouse Gases, CO2, CO2e, and Carbon: What Do All These Terms Mean?” Aug. 2012, doi:https://ecometrica.com/assets/GHGs-CO2-CO2e-and-Carbon-What-Do-These-Mean-v2.1.pdf.