Fight climate change with your purchasing choices

Look for the Climate Neutral Certified Label

Life

This Earth Day, conscientious consumers will certainly notice a plethora of different certification labels related to the environmental, social, and ethical practices of the brands producing everything you buy. In 2019, we launched Climate Neutral Certified–a new label that signifies brands who have certified their net-zero carbon emissions. This spring we're seeing more adoption of Climate Neutral practices than ever before. Over 230 brands, including many household names, have now achieved the label "Climate Neutral Certified." Hundreds of others will join them in the coming months.

So what is Climate Neutral Certification, and what does it mean for you?

Climate Neutral is a nonprofit organization founded in 2019 with the mission to decrease global carbon emissions by getting brands to offset and reduce all of their carbon emissions, and giving consumers a trusted climate label. Together, these brands and consumers are working together to drive the world toward zero net emissions, which science says we need to achieve by 2050 in order to maintain a livable climate.

Climate Neutral Certified brands have offset over 700,000 tonnes of carbon emissions–that's like taking over 150,000 cars off the road for a year. In addition to offsetting their carbon footprint, those brands have made plans to reduce their emissions through actions like transitioning their factories to clean energy.

How does Climate Neutral Certification Work?

To earn the Climate Neutral Certified label, brands must annually measure, offset and reduce their total carbon emissions from making products or services and providing them to customers. These emissions are caused by heating offices, manufacturing products, shipping parts, and countless other activities. We develop tools and standards to help companies measure their carbon emissions quickly and credibly.

Once they have measured their carbon footprints, brands must purchase high-quality carbon credits equivalent to a year's worth of emissions. A carbon credit is a certificate generated when someone takes an action to eliminate a metric tonne of greenhouse gas emissions, such as reforestation initiatives or projects that replace fossil fuel energy with wind and solar. When carbon credits are purchased to zero-out a person or organization's emissions, it's called a carbon offset.

Carbon credits put money into real time climate change solutions, while we work to reduce our carbon emissions altogether. To this end, all Climate Neutral Certified brands must also create Reduction Action Plans to curtail their emissions over the next 12-18 months.

You can search a directory of all Climate Neutral Certified brands online, or look for the label when you buy anything from shoes to mattresses.

What brands are Climate Neutral Certified?

Climate Neutral Certified brands can be found in over a dozen industries. Whether you're shopping for products or services, you can choose Climate Neutral options. Here are a few well-known examples:

Allbirds - joined Climate Neutral in 2019

This popular shoe company is on a mission to "prove that comfort, design and sustainability aren't mutually exclusive by making premium footwear from renewable materials, designed for everyday life." Allbirds has measured 7.6 kg of carbon emissions from making and delivering each pair of its shoes, and fully offsets all their products' carbon footprints.

REI - joined Climate Neutral in 2020

As a cooperative committed to getting people to "opt outside," REI has been publishing an annual stewardship report since 2006. This year, the report includes REI's Climate Neutral certification, earned for measuring and offsetting 250,422 tonnes of CO2e. Climate Neutral is also included on REI's list of Product Impact Standards.

Reformation - joined Climate Neutral in 2020

Founded in 2009, Reformation began by selling vintage clothing and, "quickly expanded into making our own stuff, with a focus on sustainability." Not only has the company offset 28,745 tonnes of CO2, but they also track all their clothing's environmental impact through an internal tool so you can see how much CO2, water, and waste their products use.

What can you do to help?

Businesses and consumers all have a part to play in stopping climate change. Together we can have a large impact. By using your dollars and voice, we hope to transform the way businesses operate. How can you encourage businesses to make the transition and take responsibility for their carbon emissions?

  • Look for the Climate Neutral Certified label when you're shopping for things.
  • If your favorite brands are not Climate Neutral Certified, urge them to measure, offset, and reduce their emissions using the hashtag #beclimateneutral.
  • Let your friends and family know about Climate Neutral.
  • Talk to your friends and family about climate change. Your voice and choices will help the world accelerate along the path to net-zero emissions.

The Mind the Store campaign knows that retailers often need a little push to phase out specific chemicals and products. That's why they're spearheading the fight against harmful consumer products. Mind the Store works with retailers, governments, and individuals to transform the marketplace and create healthier retail choices. To learn more about the work and process, we interviewed Mike Schade, director of Mind the Store.



Because Health: Could you give us a brief overview of how Mind the Store came to be? What are you looking to accomplish?

Mike Schade: In 2013, we launched the Mind the Store campaign to challenge the nation's largest retailers to get tough on toxic chemicals in products and packaging and develop comprehensive safer chemicals policies.

By highlighting leaders and calling out laggards to improve, our campaign works to transform the marketplace and drive a competitive race to the top among the biggest retailers in North America.

Since we launched the campaign, we have convinced some of the nation's biggest retailers like Walmart, the Home Depot, Amazon, and others to phase out numerous toxic chemicals from key products and packaging. These include BPA, phthalates, PFAS, flame retardants, and methylene chloride. And that's just the start!

BH: That's important work! Can you tell us a bit more about why retailers need to protect consumers from harmful chemicals?

MS: It's pretty simple when you think about it. Retailers have the power to decide what products they sell. When you walk into your favorite store, you expect the products on the shelves to be safe. Most folks don't realize that harmful chemicals are hiding in everyday products all around us—from cleaning products and cosmetics to food packaging and electronics.There are many scientific studies on the very serious health hazards certain chemicals can pose.

Consumers also want to know that the products they buy aren't hurting other people or the planet. But these chemicals are also hazardous to the communities, workers, and environment where they're made and eventually disposed of. And unsurprisingly low income communities and communities of color are disproportionately impacted.

There's also a very strong business case to act! Retailers that are not properly managing chemical risks can lose the trust of their customers, lose market share to competitors, and may even risk facing significant financial liabilities.

BH: A big component of the Mind the Store campaign is your Retail Report Card. What is the Retailer Report Card? What criteria do you use to rank different retailers?

MS: The report card gives grades to leading retailers on the steps they're taking to address highly hazardous chemicals in consumer products. No one wants to earn a letter grade of F or D. It makes them look bad, with customers, with investors, and with the media. So by publicly grading companies, this is encouraging them to improve. You can read more about it here.

As consumers, we have enormous power! In the report card, you can learn about who got A's (like Target and Apple) and who got F's (like Ulta and Starbucks).

Our next scorecard is coming out soon in late March. So stay tuned and be sure to visit it at RetailerReportCard.com!

BH: How have retailers reacted to your report card? Are they receptive to the feedback? What are some changes you're particularly proud of?

MS: Absolutely! Since we launched the campaign seven years ago, and the report card four years ago, we've seen a massive amount of progress among retailers.

One of the first companies we started engaging in the campaign was Target, who in response, launched a chemicals policy restricting toxic chemicals like phthalates, parabens, and formaldehyde releasers in beauty, baby, and personal care products. They've made a lot of progress, and have continued to expand their policy year over year.

And since Target first launched its policy, other retailers like Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Sephora have targeted many of the same chemicals for restriction in beauty and personal care products.

BH: It sounds like shopping at retailers with better grades is a simple way to protect ourselves, in addition to supporting companies that we know make better products! Overall, what are three changes Mind the Store wants to see from all retailers?

MS: We believe there are many changes retailers should make, but most importantly…

  1. Companies should have comprehensive safer chemicals policies, with lists of chemicals they're restricting and phasing out, and requiring suppliers to disclose ingredients to them and to consumers. After all, we all have a right to know!
  2. Companies should set clear public goals to measure success in eliminating chemicals of high concern and reducing retailers' chemical footprint. And it's super important for companies to publicly report on how they're meeting those goals!
  3. And finally, we need companies to stop playing the toxic whack-a-mole game! Companies should develop a way to evaluate the hazards of alternatives to ensure companies don't move from one problematic chemical to another. If they move from a chemical that may cause cancer, to a chemical linked to infertility, that's not going to do anyone any good!

BH: And finally, why focus on retailers to make these changes instead of manufacturers or governments?

MS: The Mind the Store campaign focuses on retailers because they are an important strategic intervention point. If a company like Walmart asks their suppliers to "jump", often times they'll ask "how high?"... they have massive amounts of influence over their suppliers and global supply chains. We are working to leverage that market power, not to mention the influence that consumers have over retailers, to drive change. No retailer wants to sell products that can expose their customers to hazardous chemicals. And no retailer wants to be on the six-o-clock news with a story about hazardous chemicals showing up in their food packaging or children's toys.

BH: That's a good point, retailers are very influential. We know the focus is on retailers, but how does Mind the Store also affect manufacturers, policies, and legislation?

MS: Our organization also fights for strong and sensible policies at the state and federal level, whether in Washington State or Washington DC. And we know that when we not only change the practices of big corporations, but also strategically align those policy commitments with policy reform in key states and federally, that's a perfect recipe for transformative change and success.

Folks can get involved on a personal level too by signing up for our e-list at SaferChemicals.org to get involved in our campaign!

Thanks so much for the interview and all that you do at Because Health! It's such a useful and informative website!

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