Climate change is the single biggest growing issue that falls at the centre of every industry in the world.
The fashion and textiles sector accounts for around four percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions globally, which is more than the total emitted by France, Germany and the UK combined.
Luckily, brands and consumers alike are beginning to grasp the seriousness of the problem.
What can we do?
As a fashion brand, we know that there are numerous things that we can do to help reduce our impact.
So, earlier this year we partnered with Treepoints to offset the carbon that is produced for each of our garments.
Getting to grips with the concept of carbon offsetting can be a little confusing, so we wanted to hear from Anthony Collias, co-founder of Treepoints, to find out the answers to some of the most pressing questions.
1. The complexity and scale of the climate crisis is overwhelming. Where would you say TreePoints fits into the fight against climate change?
You tend to find that now, there are a lot of people who want to take action against climate change.
Obviously, the most direct action that people should take first of all is to reduce their impact, which brands like yourselves are doing anyway.
But especially if you’re a smaller company, beyond a certain point further reductions become either unreasonable or unfeasible, or they start to have a negligible impact.
So, the next thing you can think about doing other than reducing, is thinking about what positive things you can do.
This is where we come in. We kind of bundle that up for people, and make it easy for them to access positive climate action that we have verified for them.
Part of the difficulty of taking positive climate action is how you can verify it. How do you make sure that what you’re doing is actually going to help?
We’re a third-party that’s helping people do that.
Through us, people can plant trees with verified partners around the world, recycle plastic, and offset carbon which supports projects that are either removing carbon, or stopping carbon from being emitted.
A big part of our value is curating the partners we’re working with.
As we're aggregating our partners and the demand, it means that we can access industry level wholesale rates, that at an individual level you couldn’t.
Particularly in the carbon offsetting market, it’s hard to source and purchase credits in small amounts.
2. We’ve noticed that many platforms who offer carbon offsetting do so at a much cheaper rate, almost suspiciously cheap. Can you speak for your competitors as to whether there’s any credibility to their claims?
It totally varies, but there are a lot of competitors who are pretty legitimate.
Speaking on behalf of Treepoints, it’s something that we’ve put a lot of time into, and we’re releasing a manifesto very soon.
This will specifically explain how we review the risk levels of different project types, which we’re doing in collaboration with some academics.
In essence, the manifesto will explain the relative risk profiles of different projects, and why they have risks or not.
Generally, most competitors who offer cheaper offsets have valid reasons for it, and it does play a role in the market.
But, these options will slowly stop existing.
The standards that verify the carbon credits are already updating, making it harder for any more to enter the market.
3. Fashion is an incredibly dirty industry, and widely believed to be the second most polluting on the planet. Do you think carbon offsetting automatically makes a fashion brand sustainable?
No, I think that as a company we try to educate and encourage brands. But as we’re not an analytics platform, it’s not 100% our remit.
We try to work with companies and explain that offsetting should be part of a wider sustainability initiative.
The classic example is with fossil fuel companies.
Say they choose to offset a bunch of carbon, that doesn’t necessarily counteract the impacts they’re having.
There are questions first of all around the quality of the offsets, secondly it’s not as simple as that.
The impact that some of the carbon will have going out, and the risk that the credits won’t remove as much as they say, means that on balance, there’s still some risk being put on the environment.
Some offsetting methods also take a long time to actually remove the carbon, so for example, tree planting requires the trees to actually grow before they have any positive impact.
So I would say that carbon offsetting is part of a sustainability strategy, not the entirety of one.
4. If a big fast-fashion company came to you looking to badge themselves as sustainable, how do you go about ensuring that they are not using TreePoints as a greenwashing exercise?
Whilst ideally, carbon offsetting should be part of a holistic sustainability initiative, we still see it as better than doing nothing.
For our part, if a brand came along and said that they’re interested in doing this, and if they didn’t, they would do nothing, it’s definitely still better to give them that option.
The best thing that we can do is communicate to people first of all what they can and can’t say through partnering with us.
This includes terms like ‘Net Zero’ and ‘Carbon Neutral’, and advising them on how and when they can use them.
It’s often a good starting point to then discuss what they can do to be able to use these terms, which is usually the direction they’re wanting to go.
My fundamental view is that businesses will want to do this, increasingly because of consumer sentiment, because it makes sense for their brand.
Whilst it would be nice for everyone to do it for the right reasons, if someone wanted to do it for business reasons and that means we can convince them to then reduce and offset, I’ll take it.
It’s better than them not doing anything
5. Carbon offsetting covers a multitude of different areas. Can you tell us about an inspirational carbon offsetting project that TreePoints supports?
In terms of tree planting, we do some afforesting and reforestation credits, but we also separately just plant trees without planning it to a specific amount of carbon.
There, we work with Eden Reforestation projects, and we’re looking to add one or two more partners.
The reason we work with them is because they have an excellent track record.
There are independent agencies who verify their non-profit, and make sure that they are planting the trees they say to.
Eden Reforestation also has systems set up to monitor the trees that are planted, and track their progress as they grow.
They operate at a very large scale and in third-world countries, which means that they have an efficiency per tree planted that is better than a lot of other partners.
For example, some people like the idea of planting trees in the UK, but they don’t realise that because of the land cost here compared to somewhere like Mozambique, it will be 10 - 100 times more expensive.
On top of that, people don’t often don’t realise that there’s no localised climate change impact you can have, it’s a global issue.
If you’re altering carbon dioxide or absorbing carbon dioxide and omitting oxygen, it moves around the atmosphere so quickly that it doesn’t matter where you do it.
For plastic recycling, we’ve just started working with Plastic Bank for quite similar reasons as Eden Reforestation.
They’re a large, reputable non-profit, who have achieved a scale and work with a lot of partners that we respect and are verified by Guide Store, the independent party of verification.
For carbon offsetting, we only use projects that are verified by either Gold Standard or BCS.
We’re also releasing a framework that explains how we’re going to be selecting certain projects from now into the near future, continually updating it as the market changes.
6. As the Co-Founder of TreePoints, what has made you most proud on your journey so far? And what are your plans for the future?
That’s a very good question. We’ve planted a lot of trees for one.
I think this past month, aside from all the carbon and plastic recycling, we have planted about 15,000 trees.
This is why people love using tree planting as a marketing tool, it’s just quite cool to think about 15,000 trees.
Think about the actual space that takes up, visualise that.
It’s like hey, those are trees that have been able to be funded and planted, and then as a result, the kind of impact that makes in providing sustainable work to people who live in developing countries.
It’s quite cool to think that that exists because we bothered making a platform.
If you’d like to learn more about Treepoints, take a look at their website here.
Here’s a great article we found with everything you need to know about carbon offsetting.