Overcoming small business carbon offset anxiety

26 October 2021, 09:57 AM
  • As co-founder of Blue Goose Eco Coffee, Lex Thornely knows the current Brexit-pandemic mix of challenges are enough to stop any business owner focussing on tasks that are not vital to the day-to-day running of their business – but kicking the carbon can down the road is leaving money on the table
Overcoming small business carbon offset anxiety

Here at Blue Goose Eco Coffee, co-founder Nick and I had the chance to build a contemporary, purpose-driven start-up around the core principles of ethical sourcing, CSR and sustainability. We were lucky, as this is definitely the easiest way to help your business ‘go eco’ versus having to retro-fit it, but no matter how young or old your business is, there are so many ways to embrace your own climate challenges and set the direction of your business towards carbon reduction and neutrality. 

The benefits are clear

According to B-Corp, “…climate action can bring efficiencies to your business and foster stronger relationships with partners.” 

This is reason in itself to pursue action, but consider the huge consumer pressure for businesses to do more – Speciality Food’s A Sustainable Future reported the spending power of those most engaged with sustainable issues in FMCG alone is $382 million and surely growing. In the meantime, one famous search engine has just reported that “concern for the environment grew during the pandemic, with 82% of people surveyed claiming sustainability is more top of mind now than before and almost 80% said big businesses have a role to play in fighting climate change”.

So the question is whether you want to be one of those businesses that conscious consumers spend their money with or one that they avoid.

Don’t wait for the law

Right now, you also have to really want to reduce or neutralise your business’ carbon emissions as there are no current penalties from Government should you choose not to. But with Glasgow’s COP26 kicking off imminently it probably won’t be long before the Government steps in with legal requirements and targets in its aspiration to achieve ‘net zero’ by 2050. We’d argue that it’s surely better to be carbon-proactive than passive, so get a head start now before you have to.

The very best way to achieve the above is to simply re-frame your mindset and start doing, rather than worrying. For example…

Roasting eco into everything you do

When we created Blue Goose and launched our plastic free compostable coffee pods in 2017, sustainability wasn’t an afterthought. It was the thing that drove all our decisions, along with our stance on ethical sourcing and charity support. Our costs, especially where compostable and plastic free materials are concerned, were of course higher but the pay-off started to come when the Blue Planet effect took hold, helped more recently by the incredible post-pandemic focus on sustainability from global consumers and retailers. 

Likewise for Two Drifters Distillery, a neighbour of ours here in Exeter who make award-winning rum with a carbon negative footprint. Their whole approach is driven by the principle that, “Every decision we make takes into account the environmental impact.” 

It was co-founder Russ who, for example, introduced us to Climeworks, a company literally sucking carbon out of the atmosphere in real time. It’s surely the best way we humans can deal with our carbon problem isn’t it?!

Well, maybe. The challenge for brand owners like us is that direct carbon air capture technology and offsetting carbon is expensive. As Russ says, “…in so many ways it is far cheaper to avoid creating CO2 in the first place rather than offsetting it”. 

Sounds simple, but how?

Look forward first

For those companies not already focussed on sustainability, don’t fear the task of retrospectively reducing your product or brand’s environmental impact. Simply use the above mindset to inject positivity into your carbon-reducing and eco-improving efforts moving forward first, from new NPD projects to swapping to less impactful materials or purchasing more efficient equipment. 

You can then use this knowledge and momentum to start tackling the challenges presented by current processes and infrastructure and bring them up to speed. 

Learn from others

Yes, as an ex-carbon scientist, Russ has better knowledge than most but he couldn’t be more happy to share his knowledge to help other business owners like us on our own carbon-reduction journey. The lesson? Talk to other businesses owners who are already on their carbon journey, no matter how far. They will help you craft your own action plan faster and, importantly, enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm, and this is what we all need at the moment!

Carbon piggybacking

For us, one of the very best methods to both accelerate carbon reduction and avoid the costs of offsetting is to piggyback other companies who’ve already done the carbon reduction work so we don’t need to. 

For example, when we were sourcing materials to create our plastic free coffee pod and compostable coffee pouch range, we tried to engage as many CO2-neutral material and service suppliers as possible. Our compostable coffee pods are created using a waste product from the printing industry and are made in a factory powered by renewable energy. Our printers are carbon neutral and we specify FSC paper and board as standard, so we know we’re doing everything we can on a sustainability front. We even worked with our carton manufacturer to introduce plastic-free glue.

A great example of this for any D2C businesses out there is to switch the courier company you use to secure one of the biggest carbon savings you can make. Yes you might pay a bit more per delivery but, if you think about it, that cost is incremental versus paying to offset a carbon-heavy courier’s contribution to your overall footprint and emissions. 

Staff appeal

Even your recruitment efforts will benefit from carbon reduction according to an IBM study that found 71% thought environmentally sustainable companies were more attractive employers and nearly half would accept a lower salary to work for such organisations. Not a bad statistic to further justify your eco efforts.

Gamify your carbon reduction

Whether tree planting, investing in carbon offsetting projects or even taking carbon directly out of the air like us, reducing your impact has never been more fun thanks to organisations like Ecologi and Climeworks. We are absolutely addicted to their carbon reduction offerings and are very proud of our Blue Goose Forest with Ecologi, so take out one of their monthly business and staff subscriptions options to set yourself on an immediate path towards creating a climate positive workforce and a reduction in any carbon anxiety you might be experiencing. 

Too Good To Go is another fantastic company we work with that helps us minimise food waste, save carbon emissions and reduce our waste costs too for a win-win-win. 

We’re by no means at the end of our journey here at Blue Goose Eco Coffee, but we hope some of the things we’ve learned along the way can help you start, or accelerate your way towards a better way of doing business. 

So grab your carbon bull by the horns and embrace your own particular challenges. I guarantee you will feel better and your customers, employees and peers will only respect you more for jumping in, as well as rewarding you now and throughout your journey. 

Good luck and stay (climate) positive!

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