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Renewing our commitment as a Climate Positive Organisation

Renewing our commitment as a Climate Positive Organisation

This month, we acknowledge our tenth year of certification under Toit
ū Envirocare, renewing our commitment as a Climate Positive Organisation. Ecoware was founded as a challenge to our industry because providing an alternative to plastic packaging would question the traditional business concept of value because business choices now had environmental and social considerations. We are in the decisive decade of the climate crisis, and with regulations that are lacking in stimulating innovation and competitiveness, businesses must lead boldly. This partnership with Toitū Envirocare ensures our efforts are audited and accurate. So, we continue measuring and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, guided by science-based targets, investing in emission avoidance projects and offsetting our emissions by 125%, which will help us all hit our 2050 climate targets. 

How does oil contribute to emissions?

Fossil fuels are accountable for over 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions. (United Nations). Manufacturing and industry also produce emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, to produce energy for making things like cement, iron, steel, electronics, plastics, clothes, and other consumer goods. Mining, construction, and other industrial processes also release greenhouse gas emissions and machines used in the manufacturing process often run on coal, oil, or gas. Some materials, like plastics, are made from chemicals sourced from fossil fuels. The manufacturing industry is one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. 

Consider that every ton of carbon dioxide released into our atmosphere today will remain for hundreds to a thousand years. Earth’s heating today is not just the result of fossil fuels burned or plastic produced last year, but also the fuels burned decades ago and the plastics manufactured. That means that even achieving zero emissions tomorrow leaves a whole lot of warming potential up there for generations to come. In other words, the future of our climate (and the capacity for us, globally, to keep warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius) is dependent on the cumulative balance of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere over many years. The world is currently on track to see up to 2.7 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100

What did COP27 achieve?

After decades of growing scientific research and public awareness ( years of record-setting temperatures, heat waves and climate disasters) over the planet’s warming, the United Nations moved forward to make a COP possible in 1992. The first global climate convening came three years later in Berlin under the newly formed United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Kyoto Protocol, the first attempt to set emissions reduction targets, took over seven years to enter into force in 2005. Several other declarations and agreements came and passed over the years. Still, nothing of promise moved forward until 2015, when parties adopted the Paris Agreement, marking their first global treaty to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

At COP27, the global climate conference, over 600 fossil fuel lobbyists plus petrostate diplomats were in attendance, and talks ended without a commitment to phasing out fossil fuels. This year’s climate summit, hosted in Dubai, a country on track to be the second largest oil producer in the world by 2050, was heavily influenced by fossil fuel interests again, so in terms of what will be accomplished, people also point to the Paris Climate Accords, no one is really on track to meet commitments, they’re not legally binding—Aotearoa rates ‘highly insufficient’ with respect to policy and action. 

In March 2022, the UN Environmental Assembly convened in Nairobi, Kenya, to debate the global plastic crisis. In a historic move, 175 nations voted to adopt an international treaty for plastic pollution (Aotearoa included), agreeing on an accelerated timeline to implement the treaty as early as 2025. The fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment (INC-4), opened earlier this month in Ottawa, Canada, aims to advance negotiations so that the Committee can finalise, at its fifth session (INC-5) in November. As reported by the UN government programme:

“We are seeing convergence on eliminating the uses that are problematic and avoidable. We will continue to need plastic for specific uses, such as renewable energy technologies. But there is growing agreement that short-lived and single-use can go,” — Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme.

The toxicity of oil and overuse of plastic

When we talk about plastic, it is essential to understand that 98% of single-use plastics are made from fossil fuels, accounting for the vast majority of all carbon dioxide emissions. Some 31 per cent of the plastic made today is used as packaging (OECD), and significant non-renewable resources go into producing it. No one is effectively managing plastic waste—globally, only 9 per cent of plastic waste is recycled (OECD). According to the UN, fossil fuel plastics will make up 19% of the global carbon budget by 2040. And it is increasing. We cannot continue with a linear take, waste, repeat approach. 

Packaging is the poster child for single-use. To many business owners and people with procurement positions, shifting away from plastic seems undesirable. Plastic is cheap, and businesses are not internalising the associated costs of using plastic products. Instead, they are inflicted on society. Or future generations will inherit them. From the material design and product manufacturing viewpoint, we can consider the flow of highly efficient material resources (rapidly renewable plant resources), low recycling and transformation emissions and production costs. Still, the circular choice of materials also affects social and environmental impacts. And we lack the environmental standards and legislation that would impose these social and economic costs on companies to do better. 

Ecoware was built on the idea of change because emission commitments cannot be exercised in public relations if we want to reach net-zero emissions targets. From inception, keeping oil in the ground has been our driver. We must decarbonise and divest from fossil fuels.

Three pathways every business can take to reduce the impacts of doing business

Stop greenwashing

Late last year, Toitū Envirocare hosted Credible Claims: Exposing greenwashing for a sustainable future, the webinar and recap of the event, available online. There is interest in environmental management and being responsible, and it will result in increased profitability for businesses that use electric fleets or use fewer environmentally harmful products or resources. However, there is pressure to validate claims, and regulations are tightening. The future business must balance activities driven primarily by the bottom line and those driven by regulation, liabilities, and public expectations.

Assess supply chains

It is true that economic forces at work in industry are making it more challenging to integrate environmental excellence into a business strategy. Reducing carbon emissions is not just putting solar panels on the roof. Assessing your supply provides insights. Who are your suppliers? Are you composting? Can you utilise technologies to reduce water and electricity usage? Implement inventory management systems to reduce food waste and costs. Climate solutions enacted today produce accumulating benefits that could be seen as an opportunity.

Use market influence

Last, business should use their influence to shift market forces. Businesses that want to provide goods and services compatible with environmental protection take more significant risks. Often, regulation drives market demand. For these companies to make money—for example, the plastic bans, plastic manufacturers and importers lost business overnight, and demand and money flowed to companies supplying renewable material alternatives. The more businesses that commit to supporting local organic food production, using a zero-emissions delivery network, or purchasing lower carbon supplies can drive market forces at scale.

Join us

Any business can start charging ahead on all three of these fronts right now, lead by example, and bring their industry peers along with them. 

“It’s Not Easy Being Green” (May–June 1994). Help the environment and hurt your business. But in this new world, both business and the environment can win. Being green is no longer a cost of doing business; it is a catalyst for innovation, new market opportunity and wealth creation.

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