As a company, why is it important to calculate your environmental footprint?
This really begins with our 2025 vision, a forward thinking document that outlines where we see ourselves in 2025. The general theme is around improving lives, reducing the footprint of our products and increasing transparency. Measurement and transparency of our environmental impact is an essential part of being a conscious business. Knowing what impact is caused and where in the supply chain it occurs, is the first step to effectively reducing it. Within the Vision 2025 document we had a clear ambition to become carbon neutral by 2025.
How were you able to calculate your Carbon Footprint?
Once we found the right partner it was less challenging than we thought it would be. We joined forces with Sustainalize, a consultancy agency who helped us with all the calculations. The carbon footprint analysis was done in accordance with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. It calculates O My Bag's carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, both from our operations and from the production of our products. The results show that we emitted around 170 777 kg CO₂ in 2019.
Is O My Bag Carbon Neutral?
When we say “carbon neutral”, that means that we will eliminate, capture or otherwise mitigate all of the carbon emissions we create, including those from the factories that make our leather and bags, the farms that grow our fibers and the raw hides we use. That last part is crucial.
We are “carbon neutral”. Once we had our data around carbon, it was a matter of choosing a project for offsetting. Based on O My Bag’s strong connection to India and women empowerment, we decided to once again support the Fair Climate Fund project providing households in India with cleaner cookstoves. But even though offsetting is nice to do, it should be a last resort. It is much more important to avoid and reduce carbon emissions. This is another reason why repair and reuse are integral parts of our business strategy, which is why we set up our second hand library in 2017.
What is a life cycle analysis and why is it important?
An LCA is a methodology used to assess the environmental impact of a product throughout its entire life cycle, including raw materials, production and transport, on a range of impact categories, such as climate change, ecotoxicty or water depletion. We did a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) for two of our bestsellers: the Luna and the Lucy bag. The LCA gives us the opportunity to estimate our greenhouse gas emissions generated in the production of our goods, from raw materials to manufacturing of the end product. It is therefore an important part of getting a complete picture of our carbon footprint. It also provides us with valuable insights into environmental impact categories other than climate change.
What was the most challenging step in this research process?
Probably getting all the correct data from our suppliers. We made sure to explain very clearly which information we need and how it should be measured or calculated. It was still a ton of work for our suppliers and factories, so it took a while until we had all the necessary information together. We are so happy to have such a good relationship with our producers, who put in all this additional work for us.
What are the results in a nutshell?
The stage where the components are produced is the most impactful stage (Fig. 1 monetized impact) due to the energy, chemical and water intensive processes happening here. The main component of our products is leather and therefore leather tanning plays a big role in this stage.
The second highest impact relates to the raw materials used for the components of the bags. Think about raw hides, but also metals used for hardware or the material type of the thread.
Transport to our warehouse is another chunk of the impact, this is why we need to switch transportation to sea freight, instead of air. We have a direct influence here, so are eager to change this. But it is a challenge, different interests have to be balanced. For various reasons, production is often delayed and sea transportation adds another 4-6 months to the production time. This means that stores and customers are waiting for the products longer. The risk of damage to the products during sea freight is also higher.
How will you continue to reduce your environmental footprint in the business going forward?
We will not rest for long as there are many improvements that can be made. Carbon is only one of a long list of areas we are looking into. We are approaching our impact from many angles, from packaging to sourcing optimisation and better raw materials, as we continue our journey to becoming a business that is future proof.
Because we are a growing company, total emissions will increase, that’s why we need to look at our carbon intensity, setting carbon emissions in relation to annual revenue. Goal is to decrease carbon intensity over time, at least by 20% by 2022.
What are the next steps for O My Bag?
We want to reduce transport emissions by shipping more by sea
Reducing outbound transport emissions by looking into low emission options like electric vehicles
We will only use renewable electricity for our O My Bag store and office
We will increase the amount of recycled materials and certified components. Remember how we said that a big part of our impact comes from the raw materials stage? Using recycled cotton lining is for example on our agenda, it significantly reduces carbon emissions.
Another example is to use recycled polyester and cotton thread over nylon thread and use metals like brass and iron and avoid a material used in hardware called Zamak.
Do you have any advice for other brands that want to start with measuring their environmental footprint?
Start with the measurement and see where you are at. It is very empowering as a business to get to grips with your footprint and it’s the first step to making quantifiable improvements.
Also: Be in close dialogue with your suppliers and support them with data collection. And be prepared that a project like this takes time and patience.
Paulien and Leonie