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Walking the Walk: the MakerSights Carbon Offset Program

Matt Field

April 19, 2022

My enchantment with retail started young. While I was born and raised in England, my mom was from Southern California, and every summer, we’d travel to Los Angeles for a few weeks to visit with my grandparents. They lived in a quiet neighborhood, where you could walk and ride your bike everywhere, and at the end of their block was a small collection of mom and pop shops – one of which was a surf and clothing store. The shop always played great music and the racks were lined with awesome merch – the type of stuff you just couldn’t find in the UK back then. Stussy graphic tees in every shade of neon, Quicksilver board shorts like the ones Kelly Slater wore, and all the Oakley sunglasses you could imagine. 

As a kid, I loved the ocean and everything about surf culture, so this place was like a temple to me. Each year I’d save up my money and then, within hours of landing in LA, run to the shop and scope out my next purchase. Once made, I’d wear that item almost religiously for the next year, parading it proudly in front of my UK friends when I got back home. This store, and its clothing, became part of my identity. They were a way for me to represent the fact that, while I lived in one place, my roots lay 8,000 miles away, and that I was the product of both of these places, in my personality and my style. 

As I’ve built my career in retail, I’ve realized that so many in the industry – and plenty outside of it – have stories like mine. A moment when a brand or a product becomes more than just the sum of its threads. It can be the start of a new adventure, like a pair of trail running shoes or a ski jacket; the centerpiece for a home, like a couch or dining table for gathering family; or a way to commemorate a life milestone – be it a watch for graduation or a newborn baby’s first outfit. 

For recent generations, consumerism has become a way to enhance life, increasing comfort, creativity, and connectivity. However, for all these positives, there are important consequences associated with this movement. Ones we’ve societally under-appreciated, even disregarded, for too long. At the top of this list are overproduction and waste – two inter-related trends that significantly contribute to the dire environmental challenges now facing our planet. 

By conservative estimates, the fashion industry – just a subset of the retail sector – is responsible for more than 4% of global annual CO2e emissions alone. And 84% of these emissions come from the production of new goods. While there's a base level of production required to power fashion's valuable economic and societal contributions, there's also a tremendous opportunity to cut production-driven emissions without sacrificing consumer demand or corporate growth. 

This is evidenced by the fact that 40% of new products fail to sell each season – and are either incinerated or sent to landfills – and 30% of products only sell at a markdown. Furthermore, the number of garments produced has more than doubled in the last decade while the fashion market value has increased by less than 17%. It’s a serious problem that nearly a billion tonnes of CO2e emissions are produced each year in the creation of goods that provide zero consumer value. This waste is both bad for business and a direct contributor to global warming, which we cannot afford. 

This very issue was the impetus for founding MakerSights. My co-founder, Dan Leahy, and I believed there had to be a better way for brands to create more products that people love – and less of what they don’t. Reducing the waste generated by overproduction – be it raw materials, employee time, or investment dollars – enables brands to scale revenue and decouple profit from the long-standing habit of soaring inventory levels. 

Since 2015, we’ve had the great fortune of being able to partner with many of the most ambitious and forward-thinking brands in retail, creating a more productive assortment management process – one that prioritizes tighter alignment between consumer preference and demand with production. Over the last six and a half years, through the use of MakerSights, our brand partners have successfully realized hundreds of millions of dollars in incremental profit creation, while preventing 52.4 million pounds of textiles from going to landfills.

While we’re proud of the results we’ve been able to achieve with our brands, we also acknowledge there is more we can (and should) be doing within our own company to uphold our commitment to a more sustainable future. Our corporate travel, offices, and activities are critical to enabling our macro business and missionary goals, but they create a footprint themselves. A footprint that we can be more proactive in balancing. And so, with this outcome in mind, Dan and I, along with the whole MakerSights team, are excited to share that we will now be tracking, minimizing, and offsetting our corporate carbon emissions moving forward. 

The MakerSights Carbon Offset Program

The MakerSights Carbon Offset Program not only aligns with our brand purpose to reduce waste, but it also aligns with all four of our corporate values

  1. Bias for Action – Think and act courageously. Once a decision is made, commit yourself and take the first step.
  2. Continuous Learning – Always question the status quo. Be curious, communicate directly, and embrace change.
  3. In It for the Long Term – Strive for generational impact. Play the long game when it comes to partnerships, products, and people.
  4. It’s All About the People – Cultivate authentic relationships and lead with empathy. Our mission is serious, but our approach is fun.

This last value – It’s All About the People – is particularly relevant when it comes to our Carbon Offset Program because nothing else unites our team more than our shared passion for reversing climate change. The importance of us living by our own ideals (and walking the walk) when it comes to reducing waste has been a frequent and inspiring topic of internal conversation over recent years, and I’m grateful that our team has such high expectations for us in this area. Climate change is happening and we are rapidly approaching the point of no return. We all must do our part – and with urgency – if we’re to avoid the types of calamitous global outcomes long forewarned by scientists. 

We took the first step in honoring this commitment earlier this year when we decided to forgo the traditional end-of-year customer gifts in favor of contributing to Stripe Climate, which helps fund emerging carbon removal technologies. Side note: If you’re looking for somewhere to make an impactful charitable donation in the field of sustainability, Stripe, along with Shopify, McKinsey, and others, recently committed $925 million to Frontier Climate, an advance market commitment (AMC) that aims to accelerate the development of carbon removal technologies by guaranteeing future demand for them. 

Now, it’s time for our next step.

The first phase of our Carbon Offset Program includes emissions from:

  • Utilities at our four global offices – San Francisco, Austin, Vancouver, and London;
  • Reported business travel (air, rail, car) to/from customers, prospects, and intra-company transit for remote team members;
  • Corporate events and offsites, including employee travel, utility consumption at the event, and event waste (food, paper, etc.).

The second phase of our program will include:

  • Employee commuting for those that go into one of our offices regularly;
  • Trade shows, conferences, and field events, including employee travel, utility consumption at the event, materials needed for the event (swag, signage, etc.), and waste generated by our employees at the event (food, paper, etc.);
  • Opting for green options and offsetting carbon emissions from catered food and beverages at all of our offices.

Partnership with Sustain.Life

To kick off this commitment, we need to accurately track our carbon emissions against the activities highlighted above. To do this effectively, we quickly realized the value we’d gain in finding a partner that specialized in this capability, which led us to Sustain.Life.

Moving forward, our team will be able to submit their work-related activities that align with our offset program to our People + Culture team. Then, in collaboration with Sustain.Life, we’ll log and monitor our emissions footprint. At the end of the year, we’ll total our carbon footprint and purchase the credits needed to ensure a 100% carbon offset. We are simultaneously encouraging our employees to calculate their individual footprints using the Sustain.Life carbon calculator so they can identify ways of minimizing or mitigating carbon emissions in their personal lives. For those interested in embarking on their own carbon offset journey, Sustain.Life offers a comprehensive Step-by-Step Guide to Starting a Green Team

Carbon Offset Investing Strategy

In terms of our actual carbon offset purchase strategy, we are excited to support a wide range of projects that are available through Sustain.Life, as well as initiatives outside of it, like Stripe Climate and Frontier Climate. The carbon offsets we will purchase through Sustain.Life, include both “removal offsets” and a selection of “avoidance offsets” that meet our criteria (more on that below).

Removal offset credits support organizations and technology that remove and sequester existing CO2 from the atmosphere through either nature-based or technology-based solutions. Nature-based solutions include reforestation and improved forest management, the restoration and management of kelp forests, and plant-based soil carbon sequestration. More technology-oriented solutions for carbon removal and storage include direct air capture and enhanced mineralization. Outside of what is available to us through Sustain.Life, we will also actively watch and learn from leaders in this space such as Stripe, Shopify, and Microsoft around additional programs to support. 

Avoidance offsets help fund solutions that prevent CO2e emissions that would have taken place if it were not for the financial support. Examples include nature conservation and investment in emerging technologies, including renewable energy, clean cookstoves, and green cement and steel. Due to the nebulous nature of avoidance offsets (where it is generally harder to accurately calculate the carbon impact), we plan to lean on the thoughtful evaluation criteria outlined by our investors, G2 Venture Partners when selecting this type of project, which requires that avoidance offset be:

  • “Real and measurable – quantifiable under a reputable methodology, independently verified or from a reliable developer.
  • Permanent – either non-reversible or with a mechanism to compensate for potential reversals.
  • Unique and traceable – tracked in a public registry and not double-counted.
  • Additional with no leakage – the sale of the carbon credits caused a deviation from the status quo and did not simply result in damage being shifted to an alternate location.”

Our ultimate plan is to take both a short- and long-term approach to our offset strategy by investing in both types of solutions. We want to ensure that our offset credits have an immediate impact to reduce the volume of carbon in our atmosphere today while supporting solutions that may provide a greater impact over time or in the future. Where possible, we will invest in offset projects that support mitigating the retail industry’s impact on the environment. 

Walking the Walk on Earth Day

Keeping with our desire to walk the walk and balance short- and long-term impact, the MakerSights offices will now be closed on Earth Day each year. In lieu of helping the planet from our desk chairs and via our software, we are rolling up our sleeves and doing something that will have immediate, tangible results: volunteering at a local organization that is focused on mitigating the effects that retail has on the environment. Team members in San Francisco, Austin, Vancouver, and London will participate in group volunteer activities and our remote employees have each found a local charity or organization that resonates with them.

We recognize that our efforts are a drop in the macro bucket. But our hope is that when our drop gets added to the many others contributed by companies in our industry, and beyond, who are taking bold action, our collective efforts will reverse the damage already done to our planet and chart a new, sustainable path for the future of retail. We’re excited for this next step in our journey and are committed to the many others that will follow. 

Matt Field
Co-founder, MakerSights

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