Earth Day 2021 is here, and with it, a big sustainability milestone for TRR — we’re now carbon neutral. How it started: In late 2019, we accepted the CEO Carbon Neutral Challenge put forth by Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri, pledging to become carbon neutral in 2021. How it’s going: We’re now the first carbon neutral resale company, and technically, we’re a year ahead of schedule since we’re offsetting emissions as of January 1, 2020.
In a sense, it brings our work to support the circular economy, well, full circle. By now, many of us know that the fashion industry has a long way to go to improve its record as one of the world’s top polluting industries. Over the past decade, we’ve aimed to create a more sustainable future for fashion with the help of our members by keeping over 18 million luxury pieces in circulation, extending their useful lives and reducing the overproduction of new items. This has kept items out of landfills, put more than $2 billion dollars back in the hands of our consignors and saved approximately 896 million liters of water and 18,732 metric tons of carbon. If you’re looking for a way to reduce your own fashion footprint, selling with us is a great place to start. But we wanted to go beyond.
So, what does it mean to become carbon neutral and how did we do it? That’s where the pros come in. The RealReal Director of Sustainability James Rogers is part of a team that spent the last year working in collaboration with environmental experts to calculate The RealReal’s carbon footprint, and reduce and offset our emissions. Read on as he explains how it works, and check out some of the handy definitions from our Sustainability Glossary below.
First things first, what does it mean for TRR to be carbon neutral?
This means achieving net zero carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere by balancing carbon emissions with carbon removal or eliminating carbon dioxide emissions altogether. Being carbon neutral often includes the purchase of carbon offsets. This involves investment in projects that reduce or remove carbon emissions, like planting trees or conserving forests.
How did we measure our carbon footprint?
We collected all our energy data and also looked at anything else that might have a carbon footprint, such as our employee commuting and the emissions related to shipping products. We teamed up with leading environmental consulting firm Shift Advantage to take all that data and calculate our carbon footprint for the year.
How are we offsetting our carbon footprint? Are there specific projects we are supporting?
We worked with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation to invest in carbon offset projects for our Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 3 (indirect) emissions. We also purchased Renewable Energy Credits to reduce our Scope 2 (indirect) emissions from purchased electricity down to zero. Our renewable energy purchase comes from a wind-powered portfolio and our carbon offsets support multiple projects including forest conservation and regenerative agriculture.
What was something that you learned or that surprised you in the process of taking TRR carbon neutral?
For most apparel companies, the majority of emissions are upstream and come from their supply chain. From my previous experience in the industry, I would estimate this represents between 65–85% of the emissions for an apparel company. For The RealReal, those upstream emissions are zero because they are not counted when selling an item a second time. Those emissions have already been allocated to the brand that produced those items so we don’t want them double counted. This demonstrates how resale clearly reduces the environmental impact of apparel and is a key element in addressing climate change.
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