Sustainability Update: Launching Our Climate Action Plan

Sustainability Update: Launching Our Climate Action Plan

  • Erin Swanson

Ruffwearians love the outdoors – backpacking, biking, and paddleboarding with our dogs, you name it. We might not have tails to wag, but we enjoy nature just as much as our tail-wagging companions. That’s why protecting nature is part of our core.

Now, let’s get to the crux of the issue: we’re in the business of making things – and in the process of doing so, we have an impact on the environment. Recognizing this, we’re committed to minimizing the bad and maximizing the good. There are several ways we can do this – we can reduce, reuse, recycle, and regenerate. We can also advocate for change.

Sure, it’s a messy process. We’re tackling challenging issues and learning as we go. But, we’re here to fill you in each step of the way. We’ve made some bold goals, and we’re working hard to reach them. Here’s what we’ve done so far, what we’re doing now, and where we’re headed in the pursuit of sustainability with our carbon footprint.

A woman walks through a creek with her dog while fly fishing.

The Climate Action Corps

In the last two years, we’ve taken our sustainability efforts up a notch. In 2020, we joined the Outdoor Industry Association’s (OIA) Climate Action Corps as a founding member. The OIA created the corps to bring together brands within the outdoor industry to work towards a common goal: becoming the world’s first climate positive industry by 2030.

In a nutshell, for an industry or business to be “climate positive,” they must remove more greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) than they emit and advocate for systemic change.

Quick science lesson. Here’s a refresher on greenhouse gases:

The Earth’s greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, which in turn warms the planet. Carbon dioxide is the most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted. When we talk about a businesses’ carbon footprint, we’re referring to the total amount of greenhouse gases generated by their actions.

The Climate Action Corps supports companies in attaining their climate positive goals in several key ways. For one, it provides resources to help a company measure their carbon footprint and meet their GHG reduction targets. Even more, it guides companies in developing a Climate Action Plan and requires them to share their progress annually.

A man does stand up paddleboarding with his dog on a lake.

What’s a Climate Action Plan?

At its simplest, a Climate Action Plan is a strategic agenda, or road map, to help companies attain their climate goals.

Let’s dive a bit deeper. A Climate Action Plan is a framework for measuring, planning, and reducing indirect and direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are produced as a result of a businesses’ operations.

With guidance from the Climate Action Corps, we’ve now developed a comprehensive, multi-year Climate Action Plan for Ruffwear.

What We’ve Done So Far

In 2020, after joining the Climate Action Corps (CAC), we began measuring our direct emissions (known as “Scope 1” and “Scope 2” emissions). These include the emissions associated with our use of electricity and natural gas at our offices as well as the emissions that result from our use of the Ruffwear van. (We use our van to visit our retailers and photograph our products in action.)

We calculated these emissions for our baseline year of 2019 as well as for 2020 before broadening our emissions tracking in 2021. A “baseline year” is a reference point in time against which we measure our emission reductions in the future.

In 2021, we expanded our emissions baseline by including modeled estimates of our “indirect emissions” (known as “Scope 3” emissions). These include all of the emissions associated with manufacturing, transporting, and shipping our products.

Our estimates were developed through the use of Climate Neutral’s BEE Tool which provided us with our first rough model of where our emissions come from across Ruffwear’s entire value chain. What we found was that Scope 3 emissions represented the vast majority of the emissions associated with our entire operations.

Once we had our baseline year of 2019 and the subsequent year of 2020 characterized using the same methodology, tools, and set of assumptions, we were then able to move forward with developing a multi-year Climate Action Plan which now guides and informs our climate and energy work year over year.

A dog jumps in the air and into a lake to catch a toy.

What Are We Currently Doing?

Now in 2022, we are doing the exciting work of launching our plan. Here are a few highlights so far.

First off, we’ve designed our company headquarters to be energy efficient, and we’re also generating renewable energy on-site with a rooftop solar array. For the electricity that we source directly from our local grid, we match that same amount with Green-e certified renewable energy credits (RECs) from wind and solar projects across the Western United States.

We’re also in the process of decarbonizing our products through selecting materials with careful intention, which means that our Sustainability, Sourcing, and Product Development teams are heavily involved.

But we’ve taken it a step further. We know that aggressive sustainability goals, like those which are outlined in our Climate Action Plan, are best met when everyone’s job becomes sustainability. So that’s what we’re attempting at Ruffwear, by embedding carbon- and other impact-reduction initiatives across all teams.

Each month, the Sustainability team meets with each of Ruffwear’s main departments to collaborate and share progress on our collective sustainability goals. From Supply Chain to Marketing to Sales, we’re all responsible for making steady progress towards the ambitious targets we’ve set for ourselves.

A woman walks through a field of pink flowers with her dog.

What Are the Next Steps Ahead?

Behind the scenes, our Sustainability and Product Development teams are constantly modeling materials and products in the Higg Product Tools, measuring impacts (from a GHG perspective and other important environmental attributes), and assessing alternatives to reduce those impacts.

Additionally, the Supply Chain team is focusing on increasing our visibility into our supplier network with the goal to achieve more accurate data that informs our progress and helps move us forward.

In the coming years, we have some major targets to hit:

2027: Achieve carbon neutrality

We’re working toward carbon neutrality across our entire value chain. This applies to all of our emissions across our supply chain, our operations, and the distribution of our products to your door.

2029: Achieve our science-based target

We’re committed to reducing our absolute scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions 46% and scope 3 GHG emissions 88% per dollar of gross margin by 2029 from a 2019 baseline year. These long-term emission reduction targets are informed by what the science tells us is necessary (limiting temperature increases to 1,5 ºC) in order to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change.

2030: Be climate positive

Our longest-term goal is to go beyond our science-based target and to remove even more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than we emit. It’s also to advocate for broader systemic change. In terms of our advocacy work, we’re committed to lending our voice in support of policies and programs that incentivize businesses and governments to preserve natural climate solutions (our lands and waterways), build climate-resilient communities, and to accelerate the transition to renewable energy.

A man and his dog sit on a rock and look out at a river.

What Are Some of the Challenges We Face?

When we’re working towards our climate goals, we face a fundamental paradox: Ruffwear operates within the boundaries of physics, regulatory restrictions, the technology that is currently available, and the economics of it all. We have to play within the limits of what today’s technology can enable, what governments allow, and what’s economically feasible.

But this doesn’t discourage us – it only motivates us more. These challenges fuel our dedication to systemic change. As a member of the Climate Action Corps, we’re working with our peers in the outdoor industry to advocate with a stronger voice. The more companies we have working towards these goals, the greater influence we have.

Moving Forward Together

We’re pumped about the work we’re doing and where we’re headed. As outdoor enthusiasts, it’s close to our hearts. Stay tuned for more updates about our journey. Each day, we aim to do better than the day before. We hope you’ll be our partner in this. Together, we can move forward on the path to a healthier planet.

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