Definition: The amount of carbon dioxide, or any other greenhouse gases, released into the atmosphere via human activity.
PL explains: It is difficult to measure the output of carbon and depending on what tool a business or person uses to calculate their footprint different numbers can result. Reducing the initial output of carbon dioxide a business emits should be the first step in an effort to minimise that carbon footprint.
Definition: When an individual or business removes an amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that is equal to what their actions produced.
PL explains: Despite the uptick in businesses claiming to be carbon neutral, that neutrality often cannot be fully realised because everything a business does, from digital activity to shipping goods, increases their carbon footprint. Therefore, working towards neutrality has to be about developing a strategy to reduce emissions from every single operation within a business.
Definition: The process of removing carbon from the atmosphere equal to the amount you released into it.
PL explains: Contributing to reforestation, donating to clean energy providers or participating in any of the projects The Gold Standard works with are good ways to offset emissions. However, there is no quick fix, and many of the offsetting programs companies participate in are flawed. The first step should always be to reduce your emissions.
Definition: A linear economy is based on a ‘make, use, dispose’ life cycle, but a circular economy keeps resources in use for as long as possible, maximising them along the way. Products and materials are then recovered and regenerated, and the cycle continues.
PL explains: A circular economy is the only way forward for businesses that want to last. When a cycle has a hard end and resources have a finite life, that only produces waste, and increases that business’ negative impact on the environment. Linear economies do not have a place in a sustainability strategy.
Definition: This was coined to describe beauty products that are mindfully produced and free from ingredients that are harmful to people, animals and the planet.
PL explains: Like so many readily used terms that relate to sustainability, ‘clean’ is ambiguous and open to interpretation. Using the word clean is one of the most common forms of greenwashing in the beauty industry.
Definition: The most sustainable economic system, where the inputs used to create something match the outputs at the end of its life.
PL explains: This is a zero-waste system (see definition below) that completely reuses, recycles or composts all materials. In this kind of system, a business reuses the same materials over and over again to create new products. This conserves natural resources and keeps waste out of landfills. There is already a massive abundance of materials in the world, so finding a way to create a closed loop system that doesn’t further contribute to that abundance is key.
Definition: A product that can break down into its natural elements in the right environment, and no toxic substances are produced or left behind once it’s fully broken down.
PL explains: If something isn’t compostable, it could be leaking chemicals while it breaks down. When it does eventually break down, the smallest form non-compostable items often reach is a granulation or a microplastic. Domestic composting usually applies to biodegradable things like food waste and paper products, and different rules and regulations apply based on where you live. Industrial composting happens on a much larger scale, with huge facilities designed to accommodate all kinds of commercial waste, from organics to bioplastics.
Definition: Someone who purchases goods or services for personal use.
PL explains: MWe do not like to define anyone as just a consumer, as each individual person is so much more than what they buy, use or own. For people who shop mindfully, their values and who they are as a person affect the choices they make, and what they choose to consume.
Definition: Someone who considers the social, environmental, ecological, and political impact of what they buy and how they buy it.
PL explains: Most consumers today are in one way or another conscious, but the younger generations are the ones who are leading the way. Generation less, for example, is full of purpose-driven shoppers who will only interact with brands whose values align with theirs and will actively call out companies who do not treat the people and the planet with care.
Definition: Fully understanding the origins of every raw material used in a production process and supervising a supply chain to ensure that every step is as sustainable as possible.
PL explains: Sourcing materials consciously is an important part of a circular economy and a sustainable supply chain. A business must be completely aware of where each and every component of their product or service originated and losing touch with that part of the process can be a fatal flaw in a sustainability strategy.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Definition: When a company integrates social and environmental concerns into their business operations.
PL explains: CSR used to be a siloed part of a company’s overall strategy, focused on things like philanthropy, and mostly only affecting upper management and business owners. But now, through years of evolution and a better understanding of the inherent responsibility of businesses to protect people and planet, CSR looks very different for business. It should be woven into every aspect of the business, no longer siloed, affecting everything that business does, top to bottom. It should capture social and environmental sustainability and show that the business has a true purpose as a force for good.