Flora & Fauna founder Julie Mathers is encouraging SMEs to take the front foot in becoming carbon neutral after managing to completely offset the footprint created by her own business.
The e-commerce entrepreneur has spent the last six months working towards carbon neutrality, including the more than 280,000 parcels the company has delivered to date.
All the carbon emissions associated with running the fast-growing retail business, including warehouse and office electricity, travel and parcel delivery, are now being counteracted by thousands of native trees, organised by not-for-profit partner Greenfleet.
But despite getting her hands dirty planting to put the finishing touches on the achievement herself in the last few weeks, Flora & Fauna is technically unable to call itself ‘carbon neutral’.
That claim is locked behind a fairly lengthy government accreditation process run by the Department of Environment and Energy, but as Mathers explains, actually offsetting Flora & Fauna’s footprint has been her priority.
“You can have fancy logos and that sort of stuff — but you actually should just offset your carbon,” Mathers tells SmartCompany.
The government’s carbon neutral certification is a four-eight week process involving audits, and successful firms pay a minimum $2,800 fee for the privilege of being on the list.
Mathers describes the process as a “bit silly” but supports the program and is now considering whether to apply for official recognition.
“I like the difficulty, it means certification isn’t just a paid tick in a box,” she says.
Mathers says the road to being fully carbon offset required an honest review of Flora & Fauna’s carbon emissions and an “enormous amount” of research to determine the best partner to offset with.
The process involved everything from process changes to maintaining LED lights, however, it turned out cutting down on air travel was their key to success.
“We decided that from when a product comes in the door to us, we own it until it reaches our customers.
“One of the key learnings was just what an impact air travel has, it’s 10 times the carbon emissions of road transport,” Mathers says.
“You don’t need to fly, I’ve told our suppliers as well, let’s just do a Skype or telephone meeting.”
After assessing the size of Flora & Fauna’s footprint, Mathers says her next step was working out the best way to offset.
The entrepreneur landed on a partnership with Greenfleet, a local organisation which has worked with companies to plant more than 9.2 million native trees in Australia and New Zealand.
This was the expensive option though. Mathers said it would have been about a quarter of the price to purchase international carbon credits.
This would have helped fund international renewal projects though, which Mathers says would have been less than ideal.
“When I went into it I said I wanted to regenerate local land here in Australia, because that’s where we have an impact,” she says.
Having gone through the process, Mathers is encouraging other business owners to do the same.
“Having worked in both small businesses and large businesses, it’s so much easier to make a difference in small businesses because you can act quickly,” she says.
“You have to do it with genuine intent in mind.”