Operationalizing Climate Action: Tracking the Natural Industry’s Progress

Despite numerous barriers, such as limited resources, supply chain and transportation factors, labor shortages, inflation, lingering pandemic pressures, and more, a majority of natural products companies surveyed by the Climate Collaborative indicated they are integrating climate action into all aspects of operations and in their overall business strategy. In addition, 83% of companies have taken steps to reduce emissions throughout their entire operations, and 76% of respondents reported prioritizing emissions reductions over offsets, a strategy the Climate Collaborative encourages.

With a vision of “leveraging the power of the natural products industry to reverse climate change,” the nonprofit Climate Collaborative’s 2022 Tracking Progress Annual Report, published in December 2022, reflects the responses from 224 businesses in the natural channel. The survey asked questions to help establish a baseline of the ways in which companies are currently integrating their climate goals into their overall operations. At the time of publication, 761 companies have made more than 2,822 climate commitments through the Climate Collaborative, the organization reported.

Chart showing the percentage of reporting companies actively implementing climate commitments in each area in years 2021 and 2022. Source: Climate Collaborative 2022 Tracking Progress Annual Report.

Highlights of the Climate Collaborative’s 2022 Tracking Progress Annual Report include:

– Almost 85% of responding companies said they are considering climate when they design new products

– 75% of responding companies said they are engaged in climate advocacy

– Almost half of responding companies have trained more than 80% of their staff on their climate commitments

– 76% of respondents reported that they are prioritizing emissions reductions over offsets

Results of the 2022 survey showed that half of responding companies have trained more than 80% of their staff on climate commitments and nearly 70% have made opportunities available for staff members to learn and engage in the company’s climate work. Of those surveyed, 85% of respondents are taking climate into consideration when designing new products or offerings. Also, 90% of companies said they have informed their board or other stakeholders about their respective climate commitments, and 75% of reporting companies are engaged in climate advocacy.

The Climate Collaborative’s report also indicated that an increasing number of companies are making net-zero commitments – 28% of companies responding to the survey reported having set a net-zero target, a 3% increase over the previous year, and 37% of companies are considering it. The organization anticipates a continued increase in the number of companies making net-zero commitments and is developing programs to support businesses in fulfilling these commitments, it says.

“This movement towards setting a north star goal reflects a broader industry trend of companies publicly promoting their long-term goals in marketing and promotional copy. We encourage all companies with long-term net-zero targets to support their targets with shorter-term goals. It is heartening to see that concurrent to an increase in net-zero targets, there is an increase in companies disclosing emissions,” the Climate Collaborative said in a statement.

Externally, reports the Climate Collaborative, 38% of companies responding to the 2022 survey are actively working with suppliers to decrease Scope 3 emissions (emissions that are the result of activities from assets not owned or controlled by the reporting organization), which includes asking suppliers to transition to renewable energy (21%), asking to eliminate equipment that uses fossil fuels and transition to electric equipment where applicable (20%), asking to require or utilize low carbon farming practices (40%), and asking suppliers to reduce water use or set water reduction targets (32%).

With just over 10% of all reporting companies engaging more than 80% of their suppliers in making climate commitments such as setting net-zero targets, making a commitment with the Climate Collaborative, or setting science-based targets, “we see an opportunity to more intentionally engage suppliers in climate action to further build resilience throughout the supply chain,” The Climate Collaborative said.

Taking its place as a top potential solution to reversing climate change, regenerative agriculture had the largest increase of survey responses with 76% of companies overall reporting progress, up from 58% over 2021 results. Companies responding to the Climate Collaborative’s survey reported lack of financial resources, competing priorities, and reduced capacity to manage programs and producer relationships as barriers to greater implementation. Despite these challenges, however, the Collaborative reported that of the 76% of companies reporting progress, 36% of companies report they have taken robust steps to implement regenerative agriculture and are seeing results compared to 21% last year.

In 2022, 56% of companies with an energy efficiency commitment reported progress on their commitment, up 4% from 2021. Companies implementing a transportation commitment reported a 5% increase in progress this year compared to last year, despite ongoing supply chain issues, the Climate Collaborative reported. Specific to implementing strategies to reduce food waste, 35% reported taking robust steps and are seeing results compared to 28% last year. For companies with a forest commitment, 29% of companies have ensured their supply chains are free of deforestation and 41% of companies reported engaging in reforestation efforts in 2022.

When asked which platforms companies used to measure climate action, survey respondents indicated that B Lab is the top reporting platform among committed companies. Other platforms companies refer to include the SME Climate Hub, Climate Pledge, Planet FWD Carbon Neutral, Climate Neutral, Science Based Targets Initiative, Net Zero Standard, CDP, SFTA at OTA, NCG Coefficient, CCOF, NOP, Regenerative Organic Certification, Climate Registry, GRI, Fair for Life, and RePurpose Global – Plastic Neutral, RSPO, Aclymate, SASB, Fairtrade International, and more.

Download the report here.
Get involved in the Climate Collaborative here.

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing public relations, brand marketing, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic, sustainable and hemp/CBD products businesses. Compass Natural serves in PR and programming for NoCo Hemp Expo and  Southern Hemp Expo, and Hoffman serves as Editor of the weekly Let’s Talk Hemp Newsletter, published by We are for Better Alternatives. Contact steve@compassnaturalmarketing.com.