Earth Day Present

This year’s Earth Day was a bit different than anticipated on account of the pandemic, but lockdown didn’t stop Arc’Teryx from proceeding with its new, ambitious Science Based Targets climate initiative.

2020 was meant to be a decisive year in terms of ambitious climate action. But the pandemic quickly put those plans on ice, with many wondering whether the climate agenda had derailed altogether. That’s why for many it now comes as a welcome relief to hear that despite lockdown and looming economic stagnation, major players within the outdoor industry remain resolute.

Earth Day present

April 24th marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and Arc’Teryx used the occasion to publicly announce a commitment to “own” their climate impact by setting greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal of net zero by 2050.

After meticulously measuring its climate impact over the past year, Arc’Teryx was able to set a baseline for their 2018 emissions from which they will now begin the incremental process of ratcheting backwards towards their first milestone: 2030.

Within just 10 years, Arc’Teryx pledges to reduce its absolute greenhouse gas emissions related to its headquarters, Canadian production facility and global retail stores (aka Scope 1 & 2) by 65% by 2030. In terms of emissions from its materials, products, factories, mills, shipping and distribution centres (aka Scope 3), here Arc’Teryx pledges a 65% reduction per unit of value added by 2030.

Arc’Teryx is also one of just a handful of outdoor brands to have their targets third-party approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative, a partnership between CDP, UN Global Compact, the World Resources Institute and WWF that helps companies take the action needed to keep global temperature increase below 2°C.

With the baseline established and the targets set, Arc’Teryx now looks forward to reaching for some low-hanging fruit later this year. As Katie Wilson, Senior Manager, Social & Environmental Sustainability at Arc’Teryx explains:

“Our quickest win is the commitment to 100% renewable energy for all of our owned operations this year, including all of our retail stores as well as headquarters and our Canadian manufacturing facility.”

But with a longer perspective, Katie acknowledges there will be some tough nuts to crack:

“We have laid some good groundwork to get after these targets, and have models for which projects we think will get us closer to the goals, but it won’t be until we start to see three or four years of reporting that we can truly see the measurable impacts of many of those efforts. So at the moment, the hardest part is that we don’t know what the hardest part will be!”

COVID-19 an opportunity to act

In the immediate future, these efforts will undoubtedly cost additional human and financial resources in a time when the prevailing business approach is to trim sails and throw anything overboard that isn’t nailed to the hull. Yet while Arc’Teryx did have the opportunity to quietly put this project on hold, Katie argues that by not daring to rock the boat, businesses risk putting themselves in a weaker position in the face of an even greater crisis:

“Yes it’s an uncertain time, but we believe that by making a public commitment now, we are signalling to not just our consumers and stakeholders, but to others in our industry and policy-makers around us, that now is the time to tackle the climate crisis collectively.”

“Postponing our commitment might have meant missing the opportunity to make climate considerations part of how we restart our business. The climate emergency isn’t going away, and as the world begins to pivot from crisis mode to thinking about what’s next, we see our responsibility clearly: to take the opportunity that this disruption presents and face the climate challenge head on.”

Citing recently undertaken sustainability expert analysis, existing sustainability programs and a pre-existing obsession with technical performance, Katie is optimistic that Arc’Teryx has the requisite mindset for the technical challenge that lies ahead:

“We set ambitious targets with the belief that they are achievable,” explains Katie, “but we are certainly not under any illusions that it is going to be easy.”


Photos: Arc’Teryx

Jonathan Eidse

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