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Etsy Commits to Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2030

By Roya Sabri

The newest sustainability goal from the online marketplace Etsy is its recent announcement that the company is determined to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

“Climate change remains an ever-present threat to our environment and humanity, and we are bound and determined to do everything within our power to not only continue to be a carbon neutral company, but to also drive reductions in our overall footprint,” Josh Silverman, chief executive officer at Etsy, wrote in a press statement.

Last year, the creative goods site became the first e-commerce company to offset emissions from shipping, part of its Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions. Executives decided not to push any of the costs onto its sellers or buyers. For a marketplace with independent sellers, shipping accounts for 98 percent of its carbon emissions.

The 2030 target joins other environmental ambitions, including reducing energy use by 25 percent by 2025 and continuing to divert 90 percent of waste across global operations. Etsy says it has also made headway toward sourcing 100 percent of its electricity from renewables — part of which includes securing a power purchase agreement that supports the development of wind and solar power in Illinois and Virginia.

Reducing Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions

Etsy’s target encompasses Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions and is aligned with the Science Based Targets initiative’s protocol, though validation is still pending. The Science Based Targets initiative provides scientific support to companies aiming to reduce emissions and achieve net-zero targets.

Etsy’s plans include a 50 percent absolute reduction in Scope 1 and 2 emissions and a 13.5 percent absolute reduction for Scope 3.

“In defining this goal, we set out to cast the widest net possible to ensure we’re reducing both our direct and indirect carbon impact,” Silverman writes in a press statement. The reductions will touch “every corner of the Etsy business,” including office operations, purchased energy, shipping and packaging, Silverman continues.

Two ways Etsy plans to broaden its impact on the industry, Silverman notes, include working more often with sustainable vendors and suppliers and continuing to advocate for a decarbonized logistics and transportation sector.

What does net zero mean for companies like Etsy?

Last year saw a dramatic swell in net zero emissions commitments from governments and businesses. From the corporate perspective, carbon reductions are an investment not only in a company’s security from climate risks, but also in market competitiveness.

As investment firms increasingly call on companies to align their actions with the expectations of the Paris Climate Agreement, it appears that businesses can no longer afford to exchange climate action for climate rhetoric.

“Your organization…has a responsibility to become a part of the solution. Failing to do so will impact your ability to attract talent, manage risk, and innovate for growth,” Nigel Topping, CEO of the We Mean Business coalition, which encourages corporate climate commitment, writes in the Harvard Business Review.

Topping explains what sort of action cushions a business from falling behind. “Science-based targets will provide you with a way to future-proof your business plans by ensuring that all strategic decisions incorporate climate risk and opportunity analysis. This will simultaneously drive zero-carbon innovation and help you guard against stranded assets.” He adds that a 100 percent commitment sends a clear message to stakeholders.

Scope 3 emissions are where the action happens

Although Etsy’s carbon footprint may be a modest drop in the bucket compared to the impact of a BP or a Chevron, its commitment does set an example for others — especially, as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) emphasizes, in beginning to tackle its Scope 3 emissions, which include anything not directly controlled by a company.

Scope 3 emissions occur anywhere along a company’s value chain — and can carry the brunt of the impact. For example, if a company sells paper,  Scope 3 emissions would carry all the way to the forest and through use and disposal. In analyzing other corporate commitments, the NRDC has found major discrepancies in emissions reporting, particularly when it comes to Scope 3.

For Etsy, offsetting carbon emissions from shipping costs less than $1 million a year. A larger corporation would likely spend more tackling Scope 3 emissions, but that’s not to say it wouldn’t pay off.

Image credit: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Roya Sabri headshot

Roya Sabri is a writer and graphic designer based in Illinois. She writes about the circular economy, advancements in CSR, the environment and equity. As a freelancer, she has worked on communications for nonprofits and multinational organizations. Find her on LinkedIn

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