Weston Climate Action Plan
“Without Snow, We Don’t Exist.”
This simple fact has been in the back of our minds for a while now, stretching back before Weston even existed. Initially, this is something we’ve joked about, but it’s become less funny every day. We’re already starting to feel the impacts of Climate Change here in our home of Minturn CO. From the longtime locals, we keep hearing “I don’t remember it ever being this warm this time of year.” We all love a good day or riding or skiing in a tee shirt, but it seems like this is leading to the season starting just a bit later and ending a bit sooner every year. The data supports what we’re seeing, and we’ve been having hotter and hotter years. We will likely see a 20% reduction in snowfall over the next decade if we keep on the track towards a 3 deg C rise in temperatures that we’re currently on. Frankly, we’re surprised this area isn’t forecasted to lose even more.
The environment and outdoors have always been on our minds here at Weston. We’re inherently connected to it, and many of us have given up other opportunities, both personal and professional, to get to spend more time outside. As a company, we’ve always looked for ways to reduce our impact. We’ve patted ourselves on the back for little changes like making sure we have recycling at the office, or finding a material in production that is more environmentally friendly. While these are steps forward, they are baby steps at best. The science is showing that we’re running out of time, and little steps like these aren’t enough. It’s time for real change, and it needs to happen really quickly if we want to avoid falling over the precipice of the worst of Climate Change’s effects.
This puts us in a difficult situation. We could simply stop existing and eliminate our footprint completely. However, that isn’t a realistic situation, and would have negative effects in other areas. Instead, we need to think about how we can do less harm. If we’re going to exist and have a footprint, we need to work to minimize that footprint as much as possible. But we think there’s an even better solution. Instead of just shooting to become net zero, could we work to do more good than harm? Could we use our impact to remove more carbon that we emit? And then can we use our voice and influence to help others do the same? A decade ago the answer was probably no, but with changes in technology and society, we’re starting to think the answer may actually be yes. It’s not the easiest route, but if snow and winters are at stake, we’re willing to put the work in.
Making a Commitment
The term “Sustainability” can mean different things to different people. There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to being sustainable. However, we feel that focusing on Climate Change is the fundamental goal that should support any effort. We can’t fix other areas of the environment or society if our climate is fundamentally damaged. This would be like trying to fix a house when the foundation is crumbling; changes may look good to start, but it doesn’t matter if the entire structure falls down. Addressing Climate Change isn’t going to be our sole focus and we’ll work to incorporate other aspects of “sustainability” into our progress, but we're going to work to address and prioritize our carbon emissions first so that we have a sound foundation to expand our efforts upon.
As we look to reduce our carbon emissions, we want to let science guide us. We aren’t experts in this realm, but we know people who are. We want to listen to their voices and take their guidance instead of trying to reinvent the wheel ourselves. Keeping efforts based on third-party, international standards will allow us to better speak the same language as we work with others, communicate progress outwards, and also will make our efforts easier.
An underlying principle for all of this is our pledge to the ClimateUnited Pact. This is an industry-wide effort towards becoming more sustainable. At the base of this are six guiding principles to organize efforts to reduce our collective footprint. They are as follows:
- Recognizing that our industry contributes to the climate crisis, and are therefore publicly addressing Climate Change as a top management priority for our business
- Leveraging our influence to drive systemic change by advocating for state, federal and international climate policy
- Focusing our best efforts to meet the science-based targets: reducing our emissions 50% by 2030 and becoming 100% zero-carbon emissions before 2050
- Committing to work with our supply chain partners to meaningfully reduce emissions from product manufacturing and transportation
- Aligning our business strategy with climate science, integrating positive climate impact in our corporate values and mission, investment portfolio, consumer marketing and product R&D
- Sharing progress with SIA annually, to enable aggregated recognition of our industry’s progress and inspire more businesses to join us
We fully support this framework and will use it to guide us as we work through the process of reducing our emissions and becoming more sustainable.
As mentioned above, a lot of these steps are based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Reports. According to their extensive research, we need to stay on track for cutting our emissions in order to keep temperature rise below 1.5 deg C. To do this, we need to cut our emissions in half, or more, by 2030. We can’t stop there either. We also need to look for ways to remove carbon from the environment to further offset our impacts.
To achieve these goals, the 1.5deg C Playbook was established to further outline a focused and attainable approach for making these goals achievable. Splitting the work into four fundamental pillars (explained later) takes an overwhelming challenge and breaks it into approachable sections. We’ll use this framework as we work to achieve our ClimateUnited pledge.
In tandem with these efforts, we also want to align with the UN Sustainable Development goals. These goals have been established with the hopes of raising us all up in a more sustainable manner. The goals are wide-ranging and cover many different aspects of sustainability, but in particular, we want to focus on the following areas.
- 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
- 13 - Action on Climate Change
At the end of the day, we realize that we can’t change everything ourselves. We also realize everyone has their own “super powers” or areas that they can utilize and leverage to do the most good possible. If we find those areas and work to maximize the good we can do, we can make a massive difference.
Pillar One - Scope 1 and 2 Emissions
The first 1.5deg C Playbook Pillar focuses on what is in our direct control. There are many ways to define boundaries between what a company has direct control over and what it has indirect control over, but the generally accepted standard is the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. This breaks all emissions into three scopes. The third scope will be addressed later, but for Pillar One, the framework focuses on Scope One and Scope Two emission. Scope One emissions are emissions that we create and that we have direct control over, such as our emissions created at Weston HQ, and the Weston vehicles we use. Scope Two emissions covers things that we have indirect control over, largely the emissions created from the energy we consume at HQ. In essence, we should be looking to clean up our own house before we look to improve other areas. We don’t want to ask others to take actions that we aren’t willing to take ourselves.
Scope One Emissions
There are two main factors that we have direct control over, the first comes from the use of Weston vehicles. An unintended benefit of COVID was that it forced us to develop ways to make meaningful connections with customers and wholesale accounts without the need to be there in person. Looking forward, some situations will still require our presence, but we’ll continue to explore ways to minimize driving unless it’s necessary. In doing so, we can reduce our footprint and improve our bottom line.
Scope Two Emissions
The second main area is the energy we use to power our offices. We want to switch over to renewable sources at both of our locations, either by working with the power providers to prioritize renewable options, or to move towards supplying our own power through solar installation. This will likely become a phased approach, leaning on the power providers until we are in a position to explore solar panels.
Improved Greenhouse Gas Modeling
To do this with integrity, we’re going to continue to improve upon our carbon emission modeling efforts. These GHG-based models will help us put numbers to our actions, and will help to identify emission hotspots. This is an iterative process of documenting emissions, identifying hotspots, making changes, and reevaluating our emissions. Using a third party format lets us standardize the process so that we can compare emissions across our industry, and talk in a shared language with the hopes of more collaborative conversations in the future.
We understand that being a small company, the emissions within Scope One and Two are relatively small compared to our overall footprint of the products we produce. However it doesn't make this any less important when we look to address our overall impact, and these Scopes will set some fundamental guidelines to follow as we continue to grow.
Pillar 2 - Value Chain
As discussed in Pillar One, the Scope One and Scope Two emissions only make up a portion of our overall emissions as a company. Our Value Chain, or Scope Three emissions, encompasses everything that goes into making our product, as well as what happens to it after it leaves our control. These are all components that we have indirect control over, in that we aren’t the ones making direct decisions about them, but we can influence others’ decisions about them. This inherently makes changes within the Value Chain more difficult, but the improvements can be more substantial.
To make improvements, we’ll have to leverage our partnerships with existing and new manufacturing partners. There’s been a general trend in the industry towards sustainable and low carbon options, but the further away you get from the consumer or end user, the less motivation there seems to be in the supply chain. When a company or supplier won’t make changes based on intrinsic values, the best motivations we can provide them with are economic ones. In many cases, environmentally positive choices can also be economically beneficial. It isn’t always apparent though, and we may have to help companies come to these realizations if they’re stuck in their outdated ways. This is also where a personal relationship with our partners in our supply chain can become very valuable. Building trust over time will hopefully make suppliers more open to new proposals.
If suppliers do decide to make sustainable changes, it then falls on us to reward them with larger orders. If an initial decision may have cost more and was less profitable, hopefully we can compensate for that with increased volume in the subsequent orders. This strategy could also entail bringing multiple companies together, so that if a single company can’t make a sustainable change profitable, a larger group coming together could. By creating mutually beneficial partnerships, we can create sustainable change that’s good for everyone.
Multiple studies have shown that emissions from energy use generally make up the largest part of a company's emissions, and this holds true for suppliers. By focusing on improving energy supply, we can have a targeted, meaningful impact. This approach will vary by supplier, but incorporates promoting localized renewable energy, such as building-level solar. We also will look to choose suppliers in locations that source more of their energy from renewable sources. Every situation is different, and it will also fall on us to help companies make these changes.
The most sustainable way to produce a product is to make something that lasts longer than everything else. It generally takes a lot less emissions to produce a board that lasts for five seasons than it does to produce five “sustainable” snowboards that only last a season. That being said, there is a balance as not every material labeled as “sustainable” is necessarily the best option, since some are substantially less durable. We analyze all materials we have access to currently, and as sustainable materials continue to improve, we’ll look for ways to incorporate them in more aspects of our products.
There is admittedly a lot to tackle when it comes to improving our Value Chain, but it also has the potential to make some of the biggest impacts when it comes to areas we can make changes in. This opportunity excited us as we look to build momentum and take bigger and bigger steps to becoming more reducing our carbon footprint.
Pillar Three - Business Strategy
While we have a lot of control over our product, the extent of our influence extends beyond just what we make. For sustainability to become an integrated part of our business, we need to build it into everyone’s roles and responsibilities. While the materials and energy we use play an important role in our emissions, we also need to evaluate how we go about business in general. Sustainability manifests itself in a variety of different ways touching Sales, Marketing, Finance, and other areas that often aren’t apparent.
As discussed above, making a product that lasts as long as possible is one of the best ways to reduce the impact since it spreads out the footprint over a longer period of time. Unfortunately we probably won’t be able to change the tides of consumerism and some people are going to want to continue to buy new products, but this doesn’t mean that older products have to go to waste. Consumers seem to look to buy new snowboards and skis every two to three years, but a ski or snowboard can easily last five years or more if taken care of. Couple this with an industry-wide shift in interest towards used or upcycled gear, and it gives the opportunity to look at things from a more Circular model. Instead of only selling new products, we can create avenues to provide used gear as well. This can extend the lifespan of a product, while breaking down the potential price barrier of getting into the sport, such as high prices. We’ve already begun doing this with our Demos, Factory Blemishes, and Refurbished Warranty Boards. We’re actively working to expand the program to a buy-back system, allowing us to provide credit towards a new product in exchange for old boards or skis, and then refurbishing that older product into a sellable product again.
One way to look at the Circular model from the finance perspective is to shift the perception of profit. The traditional equation is that we can make one unit of money for one product sold. So two products sold equal two units of money. This also equates to one unit of emission for each product sold. However this system is flawed because it's linear and puts the emphasis on needing to sell more units, and therefore more units that need to be made. If we instead consider the Circular viewpoint, the math changes. To start, one unit produced equates to one unit of money and one unit of emission. But if we can resell that same product a second time for half a unit of money, while only using a quarter unit of emission to refurbish it, this equates to roughly 20% more money per unit of emissions. The ultimate goal really becomes how can we sustain a company without the need to continuously make new products, and this shift towards a Circular approach to economics is a big step in that direction.
We also have the power to put our money where our mouth is, and a lot of our money is tied up in the financial system. While we may not be making direct investments in carbon-intensive industries like petroleum, these institutions we work with invest large sums of money in carbon intensive industries. Therefore they are effectively an extension of us, as they collectively compile our money to make these investments. We have the power to shift to a new generation of financial institutions that are starting to divest from these industries, and can reward them with our business. If we can start to think of how to better incorporate actions like these into our financial practices, we can start to broaden our sphere of influence.
Beyond our Doors
We also have the opportunity as a company to help incorporate sustainable practices into how we interact with our employees. We can create sustainable practices in day to day operations for employees, but we also have the opportunity to work with them to spread these practices beyond the workplace into their life. It can be as simple as incentivising biking to work to reduce commuting emissions, but looking to expand programs like these give us the opportunity to help promote emission reduction in day-to-day life.
Many of these approaches and initiatives are not what people traditionally think of when it comes to sustainability, but allow us to take a broader perspective beyond our product or energy use. We can only do so much on any one front at a time, but if we have multiple avenues to address reducing our carbon footprint, we can hopefully cover more ground faster.
Pillar Four - Influencing Society
We’ll continue to clean up our house as much as possible, but our responsibility doesn’t end there. Being in a position of influence, it’s also our responsibility to use that influence to help move those beyond our walls. This is arguably the hardest area to tackle as we have the least amount of control over our general sphere of influence. We can’t solve climate change ourselves though, so we have to try. Even though we don’t have direct control, we do still have a variety of tools in our toolbox to help promote change.
We can start to promote change within our industry. The Outdoor Industry has an inherent understanding of the significance of Climate Change, so building partnerships in this space is usually easy. We have the ability to work with other outdoor businesses on collective efforts as industry groups or through direct collaborations. This can be joining campaigns that promote awareness, combining operations to reduce redundancy, or even sharing technology that reduces emissions or waste. We may not be big as individual companies, but we’ve already shown that we can be massive as an industry if we work together towards a shared vision.
Either as an industry, or even as an individual company, we also have the ability to influence the politicians that represent us. We have the incredible privilege in the United States to choose who represents us, but we have to take action to make sure that they are representing us in the way we want to be represented. Climate Change has unfortunately been pushed as a partisan issue, but staying silent isn’t staying neutral anymore. We aren't taking a political stance by standing up and voicing our position, but we are standing up for what is right. We aren’t in the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, we’re in the Planet Party.
We have support in this space as we start to take a stance. Great industry-backed groups have been developed recently like CERES Advocacy Group, Outdoor Industry of America, and the Snowsports Industry of American, along with independent groups like Protect Our Winters. These groups can help guide us through best practices as we take individual steps forward, and can unite our efforts into industry-wide efforts as well.
There are currently a lot of issues facing us, and we can’t take them all on at once. At Weston, we’ve decided to make carbon emissions the underlying priority with everything we do, but also work at the grassroots level to make change with our Mission Series offerings. Each year we’ll have a new focus allowing us to help support different causes connected to the environment and getting people outside to enjoy it. This will let us continue our efforts towards reducing our carbon emissions, while also addressing other pressing issues.
People protect what they enjoy and value, so the more people we can bring along with us, the more impactful it will be. People love working towards a cause, but sometimes they need some guidance in doing so. We want to work to develop tools for people to join the fight for the climate. We don’t have a massive outward influence directly through Weston, but if we can get someone involved, and then they get their friends involved, the compounding effect grows quickly. The more people we can bring into the family, the more people we have helping to work towards solving these problems.
We live in a society where we want everything now, and we expect that change can happen overnight. That isn’t going to be the case when it comes to sustainability. We’re going to be fighting an uphill battle against existing practices and decades of stagnation and status quo. We can’t get discouraged if change takes time. If this was easy to fix, it wouldn’t be such an important issue.
We have to stay optimistic and put our heads down as we grind to make changes. We can start small, and look to start taking bigger and bigger steps. We all have to do our part here, and none of us can do it alone. Weston shouldn’t stand out when it comes to fighting Climate Change, we want to be average because everyone is doing their part alongside us. Targets are important and serve as a goal to shoot for, but it’s actual action that is going to move the Climate Change needle back in our favor.