A carbon footprint of products is now transparent – Varusteleka aims for a less irresponsible product selection

Friday, July 1, 2022

Varusteleka is an army and outdoor store from Finland and it has a walk-in store in Helsinki, in addition to serving online customers worldwide. Varusteleka’s value is to “be the good guys” – according to the company this means going through the trouble of ensuring that there is more good in this world.

Varusteleka’s climate action has been initiated by the founder and owner, Valtteri Lindholm, and it has become one of the strategic goals of the company. Varusteleka started calculating its emissions in 2019 and it constantly develops the emission calculations further. Screening the emissions has also started a positive snowball effect, as some suppliers have also started calculating the carbon footprint of their products.

”Now, we decided to start calculating also the emissions of our products, as we wanted to map and minimize the emissions that are created in our supply chain. In practice, we need to know the carbon footprint of single products to be able to make changes in manufacturing processes, affect the materials we are using, and leave products out of our selection if needed,” says Irresponsibility Coordinator Minja Orava from Varusteleka.

Varusteleka transparently shares information about emissions with its customers. “The carbon footprint of our own brands’ textile productsis visible on our web store. We also want to be open about the way we have calculated these emissions. Even though we have used the international GHG protocol, it doesn’t give answers to all the questions. For example, we have calculated the emissions of recycled products by using a traditional emission factor, as reliable factors for recycled raw materials were not available,” Orava specifies.

“In case we have needed to round up calculations, we have done so remarkably,” continues Olli Rauhala, Development Coordinator at Varusteleka. “If we haven’t known the manufacturing country of a raw material, for example a thread, we have utilized the worst possible emission factor so that we at least wouldn’t have calculated the carbon footprint as too low.”

The first climate action was offsetting emissions

In addition to the products, Varusteleka has also calculated the emissions of its own operations and the company offsets those with Compensate.

“Offsetting our own emissions was one of the first things we started doing. Of course, reducing emissions should be the priority but in our opinion, climate action is urgent. It’s possible to compensate for the emissions while working with emissions calculations and planning the reductions,” Orava explains.

According to Orava, Compensate was selected as an offsetting partner for Varusteleka due to several reasons. Compensate’s in-built overcompensation , critical attitude towards the voluntary carbon market , and projects that have a true climate impact were some of the factors that affected the decision to start offsetting with Compensate.

Calculating emissions requires work but is worth it

Starting to calculate emissions also for the products came with good learnings, as well as surprises. There were no other companies that Varusteleka could have used as a baseline – everything needed to be built from scratch and adjustments were made along the way. The calculations are still specified when the company gets more emissions data. Varusteleka aims to get more accurate data, for example, on the energy the factories are using.

”The product data in our system has been at a good level but in order to do the calculations, we needed to enrich and specify it,” says Rauhala. “Even though it caused some extra work, it came with positive side effects, as the process helped us to improve the product data.”

”If a company doesn’t have data in a usable form it means big efforts and hard work of typing the data into the system to even get to the point where you can start doing calculations. That might be a bottleneck for many companies – we were lucky to have systems that adapted to this well,” Orava explains.

The amount of emissions was partly a surprise for Varusteleka. For certain raw materials and countries, it was known that they cause lots of emissions, but the scope of emissions became concrete when doing the calculations. “Now we can go through the whole selection and analyze which emissions cannot be justified – is the lifecycle of a product, for instance, so short that it’s not worth manufacturing that product anymore. As an example, merino wool causes more emissions compared to many other products but on the other hand, there’s no need to wash it that much,” Orava says.

“It is interesting to see in the future how it will affect the market if the emissions data of products will be published more openly. Emission calculations can be done in various ways so comparing the data is not self-evident and it also requires lots of knowledge and resources from consumers to investigate this. We want to be transparent to our customers and offer concrete information about the climate impact of our products. It remains to be seen how this affects the purchase decisions of our customers,” Orava says.


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