For one thing, the bat was all wrong. Its leathery wings were too menacing; its teeth a touch too sharp.
“Could we get a more…approachable bat?” asked Jade Wilting, environmental responsibility manager at Ganni.
Wilting had cause to be concerned. The Copenhagen-based apparel brand was trying to get a carbon insetting project off the ground at two of its suppliers in Portugal. Part of this involves implementing nature-based solutions that restore ecosystems and promote biodiversity. But there was one kink in its plan to encourage the flying mammals, several species of which are threatened or endangered, to roost freely. Bats are objects of superstition in the southern European nation, and the “very accurate” picture its scientific consultants were planning to flash at a worker presentation happened to be “very scary looking.”
“If we’re trying to change the mindset of people, we need to find one without fangs or something,” Wilting told the biologists.
Lubomila Jordanova, co-founder and CEO of Plan A, a climate consultancy headquartered in Berlin, takes the credit for persuading Ganni to abandon the traditional idea of carbon offsets, also known as carbon or climate credits. Most offsets seek to neutralize emissions generated at one location—for example, a factory or distribution center—by funding their equivalent removal at another, say by planting trees or constructing wind farms. For Jordanova, insetting, which involves making these cuts directly in a company’s own supply chain, rather than someone else’s, is necessary if true decarbonization is the goal.
“When it comes to fashion, there’s sadly very little focus on direct decarbonization,” Jordanova said. Insetting isn’t even recognized in the B Corp framework, which she said she found surprising.
And yet climate disruptions in supply chain nodes where sourcing and manufacturing are concentrated abound, she said. Floods in Pakistan and droughts in Texas have already throttled vital cotton supplies. Over in Mongolia, the second-largest producer of raw cashmere after China, worsening cycles of extreme heat and harsh cold have wiped out whole herds of livestock. By not supporting these critical links, brands are leaving them, plus their future supply, “continuously vulnerable” to potential shocks.
But Ganni, which aims to halve its absolute emissions by 2027, or three years before the Paris Agreement deadline, didn’t need much convincing. For years, it had backed a United Nations-approved clean cookstoves project in Ghana and Nepal, but getting visibility into the project—and therefore its investment’s actual impact—proved vexing. Offsets have also been dogged by criticisms that they essentially allow companies to pay to pollute, or that they provide cover for net-zero…