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Approaching Carbon Neutrality

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In his book Blue Mind, my friend Wallace J. Nichols writes about the many benefits of being on, near, in or under water. The Covid-19 pandemic reminded us all how therapeutic it is to be outdoors.

While the benefits of being outdoors and near the water are enormous, an unclean environment severely diminishes them. Our Correct Craft team understands the importance of doing the best we can to be a good steward of our natural resources. We want generations that follow us to enjoy the great outdoors as much as we all do today. We feel a responsibility to continue looking for ways to do better, and that’s why we’ve set a goal of being carbon neutral by 2025.

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Once our team decided to build on our current environmental efforts to become carbon neutral, we approached the goal thoughtfully. We set out to identify how much carbon we produce, not only in total but also at each of our subsidiaries. We broke down the total by specific carbon sources, started developing plans to reduce carbon at our facilities, and gathered data on external ways to mitigate any shortfall we have after implementing our carbon-reduction plan. Finally, we wanted a stretch goal, so we selected 2025.

How Much Carbon?
The first step was to calculate how much carbon we produce, in total and at each Correct Craft company.

We have an environmental expert — as do most companies our size — who helps us ensure we are doing everything appropriately and legally. We also hired a consultant who supports companies in becoming carbon neutral. Together, the consultants worked with our team to create a carbon baseline for each of our companies.

There were some surprises, most of them positive, as we created a starting point for our team to begin its carbon neutrality quest. The best part of this exercise was that it helped us realize that our goal was possible. Becoming carbon neutral will take a lot of work and resources, but we can do it.

Where Are the Carbon Sources?
Understanding what is generating carbon is an interesting process, and imperative to understanding how carbon can be reduced. If we are going to reduce our carbon footprint, we need to be clear on the sources.

Our companies’ biggest source of carbon is the energy it takes to run our plants. The second biggest driver of our carbon footprint is travel; we own facilities across the United States and sell into about 70 countries, so our team moves around a lot. Last, we ship a lot of goods, and there is an impact from that. After these three areas, the other sources generate significantly less carbon.

At this point of the process, we knew how much carbon we generate and where it’s originating. With this information, the challenge of becoming carbon neutral did not seem unattainable — but we weren’t ready to give up.

How We Will Reduce Our Footprint
Once we determined how much carbon we are generating and where it is originating, we needed to determine how we could reduce it. This part of our plan is still evolving, but we will continue to focus on and develop our tactics using the information we gathered.

Of the possible power-generating investments needed to reduce power at our plants, the most obvious is solar — and we are researching that for our facilities, most of which are, fortunately, in sunny locations.

Interestingly, we have some powerful allies in the effort to reduce our plants’ carbon footprint, as utilities around the country work to reduce the grid’s carbon footprint. If the energy our plants use came from a carbon-neutral source, it would take us a long way toward our goal.

I am in a business leaders’ group with Eric Silagy, CEO of Florida Power and Light, and he has shared what his company is doing to reduce the carbon footprint of the electricity it produces. The effort is impressive. Fortunately, many of our facilities are in Florida, and while they do not all get their power from FPL, we will benefit from the work the company is doing. More important, we hope the company’s work will inspire others to follow suit and, in turn, help us become carbon neutral faster at all our facilities across the country.

Regarding our second source of carbon, travel, we need to be smarter about management. We will work on that. During the pandemic, we all learned how effective virtual meetings can be. We will make better use of them.

What About Mitigation?
Even after our best efforts, we may fall short, but there are several ways we can purchase mitigation credits to cover any shortfall. Purchasing these credits today would allow us to become effectively carbon neutral immediately. We will work to reduce the amount of mitigation credits needed by 2025, but we expect that acquiring some will be necessary to help us reach our goal. Between now and then, our plan is to invest the amounts we would pay for the mitigation credits in becoming carbon neutral, a strategy that will reduce the credits we need to buy in 2025.

How We Chose 2025
Sometimes, setting a big goal is easier than setting a smaller goal because it requires teams to think differently, not just try harder. Our company could become carbon neutral immediately by writing a big check for mitigation credits, but our team is adamantly opposed to that approach. We want to work toward real change. After a lot of deliberation, 2025 seemed like a good goal.

After all, we are already trying to do what we can to be good stewards of the environment. Our engine company uses a catalyst system that captures pollutants before they can be released. We also continue to look for new catalytic recipes that will make this process even better. Our zero-emission electric boat company, Ingenity, sells boats onto some of the world’s most pristine lakes. We recently opened an Experience Center on California’s Lake Tahoe for Ingenity, exciting some of the region’s environmentalists. We are not innovating just for today; we are preparing our company and products for the future.

And we believe we can do more. Sharing the details of our carbon neutral journey will, hopefully, inspire others to join us. I understand that sharing this goal opens us to criticism, because I am sure others would approach the challenge differently. However, this strategy works for us, and as we wrestle with the best way to approach being carbon neutral, we understand that we will learn a lot along the way.

This is an exciting journey. I hope you will join us.

Bill Yeargin is CEO of Correct Craft and author of Education of a CEO: Lessons for Leaders.

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