“The credibility of our environmental journalism depends on our willingness as a company to improve our own operations and supply chains in ways that dramatically reduce our carbon footprint and waste,” said global chief operating officer and president of Condé Nast Wolfgang Blau in a release.
In addition to committing to carbon neutrality, the company also launched a Sustainable Fashion Glossary in partnership with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion, aimed at defining commonly-used terms like “sustainability” and “regenerative agriculture.” The goal of the glossary is “to strengthen and develop sustainability literacy by providing guidance on key sustainability terms and emerging topics,” according to a release.
Considering how much public lament there’s been from fashion journalists in the past over the ill-defined nature of words like “sustainability,” a glossary of terms could be quite useful — if those definitions become widely accepted in the industry, that is.
As far as carbon neutrality goes, the company’s commitment is in line with the U.N.’s 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which recommended that global emissions need to reach net zero by 2050 in order to keep global warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees celsius. (Beyond that point, scientists have warned, the impacts of global warming will go from “bad to outright horrifying.”)
The commitment is a welcome one, especially from a company that has so much influence in both fashion and media. There is a question, however, about how exactly Condé will hit these goals. The publisher noted that it intends to reduce its corporate greenhouse gas emissions by 20% and its supply chain emissions by 10% by the end of 2021. It added that it would be working to source more sustainable materials, like Forest Stewardship Council certified paper, and hopes to stop using non-recyclable plastic packaging by 2025.
That’s all good, but according to Condé’s own Sustainability Assessment — which was released concurrently with the carbon neutrality announcement — 92% of the company’s greenhouse gas emissions arose from its supply chain (as opposed to corporate operations) in 2018. In theory, if the company continues to chip away at about 10% of those emissions every year, it could hit its goal by 2030.
But a total elimination of emissions probably isn’t possible at the moment without the company completely shutting down. Which means that Condé Nast’s leadership is likely relying either on the development of not-yet-available technology like carbon capture and storage to help meet its goals, or planning to invest in carbon offsetting to help it achieve net zero emissions. Neither approach is bulletproof: Relying on technology that doesn’t exist yet has been decried as a fallacy of magical thinking by many environmentalists, while carbon offsetting remains controversial.
Still, the fact that Condé Nast is even releasing information about its own emissions is a positive sign that the company is starting to pay attention to and measure its environmental footprint. Hopefully, it means that even in a time of economic duress, the company’s leadership recognizes that climate change can’t be put on the back burner as a secondary problem.
“While governments, businesses and many volunteer organizations around the world are trying to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, the challenge of the global climate crisis is, of course, not going away and companies like ours must do their part,” Blau told Vogue UK.
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