Keeping an eye on emissions in retail
Carbon accounting platforms are becoming one of the key tools which firms are using to measure their energy and plot their path towards sustainability. While there are plenty of one-size-fits-all options, there are also firms focussing on sector-specific systems.
Two years ago, during that long dark December marked by lockdowns and school closures, Namrata Sandhu, former head of sustainability at online retailer Zalando, co-founded Vaayu, an automated carbon software for the retail industry.
According to Sandhu, who had previously worked in sustainability at accounting giant KPMG and for the United Nations, there was a “critical gap” in the market for a carbon-tracking tool to provide retailers with real-time, accurate data needed to reduce carbon emissions at scale.
During her time at Zalando, the sustainability head observed that the main challenge hampering retailers’ ability to be sustainable was that calculating carbon is a complex business – often leading to inaccuracies, inefficiencies and time-constraints. At the time, retailers simply did not have all the tools it needed to navigate climate science.
Vaayu, she claims, leverages proprietary AI and machine learning technologies to enable retailers to draw actionable insights across their entire supply chain from production to sales and logistics.
The software is tailored to the retail sector so that it can evaluate different scenarios within the platform to encourage business decisions that deliver carbon reductions, such as alternative materials, production processes or suppliers.
“By integrating with point-of-sale and product lifecycle management systems, Vaayu automatically calculates the carbon footprint of all daily transactions using its proprietary database of more than 600,000 data points,” says Sandhu.
“This provides retailers with incredibly granular data on their operations, where their carbon emissions are the worst and most importantly, where they should focus their efforts,” she adds.
Eco conscious eyewear retailer Ace & Tate, founded by CEO Mark de Lange in 2013, first started on its carbon reporting journey five years ago, after it realised “every frame produced, every product shipped, and every happy customer came at an environmental cost”.
The retailer’s sustainability manager Femme van Gils said that Ace & Tate is now using Vaayu as a proactive tool to reduce the environmental impact of its business, instead of reporting reactively.
The retailer is able to access real-time data and model different future scenarios in order to set both ambitious and realistic targets.
Prior to Vaayu, Ace & Tate reported its carbon footprint annually across Scopes 1,2 and 3, yet further understanding its Scope 3 emissions (those that it is indirectly responsible for, created by the supply chain) was vital, which, according to Gils, are “often the hardest to reduce”.
The sustainability manager added that, in an era where reputation is everything and greenwashing accusations abound, the attraction of Vaayu stems from its focus on enabling a customer’s supply chain partners to provide primary data that can be verified and trusted.
“This includes values for materials, packaging and energy consumption in different stages of production,” she said.
Plus, she enthuses, Vaayu’s dashboard makes carbon data easily digestible and accessible for multiple people across the entire organisation.
“Vaayu’s automated technology offers us a level of granularity we’ve not been able to achieve before,” said Gils. “By automating our carbon calculation and modelling this around our specific processes, we’ve improved the accuracy of our emissions data and reporting – keeping us sharp and helping us steer reductions.”
Going forward, Ace & Tate will leverage the platform to tackle “emission hotspots” identified in its supply chain, such as waste materials produced in manufacturing.
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