Jack Bruner wants to help people lower their carbon footprint through the Carbon Neutral Club, and he’s working with fashion firms to give club members an incentive to do that.
Bruner and two cofounders launched the startup in July in Canada. Members use an online calculator to estimate the amount of carbon dioxide they produce. The membership fee averages between $10 to $20 per month, depending on the estimated carbon footprint. That fee is then split among three wind, solar and reforestation projects that are proven to slow climate change. Included is a fixed monthly fee of $3.95 to pay for the club’s operations. As part of the membership, members are able to shop at a discount year-round at brand partners whose focus is on sustainability.
The initial push has been direct with consumers, but the company has since started an outreach to businesses to create employer programs that rewards workforces for becoming carbon neutral.
While Bruner didn’t discuss brand partnership terms, the discount offered through the club also serves to drive a new customer base to participating companies.
Brand partners include apparel firms Kotn and Tentree, which offer discounts of 15 percent and 20 percent, respectively. Both are certified B Corps, while Tentree is also Climate Neutral certified. Another Certified B Corp is Frank And Oak, which is planning to offer a 20 percent discount to club members. Boyish, a sustainable premium denim line, is Climate Neutral certified and offers a 20 percent discount.
Certified B Corp or Climate Neutral certified is not a prerequisite for brand partners, but what is a requirement is how the brand is living up to its sustainability focus. West Coast slow fashion brand Anián salvages natural fiber textiles from landfills and turns them into apparel items. Mini-Cycle is a zero-waste fashion brand that offers pre-owned and trade-in options for parents for the little ones, while Londre specializes in double-line, compression material swimsuits made from recycled plastic bottles. Saltwater Collective, a sustainable swimwear brand, uses 100 percent regenerated nylon from pre- and post-consumer waste. Triarchy is a denim brand created from organic cotton and natural dyes, using a process that reduces water, carbon dioxide and chemical consumption. And Lezé The Label makes sustainable workwear from recycled materials.
There are a total of 55 brand partners, and they aren’t limited to just fashion brands. Open Farm provides ethically sourced and humanely raised pet food and is working towards zero-waste packaging, while Look Organics offers vegan and cruelty-free skincare, using USDA certified organic components, as examples.
According to Bruner, Carbon Neutral is on its way to becoming a Certified B Corp. On Monday, the company began operations in the U.S. “We will be entering the European Union next, and the beyond that, we want to get ourselves into Asia, Australia and New Zealand,” Bruner said of future plans.
“My cofounders and I quit our jobs in March to launch this company. We come from a range of professional backgrounds, and climate change and sustainability are a huge part of our lives outside of work,” Bruner said, noting that the idea for the startup came from a realization that people aren’t taking on a bigger role in reducing their carbon footprint because they don’t know how to go about doing it. The premise for the club is to “build a solution that makes private action accessible to anybody.”
The first part using the estimator is the education process, while the membership and discount access is the financial incentive that’s can be a “very powerful too to engage behavior change,” Bruner said. The membership funding also provides the pass-along to offset projects that contribute to carbon reduction.
The three offset projects were selected for their long-term ability to slow climate change. Chinchiná River Forestry Project in Columbia, which is VCS Certified, reforests watersheds that have been damaged by both agricultural expansion and cattle grazing in the Andean high moor forests. The project also has other benefits such as job creation, protection of vulnerable species and cleaner drinking water. Another project is Crow Lake Wind Power in the U.S. in South Dakota. Also VCS Certified, the project has 108 turbines that harness wind power to provide clean electricity and reduce the use of fossil fuels. The third investment is Siam Solar Power, a Gold Standard Certified project that provides renewable energy to Thailand’s energy grid. It also reduces the dependence on fossil fuels. The company currently is researching other offset projects and would like to add at least two more by the end of the year.
The company, which has a seed round under its belt, is presently working on another round of fundraising. “We’re likely moving up to our Series A round at the end of this year, early next year,” Bruner said, noting that growth is occurring faster than initially thought. So far, the company has amassed “hundreds” of members from Canada in just three months of operation, the cofounder said, and that’s expected to grow once U.S. operations ramp up. The membership base is primarily with millennials and Gen Z cohorts, although “older audiences are coming on board and giving us feedback,” Bruner said.
Carbon neutrality has received much attention in recent years from both investors and fashion and home companies. Cotopaxi, and outdoor gear and apparel firm, recently secured a $45 million funding round led by Bain Capital Double Impact, while Austrian fiber manufacturer Lenzing has gone carbon neutral through its launch of Tencel-branded lyocell and modal fibers produced using renewable energy. Allbirds, through investment offsets, has said it’s been carbon neutral since 2019. Now the company is linking corporate bonuses to meeting its carbon goals.