March 8-11, Beth Robertson-Martin and Ben Adolph, co-founders of Merge Impact, traveled to Expo West — all the while tracking carbon emissions as part of a new initiative they developed for the show called Project Better Offset. Expo West is the leading trade show in the natural, organic, and healthy products industry, so tracking carbon emissions at the show seemed like a great fit for the show’s mission. It was also a clever demonstration of Merge Impact’s data measurement and tracking capabilities as it showcased the ease with which anyone — whether they be a traveler, farmer, or international food brand — can track all steps in their journey or in their supply chain.
Ben and Beth were particularly interested in shining a light on Scope 3 emissions, which are indirect emissions from a company or organization’s activities that occur from sources they do not own or control. These can include use of products, transportation, distribution, and business travel — such as the travel Ben and Beth made from their homes in the Midwest to Anaheim, CA, for Expo West. Scope 3 emissions typically make up the lion’s share of a food brand’s carbon footprint, but also, up until now, tend to be the most complicated to track. Afterward, Beth and Ben created their own travel carbon offset by donating to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, which will benefit the Bee Better Certified program to plant hedgerows and work with farms to manage for pollinators and other biodiversity, which directly benefits soil health.
Was tracking carbon emissions at Expo West hard? In a word, no. In fact, there are many easy-to-use online tools that make tracking carbon emissions easy. Flight emissions, hotel emissions, car carbon calculators, and personal carbon calculators are all readily available and easy to use.
At the show, Beth and Ben demonstrated Merge Impact’s customizable dashboard for tracking supply chain impact and making informed decisions from the baseline data — the way Merge Impact uses data to help farmer outcomes with consumer values . In the end, Beth’s total carbon footprint was close to 890 pounds door to door, while Ben’s was about 1000 pounds, for a combined donation of $4,300 to the Xerces Foundation. Both Beth and Ben agree that if they weren’t closely tracking carbon emissions at the show, this footprint would have been larger, since it’s easy to make decisions that privilege speed and convenience over efficiency.
What were Beth and Ben’s biggest takeaway from tracking carbon emissions at Expo West? It reinforced what they already knew to be true: companies need to educate themselves about their Scope 3 emissions, and deeper education is needed in general around carbon tracking and emissions. With registration at Expo West estimated at 60,000 people, Ben and Beth’s carbon emissions represent a miniscule percentage of overall emissions at the show. Think of how powerful it would be if Scope 3 emissions were tracked for all participants at Expo West — and how it could change national events for the better in terms of establishing more sustainable practices. Think of how powerful it would be if the majority of participants tracked their emissions, and the benefits that could be reaped by understanding them, adjusting behaviors and priorities, and ultimately cutting those emissions on an individual and company-wide level. The same can be said of the entire agriculture industry.
Unfortunately, Scope 3 emissions aren’t top of mind for many companies at the moment—but they should be. Here at Merge Impact, we believe that every brand talking about regenerative agriculture products — one of the biggest topics at Expo West! — should also be aware of Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. Scope 3 emissions tracking is going to create a major problem for some companies that want to talk the talk in marketing and sales: They simply aren’t ready to walk the walk if they don’t have the data to back up their claims. And while some companies at Expo West seemed to be very concerned in theory, they aren’t concerned enough to pursue answers to challenging questions about their supply chain impact. That needs to change quickly.
As Ben noted, “We’ve heard stories about strategy from big food companies and it’s startling how little action is being taken to build a measurable systems to avoid false claims and track real progress. . Models and estimates with generic expectations and applications are greenwashing. No exceptions. Proof of impact comes from physical measurements and real data from the source.”
Interested in learning more about Merge Impact? We invite you to try tracking carbon emissions and much more through Merge Impact’s blockchain-powered agriculture data and measurement services at www.mergeimpact.com.