As of March 31, 2022, Blue Apron is carbon neutral. Kelly Burton, Blue Apron’s Head of Sustainability and Social Impact, is here to answer your questions. Learn more about this initiative, what it means for Blue Apron, and why it’s so important.
Kelly Burton is Blue Apron’s Head of Sustainability and Social Impact. Before joining Blue Apron in January 2022, Kelly served as the Chief Sustainability Officer of Material Exchange AB, a Swedish-based tech start-up co-developed by the United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) and the Footwear Distributors and Retailers Association (FDRA), where she developed and executed the strategic roadmap aligning with ESG, SDG, investor, and value chain commitments. Her favorite meals always include roasted vegetables—the more like the rainbow, the better! Favorite Blue Apron add-on? Breakfast of course!
Blue Apron: What does it mean for a company to be carbon neutral?
Kelly: Carbon neutrality means that a company has found a balance between what they emit in greenhouse gasses and solutions to offset those emissions.
How did Blue Apron begin this process?
We made a commitment in September 2021 that we would be carbon neutral by the end of Q1 2022 through the purchase of carbon offsets. We conducted a carbon footprint analysis of the company for the very first time. That meant taking measurements of Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 emissions in 2021, as defined by the GHG Protocol. Scope 1 is everything that’s owned and operated—such as our business offices and fulfillment centers. Scope 2 looks deeper into the sources of energy that we use when it comes to keeping the lights on. Scope 3 covers the most material emissions from all the goods and services that we need to purchase and deliver meal kits. This was a heavy lift that included working with our Procurement team, our Facilities teams, and several others who were able to pull together the data.
We also worked with an external consultant* to help us map out our carbon footprint, and once that was done, it was estimated that we emitted 124,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent for 2021. That meant that in order to be carbon neutral based on this footprint, we had to purchase offsets to equal the 124,000 metric tons.
What is a carbon offset?
A carbon offset is anything that works to reduce or remove emissions of carbon dioxide or equivalents from the atmosphere. These projects can take several forms. They can come in the form of soil carbon farming; there are programs in the US that support farmers to use mechanisms that pull down carbon rather than release it from the soil. It also could mean forest conservation projects, or creating projects to deliver greener energy, like building a dam or creating a solar farm. The market for offsets is expansive, and it includes a lot of different options.
Why are we using offsets?
Until we get to a place where people, organizations, and countries can be net zero, which means that all carbon emissions are balanced by removal of carbon from the atmosphere, we’re always going to need offsets. I like offsets because they are creating investments and opportunities to pull down or sequester carbon in innovative ways. Some of the challenges and critiques about offsets are that they allow companies and individuals to continue with business as usual. To move beyond this, and to make meaningful change, everyone needs to find ways to reduce emissions.
We’ve used this opportunity to get a sense of where our emissions lie in Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 categories. This year, we’ll work to find ways to reduce our emissions.
Why is this initiative important to Blue Apron?
When Blue Apron was started almost 10 years ago, it was with the vision to streamline the path that food takes from farms to homes. Blue Apron has always been focused on bringing good, wholesome food to customers in a way that is mindful of our environmental impact. If you look at emission sources, food waste is a significant emitter when it comes to the climate crisis. A study from the University of Michigan reinforced that meal kits really do help to reduce food waste. With the help of our internal food donation strategies, the carbon footprint analysis calculated that waste only accounted for approximately 1% of our total corporate emissions, but there’s more we can do. Maintaining carbon neutrality makes us wrap our arms around all the emissions that it takes to bring a box to a customer. That includes the logistics, the packaging, and everything else. This carbon neutral announcement marks the continuation of our journey. We’ve created a business model that values reducing food waste at its core; we’ve committed to recyclable, reusable, or compostable meal kit packaging by 2025; and now we’ve added carbon neutrality for this year to ease the concern about environmental impact for our consumer.
What did it mean to you to lead this initiative?
The advantage of having your meal kit company be carbon neutral makes me excited, and I am so grateful for the work the Blue Apron team did to make this go from concept to reality in less than 5 months. It’s not enough to make good products. It is incumbent upon companies to take responsibility for their environmental impact, and Blue Apron is on our way to doing that.
What is unique about Blue Apron’s approach to Carbon Neutrality?
We’re taking responsibility for our impacts; both direct and indirect, and that sets us apart from our competitors. Some companies address only direct emissions from their owned and operated facilities—but we know a meal kit has a bigger footprint than that. By excluding Scope 3 in a carbon footprint, a company is not really addressing the whole problem. I’m extremely proud that we have included Scope 3 because it gives us the tools to find solutions and organic ways of reduction. We’re continuing to find ways to create dietary and planetary wellness for our customers.
What was the most difficult part of achieving this goal?
Anybody who’s tried to do a carbon footprint analysis knows that compiling the data is challenging, especially because the data lives within different departments, like logistics or accounting. Completing this footprint allowed us to start to centralize the data so that we can track it and find ways to reduce it over time. The carbon footprinting and data gathering is definitely the biggest challenge in the beginning. Now, the real challenge begins. Next, we hope to find ways to reduce emissions. I’m super excited that the team that we’ve assembled is ready for that challenge, and we plan on more good news to come.
Now that this initiative has launched, what’s next for Blue Apron?
We have an opportunity now to figure out what to do with this data and how to reduce our emissions across the organization. This year, we intend to plan how to centralize the data, and how to use the carbon emissions data in our decision-making process. Once we do that, I think we’ll have a better sense of where we can find reductions, where we can improve the product, and how to improve our impact numbers for years to come.
Want to find out how you compare? Calculate your carbon footprint at carbonfootprint.com to find out how you’re doing.
*Carbon footprint assessment conducted by an outside party that may be deemed to be an affiliate of the company.
Forward Looking Statements
This post includes statements concerning Blue Apron Holdings, Inc. and its future expectations, plans and prospects, including its environmental, sustainability and governance goals, that constitute “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. For this purpose, any statements contained herein that are not statements of historical fact may be deemed to be forward-looking statements. In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by terms such as “may,” “should,” “expects,” “plans,” “forecasts,” “anticipates,” “could,” “intends,” “target,” “projects,” “contemplates,” “believes,” “estimates,” “predicts,” “potential,” or “continue,” or the negative of these terms or other similar expressions. The company has based these forward-looking statements largely on its current expectations and projections about future events and financial trends that it believes may affect its business, financial condition and results of operations. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this post and are subject to a number of risks, uncertainties and assumptions including, without limitation, the company’s ability, including the timing and extent, to achieve and set its environmental, sustainability and corporate governance goals , on its anticipated timeframe or at all and other risks more fully described in the company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2021 filed with the SEC on February 25, 2022, and in other filings that the company may make with the SEC in the future. The company assumes no obligation to update any forward-looking statements contained in this post as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.