Diefendorff: A Carbon Neutral Company
When I started Diefendorff, Inc. I wanted it to do several things. First, of course, I wanted it to be a company that creates great, truly distinctive watches. Done. But two other things that were important to me were that I wanted to pay honor to Henry Diefendorff and bring his legacy into modern age by reflecting my experience.
On that first point, as you may know by now, Henry Diefendorff died 200 years to the day of me being born. He fought in the American Revolution in a militia and served as a captain in what amounted as an ambush in Oriskany, New York. So naming the company after him and telling his story was a great way to accomplish that goal.
Being Socially Responsible and Environmentally Responsible
On the second point, I have nearly 20 years of experience working on corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability. I've worked on CSR/sustainability in nonprofits, inside large companies, large consulting agencies and even started my own sustainability strategy consulting firm. In doing so, I've worked with some of the world's largest companies to try to help these companies "do well by doing good." It sounds like a cliche, but when I began my career, that phrase was new!
For me in this new journey, the choice was clear. I would integrate social and environmental responsibility into the core of the business of Diefendorff. I would balance out the needs of financial returns to be on the same plane as social returns and environmental returns.
What does that mean? Basically, I would run Diefendorff in a way that is good for profit, people and the planet and I would make sure I had the legal protections to do so. Sometimes that might mean spending money to mitigate the environmental impacts at the sacrifice of profit. But that's okay because in the long-run, it's the right decision. It's what I've meant when I said in media interviews and on this site that we would run the company in a way that would "make your mother proud."
You can also read more about our first public commitment on being socially responsible through our philanthropy program here. More details on the way about that, too, by the way!
What does it mean to be a carbon neutral company?
To become carbon neutral, companies should analyze the carbon emissions emitted into the atmosphere due to the company's operations and/or in the creation of their product. Technically this is broken down into three categories called Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3. Once a company has measured its emissions in these categories, it can then buy offsets that basically prevent the release of carbon dioxide somewhere in the world that would otherwise had been released if the company had done nothing. Scope 1 means the carbon emissions that were directly created by the company (think of a smoke stack coming out of a factor), Scope 2 measures the emission from things like buying electricity from a grid and Scope 3 is indirect emissions such as travel and transportation emissions from things like mailing packages.
We worked with a group called Natural Capital Partners because it has a measurement program and has very strict controls around its programs. Essentially, we went with NCP because we know that what they do is real.
It's really important to know that if company is making a claim that it is carbon neutral, that it is certified carbon neutral and that it follows the well establish protocols that can prove it's doing things the right way.
There are obviously a LOT of other details to this, but that will be the perfect subject to tackle in a future blog post about carbon neutrality.
Noted and stay tuned. :-)
Responsibility: A Thousand Tiny Choices
It's incredible all of the choices you have to make in starting a business, but in particular a watch business. Each tiny choice matters.
The same can be said about sustainability. In addition to being certified carbon neutral, we also deliberately selected leather watch straps that use vegetable dyeing techniques which use less harmful chemicals than modern dyeing techniques. Our packaging includes a particle board box made of Forest Stewardship Council certified material, as another example.
Do watch consumers care about corporate social responsibility or sustainability?
To be honest, not really. At least not to the point of driving decisions on whether to buy one watch over another. But that's okay!
The social and environmental commitments of Diefendorff were never meant to be a hard selling point. Still, there are some consumers who do care and if so, the information is available for those who are interested to find out more (such as through this blog). But also, the stories created in our journey of social and environmental responsibility allow us to have a more interesting (I think) conversation with our customers. Diefendorff is meant to be more than a product, after all.
Is Diefendorff a B-Corp?
Becoming a B-Corp is a great step for founders and executive teams to solidify their commitment to social and environmental returns. It's not the only game in town, however.
When I created Diefendorff, I decided that I would integrate the principles of being a B-Corporation into the legal documents of our company, but not get the certification. For more detailed explanation, read this blog post about B-Corporations.
Diefendorff is a new company and this commitment is only a start. A good start, but a start nonetheless.
My next goal is to be able to conduct what they call a "life cycle analysis" of our watches, straps and packaging. This is a scientific exploration and measurement of the environmental impacts of the actual creation of our product from the point when the raw materials are extracted from the earth to the point after what happens when a customer stops using our products (and packaging and straps and... and... and...). This is quite an expensive endeavor, but it must be done.
We're working on it.