Disclose your Scope 3 emissions, you cowards

If you want the inside scoop on which companies are serious about addressing their carbon emissions and which aren’t, take a look at the public comments submitted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regarding its proposed climate rule.

You can tell if a company is serious by its stance on so-called Scope 3 emissions. Depending on the business, Scope 3 emissions might make up a significant majority of a company’s carbon footprint. Such emissions can result from activities and assets a company doesn’t own or control, like leased office space, business travel or end-of-life processing of their products. They also might occur when customers use their products, like when someone drives their gas-powered SUV.

In short, if your company is serious about doing something about climate change, it should probably be estimating its Scope 3 emissions. If it’s making noise about being sustainable, at the very least it probably shouldn’t undermine attempts to make Scope 3 disclosures standard.

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Which is why the comments on the SEC’s site make for some interesting reading. Companies ranging from Walmart and BlackRock to Fidelity, Gap, ExxonMobil and Southwest Airlines have made it clear that they’d rather not disclose their Scope 3 emissions, even with the safe harbor provisions the SEC is offering to limit liability. Those companies are effectively saying that they don’t take climate change seriously enough to fully understand — and disclose — their own impact on it.

There are many, many more companies that I’m not covering here that take a similar stance. So why am I singling these out? Walmart because it’s the world’s largest retailer. BlackRock and Fidelity because they’re the first- and third-largest asset managers. ExxonMobil because it’s the largest non-government-owned oil company. Gap because the company claims it “feel[s] an ethical responsibility to align our goals and strategies with the best science and industry practices,” according to its own climate values page. And Southwest because it is among the largest airlines in the U.S., no matter which measure you use.

Demur and delay

The arguments against disclosing Scope 3 data generally fall into three buckets: Companies complain that the data is too unreliable or uncertain, that it’s too hard to obtain or that it’ll expose them to lawsuits.

The first smells like a classic FUD campaign — fear, uncertainty and doubt. Cynthia Lo Bessette, Fidelity’s chief legal officer, told the SEC that Scope 3 data is “speculative, nascent, unreliable, and there are no current standards to ensure consistent and comparable data.”

FloorFound is bringing online return and resale to direct to consumer furniture businesses

Over the next five years consumers will return an estimated 40 million to 50 million pieces of furniture that more than likely will end up in landfills, creating tons of unnecessary waste, according to Chris Richter, the founder of a new Austin-based furniture startup, FloorFound.

To reduce that waste, and give retailers another option for their used goods, Richter has launched FloorFound. The company is designed to manage furniture returns and resale for online merchants. So far, companies like Floyd Home, Inside Weather, Outer and Feather (the furniture rental company) are using FloorFound’s services.

“We have a very large pipeline and we’ve been operating since April first,” said Richter. “We can pick up in any major metro locally and inspect it locally. We have a platform layer where we can run inspections against those items.”

As consumers look to reduce their environmental footprint, an easy place to start is by buying used items, Richter said, and he expects that most brands will start to incorporate used and new products in their virtual and real showrooms. “Every brand will commingle new items with resale items,” he said. “We are trying to put retailers in the resale business with their own return inventory.” To prove his point, Richter pointed to companies like REI and The Gap, which have partnered with ThredUp to sell used clothes.

To compliment its returns business and give online sellers a way to work more seamlessly with local vendors the company has logistics partnerships with providers including Pilot Freight Services, Metropolitan Warehouse and Delivery and J.B. Hunt Transport.

Working with co-founder Ryan Matthews, the former director of technology for the Austin-based high end retailer Kendra Scott, Richter has set up a business that can tap into both the demand for better customer service for the return of large items and the growing call for greater sustainability in the furniture industry.

It was an attractive enough proposition to attract a pre-seed investment from Schematic Ventures, a venture fund focused exclusively on technological innovations for supply chain management.

“The broken experience of oversized e-commerce has kept a multi-billion dollar category offline. It’s not a simple problem: oversized items require coordination of a hyper-fragmented micro carrier network, complex physical processing, and then re-injection into an e-commerce channel that aligns with the brand,” said Julian Counihan, a general partner at Schematic Ventures. “UPS and FedEx just aren’t going to cut it. FloorFound is tackling this challenge with a team tailor-made for the task: Chris Richter, Ryan Matthews and Shannon Hardt have backgrounds spanning supply chain, delivery, e-commerce and enterprise software. FloorFound will be the final push that moves the remaining offline categories, online.”