Introducing Femke, O My Bag Sustainability Manager
Hey! I’m Femke, and I joined O My Bag in June 2021 as Sustainability Manager. The moment I learnt about using business as a force for good was almost 10 years ago, when I read about the start of Social Enterprise NL in the news. I studied International Relations and graduated with an award-winning research that I conducted for Social Enterprise NL, looking at how these social entrepreneurs could best be supported in growing their business.
I’ve been part of Tony’s Chocolonely’s impact team, where I worked directly with Tony’s partner cocoa cooperatives in Ghana and Ivory Coast. Before joining O My Bag, I worked as a Program Manager in sustainable international trade. I led multiple projects, financed by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that supported entrepreneurs in West Africa and South East Asia expand their business to Europe.
This journey brought me to O My Bag, which perfectly matches my values and interests. We make beautiful bags that will last a lifetime, they are ethically produced in India, with the best materials. But actually - the bags are just a means to a higher end: to make a positive difference in the world. Throughout the year, I will be updating you on how exactly we are making a positive difference in the world. In addition to how we will take sustainability and our impact to the next level at O My Bag!
Carbon Offsetting vs Carbon Insetting
Let’s start with some background information. Offsetting or compensating your carbon emissions means that you calculate them and invest the equivalent in euros in an accredited project, outside your supply chain, that captures carbon in for example vegetation and soils. You have probably seen this when booking flights, as airlines are now giving you the option to offset your carbon emissions of the flight for several euros. Then what is insetting? Insetting is when you take action inside your supply chain to directly eliminate emissions, for example by switching to a more sustainable mode of transport or having solar panels installed at all factories you work with.
In my opinion, every company should prioritize insetting over offsetting. Because if you’re only offsetting, you are not making long-lasting changes in your operations that reduce carbon emissions in the long run. Although calculating and offsetting emissions is a good start, being carbon neutral by offsetting only is impossible - so O My Bag will not make that claim anymore.
Instead, we focus on insetting. In 2021, we have been shipping more by sea than ever. Compared to shipping by air, the emissions per ton shipped are significantly lower. But shipping by sea is not as easy as it sounds. It takes a lot longer. While an air shipment can take only a couple of days to arrive in our warehouse, a sea shipment can take around 3 months. Having our natural leather bags stored in containers that long, also increases the risk of mold or other damage. So in order to ship more by sea, we have worked on improved forecasting and better long term planning with our producers. This led to more sea shipments than ever in 2021. By doing so, we have been able to decrease our inbound shipping footprint by 43%!
During my time in Tony’s Chocolonely’s impact team, I worked with the GoodShipping. GoodShipping is changing the fuel mix in large cargo ships from fossil fuel to sustainable biofuel, made of residuals such as used cooking oils or residual pulp from the paper industry, thereby directly eliminating emissions and reducing our shipping footprint. Like Tony’s, O My Bag transports goods all over the world, and now more and more by sea. Knowing that this has a big impact on the environment, I felt a strong responsibility to find a sustainable solution when starting at O My Bag. So I reached out to my contacts at GoodShipping and I am happy to announce that from 2021 onwards, all O My Bag’s international shipping emissions (from India to our warehouse, as well as from our warehouse to you!) will be eliminated. Find out more about how GoodShipping achieves fossil fuel ocean freight transport here.
I am proud that this new partnership helps us take effective action in the most damaging stage in our supply chain. I support GoodShipping’s mission to change the norm in a large, conservative industry. But this partnership doesn’t take away our responsibility for shipping less by air. We will continue to improve our forecasting, ship more by sea, and always have a critical look at our material use to lower our footprint. I’ll keep you posted!