When Unilever pledged to phase out coal by 2020, the corporate giant also included a longer term goal—to become 'carbon positive' by 2030. While there's room for interpretation, the way Unilever is using this phrase, it appears to mean that they will be responsible for more emissions savings than they are for emissions across their operations.
That's a pretty exciting goal. I think it also represents a different way of looking at environmental responsibility. One that individuals, businesses and policy makers alike could learn a thing or two from.
You see, typically, the environmental movement has focused on lessening our impact. And there are many reasons to do just that. From short, sharp showers to President Obama's Clean Power Plan, the focus has been on limiting emissions and resource use.
But as the transition to a low carbon economy picks up speed, simply being less bad starts to feel a little unambitious. Even aiming for complete decarbonization, as many cities and some utilities are, leaves cards on the table.
Carbon positivity represents an exciting next step. Instead of simply "aiming for zero", businesses, individuals and governments can look to maximize their positive impact even as they work to limit their negative one. From carbon farming and better soil management to simply buying or producing more energy than you consume there are, of course, many ways that this can be done—many of which will have exciting positive outcomes and provide potential new business opportunities.
The Guardian just reported, for example, on The Kingdom of Bhutan which has enough forest to absorb three times as much carbon pollution as it produces, is working hard to slash its fossil fuel imports and has pledged to protect its forest resources.
How can we all learn from Bhutan?