Assessing the environmental impacts of functional flavored water. Supporting a growing CPG company to make environmentally-responsible and informed decisions as they scale.
Free Rain develops functional flavored sparkling waters. By introducing adaptogens with natural flavors into their drinks, the creators of Free Rain have produced a refreshing sparkling beverage that actively enhances mental and physical function. Their mission is to help customers do and feel more by harnessing the incredible power of nature.
As an accountability check, the Free Rain team contracted Seaborne to assess the actual environmental impacts of producing their beverages. This move helps them to stay true to the brand values they talk about with customers every day, like celebrating nature as the source of both Free Rain and a healthy life.
Free Rain knows that keeping their customers’ trust is an ongoing process. It requires open and frequent communication about what’s in a can of Free Rain, the impacts of their production, and the brand’s areas for improvements.
The Free Rain team was specifically interested to learn where most of their emissions come from and how to translate that information into an actionable plan.
Our team helped them to better understand the environmental impact of their beverages and to take informed action towards environmental responsibility as they scale their operations.
By using the science-based methods of Life Cycle Analysis, Seaborne was able to accurately measure the carbon footprint of Free Rain’s beverage and pinpoint areas of improvement.
Seaborne analysts built an analytical model using the OpenLCA package. This helped to quantify the product carbon footprint of Free Rain’s four functional flavors from “cradle to grave.” By using this this scope, Seaborne quantified the emissions and energy needed for everything from growing the flavoring ingredients to eventual recycling of the product packaging.
Through this analysis, we helped the Free Rain team understand exactly where most CO2 emissions occur in their supply chains and manufacturing processes. The average breakdown of their product emissions across four flavors is shown below.
Percent distribution of the average carbon footprint of a Free Rain beverage.
Understanding and managing our environmental impact is key to our mission, and of the utmost importance to our customers and partners. Seaborne's LCA helped us understand the precise source of our footprint and key steps we can implement to reduce that footprint. It has changed how we understand our impact, how we do our sourcing, and ultimately how we make business decisions.
Seaborne ran a collaborative process that provided transparency and insight. This has provided us with more than just a number for our carbon emissions - it has given us a deeper understanding of our mission and how to achieve it.
Strategy & Insight
Our analysis shows that Free Rain has a rather lean supply chain and consequently, a modest carbon footprint per can (152 grams of CO2 eq). The majority of product emissions come from distribution and packaging, which are integral steps in production that can be hard to change.
Critically, the information provided by the Seaborne LCA helped Free Rain to take a much closer look at their specific distribution channels. For example, the LCA results show that the B2B distribution modality for Free Rain adds the smallest additional carbon footprint compared to other channels. Quantifiable details like these provide Free Rain valuable insight on how to responsibly scale.
These quantitative results also allowed us to more substantively compare Free Rain to other carbonated beverages. Through this research, we learned that few other beverage brands have ever shared any LCA work or results with customers.
This realization represents a critical point of difference for Free Rain. Quantifying and sharing environmental data about their product empowers Free Rain to meaningfully stand out among competitors through their values of transparency and accountability.
Better yet, the two generic LCA studies from the carbonated beverage world that we were able to locate suggest that Free Rain has a lower carbon footprint of about 5%-30% than other carbonated drinks.
Functional unit of the above table is normalized to a single 360 ml can.
Because, as Seaborne determined, the Free Rain beverage carbon footprint is modest, it would be possible for Free Rain to sell their drinks as a carbon-neutral product while still making significant profit. By purchasing high-quality carbon offsets, Free Rain can compensate for their total product life cycle emissions while also working toward reduced emissions from the source.
Our calculations suggest that premium carbon sequestration offsets could permanently offset the impact of each can of Free Rain sold at a reasonable rate (>$0.03 per can).
Using the insights and quantitative results that Seaborne generated in this project, the Free Rain team applied for their B-Corp certification in September of 2022.
B-Corp is a designation that indicates a business meets the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. LCAs provide a strategic methodology to measure overall product impacts. Thus, organizations like Free Rain make use of LCA results in strengthening a B-Corp application, and ultimately, strengthening their brand and operations.
Overall, our work with Free Rain provided an accountability check as a launch pad for a more environmentally conscious and transparent brand. Not only did the LCA provide a baseline understanding of their environmental impacts, but it also gave Free Rain leadership valuable tools for their future growth.