Creating a Culture of Climate Accountability: An Interview with Monos CEO, Victor Tam

Alicia Rodriguez
April 4, 2023
Victor Tam, CEO of Monos, recently sat down with us to share insights on the company's climate action journey. Learn why they became Climate Neutral Certified and how the entire organization prioritizes a culture of climate responsibility.

We recently caught up with Victor Tam, CEO of Monos, to discuss lessons learned throughout their climate action journey. Monos has been Climate Neutral Certified since 2021, and the company is also a generous contributor to our nonprofit mission. Let's jump in to learn how the travel and lifestyle brand has continually evolved its climate action strategy.

Victor Tam, CEO of Monos
Victor Tam, CEO of Monos

In 2021, Monos became one of the first luggage brands to become Climate Neutral Certified. Can you share a bit about your brand and products?

Of course. While Monos may have started with luggage as our primary offering, we see ourselves as a full-fledged travel and lifestyle brand, as we’ve since expanded into soft goods, accessories, and clothing. While many companies in the luggage industry are focused on the more utilitarian aspect of luggage, we see ourselves existing at the intersection of form and function, of fashion and utility. We strive to make products that not only fit seamlessly into people’s lives, but also reflect people’s personal style and values. We focus on creating timeless, high-quality products that can remain relevant and cherished pieces for years to come.

From day one, we’ve also been committed to using Monos as a force for good. So, from the way we design our products to the nonprofits like Climate Neutral we support, our goal is to tread lightly and have a positive impact on the world.

Tell us about your climate action journey. How have you scaled a successful business with a culture of climate accountability? 

We were mindful early on about our values and unit economics—it was never about raising capital to grow at absolutely any cost. We set out to be productive and responsible.

We thoughtfully applied a carbon tax on the entire organization. We already faced typical taxes like property tax, employment tax, etc. Implementing a carbon tax made sense to us. It made climate work a priority, and it also positioned every department to remain accountable and equally engaged as the business matured. 

Why did you choose to become Climate Neutral Certified in 2021?  

Climate Neutral provided instrumental support on education. We really appreciated our relationship would not be one where we’d donate money and call it a day. Rather, we’d be encouraged and enabled to take consistent action.  

We also saw brands we admired becoming Climate Neutral Certified. We wanted to be in that same cohort of action-oriented companies and have the opportunity to collaborate with their experts. 

So it was an easy decision, and our first certification cycle in 2021 opened our eyes. We learned what was possible in terms of measuring, reducing, and compensating for our emissions. It pushed us to think more efficiently and change the way we approach things, from design to waste, for the better.   

What climate action challenges have you overcome? 

Upfront, supply chain education was tough. Our decarbonization initiatives go beyond our core team—they include our partners, who we ship with, where we warehouse, and more. So we’ve always been mindful about meeting with contract factories and visiting overseas partners to share education and collaborate on emissions reduction actions. It can be a challenge getting the right buy in. But over the years, we’ve fine tuned processes and made progress on reductions. Climate Neutral has been a huge support.

Monos is going on its third year as a Climate Neutral Certified brand. Why is annual recertification a priority? 

Our vision is to be the next beloved travel brand. And we understand people love brands that align with their values. So we are mindful about every detail—from climate action to modular designs that allow for easy repairs and less waste.

Our customers feel positive when they see the Climate Neutral Certified label. They appreciate that we are taking action that aligns with their values on their behalf.   

Being Climate Neutral Certified also helps us make tough choices as we scale. It’s not yet realistic for any company to be 100% sustainable, but being a part of the certified brand community guides our decisions. It keeps us connected to experts who face similar challenges and accountable to what we cannot sacrifice. We aim to do as little environmental harm as possible and one day grow to a level where we can really move our weight and create significant impact.      

What advice would you give to a company wondering how to take immediate climate action?

Start with your materials. You can consciously choose what materials you use and where you produce your products. All of those decisions have a large impact on your total carbon footprint.   

From there, engage with your partners, suppliers, and customers to build the climate action movement. Monos is Climate Neutral Certified, a member of 1% for the Planet, and we’re currently taking steps to become a B Corp. We are proud to be a part of these organizations. We dedicate a significant budget to achieving them, and also to promoting them in our ads and campaigns every year.

How do you help your customers be more accountable on climate? 

It all comes back to education. We’ve created dedicated web pages about our Climate Neutral certification and sustainability initiatives. We also embed climate education into our email campaigns and make a point to be transparent about product details.

We’ve found all of our sustainability initiatives feel more meaningful to people when we put them in context. For instance, one of our reduction goals is to decrease downstream emissions from returns and exchanges. Now, when someone initiates a return/exchange, we simply share emissions data related to the return shipping of the product. Up to 95% of people tell us they had no idea about this impact, they’re happy to gain awareness, and we work together to land on alternate solutions.    

What’s next for Monos?

We’ve always believed we’re all guests on this planet. It’s our responsibility to tread lightly and give back. 

We’re currently making progress on a variety of reduction action plans, improving our existing packaging, and taking steps to become a B Corp. It feels like a natural progression to build on our Climate Neutral Certified and 1% for the Planet momentum.

Monos demonstrates that creating a culture of climate accountability is both possible and necessary. If your organization is interested in taking immediate climate action, give us a shout at hello@climateneutral.org. We look forward to hearing your story!  

Sign Up for Our Email List

Stay up to date with Climate Neutral!
Subscribe to the latest news and announcements from our team.

Thank you! You've been signed up.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

About the Author

Alicia Rodriguez
Certification Program Manager

Craft beer aficionado with a strong passion for her Puerto Rican culture, Alicia brings experience in project management and customer service and holds an MBA in Sustainable Innovation. She looks to create impact and apply intersectionality to everything she does, and believes that everyone can—and should—find a role in addressing the climate crisis.

Recommended Posts

View All Posts

Corporate Climate Progress Has Stalled. Carbon Pricing Could Be the Answer.

At a moment when report after report shows the world is nowhere near its climate goals, the corporate climate movement is slowing down - not speeding up. For the past decade, thousands of companies raced to set ambitious, long-term targets for emissions reduction. But few if any are meeting those targets. 

Our Impact in 2023

As we commemorate five years since the launch of our organization, we’re excited to share our 2023 Impact Report. It showcases the tangible contributions we've made to the climate movement, reflecting our journey from ideas and dreams to action and impact, and the incredible community who has joined, encouraged, and championed our mission along the way.

Collaboration in Community: Introducing Kupu

Discover how Kupu is helping pave the way for Hawaiʻi’s youth through environmental and community-centric programs. Learn about their impactful work in Lahaina’s restoration and their dedication to fostering a sustainable future.