Two girls colouring in an 'All hands on deck climate action' poster

This issue relates to the following Sustainable Development Goals

  • 12 - responsible consumption and production
  • 13 - Climate action

Brands taking climate action

Average read time: 7 minutes

Our brands are making big changes to help cut greenhouse gas emissions from the use of our products. Together with billions of people who use our products each day, we can reduce our climate impact.

A ben & jerry's climate protest with people holding a sign saying Quand C'est Fondu, C'est Foutu!

Around two-thirds of our climate footprint occurs when our products leave the shelves and go home with our consumers. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from small everyday actions at home, such as heating water for a hot shower or bath, doing laundry, boiling the kettle, or using electricity or gas to heat food – they all add up. Tackling these emissions from our products ‘in use’ is a major challenge, but one we don’t shy away from.

Our goal is to halve GHG emissions per consumer use of our products by 2030. We first set this target in 2010, with an end date of 2020 – but it became increasingly clear that more systemic change is needed over time to reach our target. In recent years, we’ve made a number of acquisitions in the Beauty & Personal Care division which have increased our GHG footprint.

Halving the GHG impact of our products per consumer use by 2030

We’re aiming to halve GHG emissions per consumer use of our products across the lifecycle by 2030. This target is approved by the Science Based Targets initiative.

Over the last decade, we’ve made some progress and we’ve learned a lot about the areas we can influence and those we cannot. But we’ve still got a long way to go.

We’re focused on achieving systemic change through our brands – by reformulating products to cut GHG emissions in use, by connecting with consumers to adopt sustainable behaviours and by accelerating the global transition to renewable energy.

Reducing the climate footprint of products in use

Our brands are working to halve the GHG footprint of a cup of tea, a laundry load or a hair wash by the end of this decade. Through innovation, R&D expertise, and partnerships with suppliers, our brands are finding lower carbon solutions for everyday products.

Understanding lifecycle product impacts

A ‘lifecycle’ approach helps us understand where we have the biggest environmental impact. We’ve analysed the GHG footprint of 3,000 of our products across every stage of their life, from sourcing raw materials to when they’re used in people’s homes and disposed of. This informs our product innovation so we make impactful changes to reduce our footprint.

Many of our shampoos and conditioners, such as Love Beauty and Planet, have fast-rinse technology as standard, using less water for rinsing. This cuts showering times and emissions from heating the water used in people’s homes.

Some of our highest emitting products such as deodorant aerosols are a particular challenge. We’re working towards eliminating HFC propellants from our haircare and deodorant ranges. After successfully trialling new Love Beauty and Planet hairspray bottles that reduce carbon emissions by 96% by using compressed air, we applied this innovative technology to deodorant aerosols in France and Germany.

Concentrated laundry detergents enable people to wash their clothes at lower temperatures, which lowers the GHG emissions needed to heat water for laundry. Washing clothes at 30°C instead of 60°C as consumers can with our concentrated liquid brands like Persil, Surf and Seventh Generation – cuts the GHG emissions per load by as much as 50%. We’ve also taken strides to reduce phosphates from our laundry products, one of our most GHG intensive ingredients, which reduces CO2 emissions by up to 50% per consumer use.

Brands investing in climate action

Our 400+ brands are some of our strongest levers in our fight against climate change. Our focus on people and planet is at the core of each division’s strategy. With delicious plant-based food options, to lower carbon but high performing beauty and home cleaning products, our brands are supporting consumers to lower their carbon footprint at home.

Alan Jope profile picture

We have a responsibility to help tackle the climate crisis: as a business, and through direct action by our brands.

Alan Jope, CEO

As public concern about climate change reaches an all-time high, our brands are engaging consumers on the topic – and building brand loyalty too.

For example, Ben & Jerry’s has shut its shops and production, supported staff and encouraged customers to join the Global Climate Strikes and youth climate strikes movement. Pukka Herbs has declared a climate and ecological emergency Opens in new window and encouraged consumers to switch to renewable energy at home and reduce kettle boiling, its biggest impact from ‘crop to cup’. Seventh Generation’s long-standing support for the Sierra Club’s ReadyFor100 campaign led to 100 US cities pledging to switch Opens in new window to 100% renewable electricity by 2035.

Over the years, we’ve learnt a lot about making environmental behaviours easier and more attractive to consumers – all of which help inform our brands’ ongoing efforts to ‘nudge’ people to use our products more sustainably.

In addition, our brands can draw from our new dedicated €1 billion Climate & Nature Fund. Over the next ten years, our brands will invest in meaningful and decisive climate action and nature protection projects. These are likely to include landscape restoration, reforestation, carbon sequestration, wildlife protection and water preservation projects.

Communicating the climate impact of products

It’s our ambition to communicate the carbon footprint of every product we sell to consumers. We don’t yet know what that will look like – but we do know that whatever we communicate about the climate impact of products needs context to make it meaningful to people.

We believe that transparency about carbon impacts will help accelerate progress in the global race to zero carbon.

We’re setting up pilot projects to quickly test carbon footprinting with a few of our brands. This will help us see which messages on carbon impacts work with consumers. Understanding the GHG footprint of every product we sell is an important first step. To do this, we’re setting up a system for our suppliers to declare the carbon footprint of the goods and services provided on each invoice.

We’re also creating partnerships with other businesses and organisations to standardise GHG data collection, sharing and communication. For example, we’re part of the WBCSD pathfinder project with other global climate leaders like Microsoft. Together we’re aiming to increase the accuracy of carbon data for ingredients and raw materials, so that we more quickly and easily build a clear picture of the lifecycle impact of products.

For us, and other global companies, to make real progress on communicating climate impacts, we need every business in our – and in peer companies’ supply chains – to understand and communicate their GHG footprint.

Accelerating a global renewable energy transition

While we’re working to make sustainable living effortless for consumers, we also want to change the system in which we all operate.

The greatest GHG impact from using our products lies in heating water for showering and washing when our products are used at home. Deep and lasting progress on our climate goals means we need home hot water use – over which we have little direct control – to become far more sustainable for consumers.

We believe our greatest opportunity to reduce GHG emissions lies in accelerating the transition to a global renewable energy system. Put simply, this means shifting the entire energy system away from fossil fuels, to renewable sources such as wind, solar and water power, and biomass, hydrogen and geothermal technologies. If every consumers’ shower or laundry cycle used hot water powered from renewable electricity rather than fossil fuel sources, we could decouple climate change from everyday consumer actions at home.

Achieving this is complex and it lies beyond our remit as one company. We need governments to lead the way. But we’re working hard to shape progressive policies that will help transform our society, economy and energy systems. We’re advocating for the decarbonisation of energy grids through global campaigns including RE100 and the Powering Past Coal Alliance.