Creating net zero carbon products
Average read time: 8 minutes
We’re doing everything we can to reduce the carbon footprint of our products before they reach people’s homes. This requires radical product innovation and deep partnerships with our suppliers.
When someone puts one of our products into their shopping basket in the year 2039, they’ll know we’ve done everything possible to reduce its climate impact.
One third of our carbon footprint lies in the raw materials we use, and in our supply chain, manufacturing, and distribution of products. Every decision we take about what goes into our products, and how they’re made, is an opportunity to reduce our climate impact.
Our goal is to reach net zero emissions from our products, up to the point of sale, by 2039. That means we’ll radically reduce our greenhouse gas impact at every step of production – from the raw materials we source, to manufacturing, right up to when our products are sold. While our focus is on achieving absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction, we’ll reach net zero emissions by generating or purchasing high-quality greenhouse gas offsets for any residual emissions. All offsets will be third-party verified.
Net zero emissions from our products by 2039
We’re aiming for net zero emissions from all our products by 2039, from the sourcing of the materials we use, up to the point of sale.
To reach our goal, we’re partnering with suppliers to reduce the impact of our supply chain and distribution, and we’re using new lower carbon raw materials and creating more sustainable product formulations. Together with others, we’re also helping to protect the world’s natural carbon stores and end deforestation, which supports our net zero emissions goal.
We’re also working to reduce the climate impact of our products when they’re used or disposed of.
Innovation for net zero carbon products
We’re innovating to cut climate impacts from everyday products. We’ve spent years reformulating products to use different ingredients, and to reduce GHG intensive raw materials such as phosphates in our laundry products – a change that reduced CO2 emissions by up to 50% per single use by consumers.
Our Home Care division’s ground-breaking ‘Clean Future’ programme aims to eliminate fossil fuels from cleaning and laundry products by 2030, shifting away from fossil-fuel derived carbon (e.g. petrochemicals) to renewable or recycled carbon (e.g. renewable carbon from the recycling of already existing plastics).
Another way we’re reducing GHG emissions is through more concentrated liquid laundry detergents that fit more washes into smaller bottles, reducing raw materials, packaging, manufacturing and transport emissions.
Our Foods & Refreshment brands are developing lower carbon food products through an ambitious Future Foods strategy, aiming to achieve €1 billion in sales from plant-based meat and dairy alternatives.
Clean Future. Clean home.
In September 2020, our Home Care division announced an ambitious new plan for our planet: the ‘Clean Future’ programme. We’re reimagining the future of cleaning to become lower carbon and lower waste, with the same or even better performance, for our global cleaning and laundry brands including Omo (Persil), Sunlight, Cif and Domestos.
We will remove all fossil-fuel derived carbon from our cleaning and laundry brands, and move to 100% renewable or recycled ingredients by 2030. We expect this shift to reduce the carbon footprint of product formulations by up to 20%, an important step in our journey to achieving net zero products by 2039.
Renewable and recycled sources for cleaning and laundry products
By 2030 we aim to replace fossil-fuel derived carbon with renewable or recycled carbon in all our cleaning and laundry products.
Ingredients are the biggest share of GHG emissions across the lifecycle of our cleaning and laundry products so we’re focusing on modelling the impact of different product ingredients to reduce our footprint quickly. We have ring-fenced €1 billion for Clean Future to finance biotechnology research, CO2 and waste utilisation, and low carbon chemistry – which will drive the transition away from fossil-fuel derived chemicals. We’ll also invest in biodegradable and water-efficient product formulations, halve the use of virgin plastic by 2025, and develop brand communications that make these technologies appealing to consumers. This investment is in addition to the €1 billion ‘Climate & Nature Fund’.
The Clean Future programme builds on our strong track record of improving the environmental impact of cleaning and laundry products. We’ve spent years developing concentrated liquid detergents, developing refill containers that reduce plastic waste, and reducing/eliminating phosphates.
The carbon rainbow
We’re exploring renewable and recycled ingredients for cleaning products using the ‘carbon rainbow’ concept. We’re diversifying the carbon sources we use – taking carbon from plants (green carbon), the atmosphere (purple carbon), marine sources such as algae (blue carbon), and waste materials like plastic (grey carbon) instead of from fossil fuels.
Harnessing nature for kinder cleaning products
Quix dishwashing liquid in Chile and Vietnam is made from an innovative, bio-based and biodegradable ingredient: rhamnolipids, made by a leading biotechnology company. It gives superior cleaning performance and is ultra-mild on skin.
Less plastic, same cleaning power
Cif’s ecorefill system delivers the same cleaning power but in a small, concentrated pod format that clicks on to the original Cif spray bottle. Customers can reuse their spray bottle and endlessly refill it, recycling the refill pods once the wrapper is removed.
Plant-based foods for the future
In November 2020, our Foods & Refreshment division launched the Future Foods campaign to help people transition towards healthier diets and reduce the environmental impact of the global food chain.
We’ve set an ambitious global sales target of €1 billion from plant-based meat and dairy alternatives, within the next five to seven years. We’ll also halve food waste in our direct global operations by 2025 – five years earlier than previously committed, as part of the Champions 12.3 target.
We’ve been expanding our plant-based meat and dairy alternatives business for several years. The Future Foods programme is being driven by the roll-out of The Vegetarian Butcher and increasing vegan alternatives from our best-loved food brands including Hellmann’s, Magnum and Wall’s – as well as developing new plant-based recipes. Since acquiring The Vegetarian Butcher in 2018, we’ve expanded the plant-based meat brand into more than 30 countries. In 2019, it was chosen as the supplier of Burger King’s Plant-Based Whopper and Plant-Based Nuggets across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
In Ice Cream, Ben & Jerry’s has seven non-dairy alternatives and our first vegan Magnum was awarded Best Vegan Ice Cream in the UK by PETA in 2019. Both Hellmann’s Vegan Mayo and Ben & Jerry’s Coconutterly Caramel’d Dairy-free were named as one of Nielsen’s top 25 Breakthrough Innovations in Europe for 2020.
We’re collaborating with farmers, NGOs, universities and communities in our journey to support sustainable change that the world’s food system so desperately needs. We’ve invested €85 million in ‘The Hive’, a foods innovation centre at Wageningen University in the Netherlands to support research into plant-based ingredients and meat alternatives, efficient crops, sustainable food packaging and nutritious food. We’ve over 500 experts based at the food innovation centre.
Microalgae: the next plant-based food
Microalgae is an exciting plant-based protein source. It’s vegan, plant-based and rich in nutrients, with a low environmental footprint. We’re partnering with biotech start-up, Algenuity, to find ways to bring microalgae-based foods to people’s plates more widely in future.
Collaborating with climate progressive suppliers
We can’t achieve our climate goals alone. It will require new levels of collaboration with suppliers who are as ambitious as we are. We’re asking existing suppliers to adopt carbon reduction targets to cut their emissions. And we’re prioritising partnerships with new suppliers who already have science-based emissions targets in place.
We want our suppliers to come on this climate action journey with us – and we’re supporting them to grow, innovate and achieve carbon reductions.
Through our membership of the 1.5°C Supply Chain Leaders (Opens in a new window) initiative, led by the Exponential Roadmap Initiative, we’re collaborating to drive climate action across supply chains with other climate leaders including BT, IKEA and Ericsson. We’ve joined up with other multinational companies including Maersk, Microsoft and Nike and in the Transform to Net Zero initiative to explore innovative ideas for climate action.
We’re supporting small and medium-sized suppliers through the SME Climate Hub (Opens in a new window), which offers tools, knowledge and best practice guidance for reducing emissions. The platform aims to reach millions of suppliers as they race towards net zero emissions by 2050.
Our suppliers are also crucial to our ambition to communicate the carbon footprint of our products to consumers. Together we’re striving to collect better data and increase our understanding of the GHG impact of our products.
Working towards a deforestation-free supply chain
Another way the raw materials in our products can have a negative climate impact is by being associated with deforestation. Forests are a hugely important global store of carbon and deforestation contributes 15% of global GHG emissions.
As one of the world’s largest buyers of agricultural commodities such as palm oil, soy and tea, we want to ensure that the raw materials we buy are not linked to the damaging climate impacts of deforestation. By sourcing traceable and certified sustainable commodities and by working with governments, NGOs and other partners, we will achieve a deforestation-free supply chain by 2023.