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Reducing emissions from the use of our products

Average read time: 6 minutes

Our brands are reducing the climate impact of our products.

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

Around two-thirds of our products’ climate footprint occurs when they 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 indirect emissions from our products ‘in use’ is a major challenge, but one we’re working to address.

Our goal is to halve GHG emissions per consumer use of our products by 2030. This medium-term target is an intensity target, not an absolute target, which guides our innovation and helps us monitor our performance.

Reducing the carbon footprint of our 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. Our target is to reduce emissions ‘per consumer use’, to make sure we’re taking account of the full GHG emissions of our products when they’re used at home, based on the latest science.

There’s a limit to how much we can influence emissions from product use as consumers make their own choices on how long they shower, which energy provider they use, and how efficient their home appliances are. We’re therefore reliant, as many companies are, on the decarbonisation of the energy grid to reduce our downstream Scope 3 footprint. We’re using our influence to advocate for system-wide change, such as acceleration of renewable energy globally, which will help reduce emissions in consumers’ homes.

Our GHG emissions per consumer use have reduced by 14% since 2010 and by 4% since 2020, while our absolute Scope 3 emissions from consumer use increased by 1% versus 2020, as our sales increased over the same period. The reduction in GHG emissions per consumer use is driven by our Nutrition, Ice Cream and Home Care divisions, where emissions have fallen by 32% and 43% respectively since 2010. This is mainly due to grid decarbonisation, portfolio changes and product reformulation, such as the removal of phosphates in our laundry products. Over the same period, GHG emissions per consumer use from our beauty and personal care products have increased by 6% despite ongoing grid decarbonisation – driven primarily by the acquisition of brands with hair, bath and shower products which have high GHG emissions associated with consumer hot water use.

-14% Reduction in GHG emissions per consumer use across the product lifecycle since 2010.

We're committed to using technology and innovation to provide consumers with superior and lower carbon products while growing our business. This is already visible in Home Care’s Clean Future strategy (with a focus on renewable and recycled carbon ingredients), in the Future Foods strategy (with a focus on plant-based foods), and Beauty & Wellbeing's Positive Beauty strategy (with a focus on sustainable sourcing, deforestation-free palm oil and nature-based solutions).

Through partnerships with suppliers, our brands are also finding ways to lower emissions from using everyday products.

Powering homes with renewable energy

We’ve learnt that tackling the climate impact of our products means changing the system in which we all operate. So, we’re advocating for a rapid decarbonisation of the global energy system to achieve faster carbon reductions.

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.

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 consumer’s 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.

Brands taking climate action

Our brands are some of our strongest levers in our fight against climate change – advocating for change and inspiring people to take climate action.

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, our CEO

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

Our brands can now draw from our dedicated €1 billion Climate & Nature Fund. Over the next ten years, our brands across every division will invest in meaningful and decisive climate action and nature protection projects, such as landscape restoration, reforestation, carbon sequestration, wildlife protection and water preservation projects.

We’ve recruited a specialist team to lead the Fund’s work, formulate the strategy and get started on project implementation. We’ve already committed €40 million and are now building a pipeline of further projects. For example, Knorr will use the fund to support 50 regenerative agriculture projects. These are predicted to reduce GHG emissions and water use by an estimated 30% while improving biodiversity, soil health and livelihoods.

Communicating the carbon footprint of products

We believe that transparency about carbon impacts will help accelerate progress in the global race to zero carbon. Practically, this means giving consumers the information they need to make sustainable choices. It’s our ambition to communicate the carbon footprint of every product we sell to consumers.

After more than a decade of work assessing the carbon footprint of our products, we're now working with others across the value chain to standardise data collection protocols and communication frameworks.

We’re 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 can quickly and easily build a clear picture of the lifecycle impact of products. We’re also working with the Cosmetics Consortium to develop an industry-standard environmental impact assessment and scoring system.

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