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This issue relates to the following Sustainable Development Goals

  • Responsible consumption and production
  • Climate action

Reducing emissions from the use of our products

Average read time: 8 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 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 don’t shy away from.

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. 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.

Halving the greenhouse gas impact of our products across the lifecycle by 2030

We’re aiming to halve the GHG value chain emissions of our products on a per consumer use basis by 2030 against a 2010 baseline. This target is approved by the Science Based Targets initiative.

Over the last decade, we’ve made some progress and we’ve learnt a lot about the areas we can influence and those we cannot. We’ve found that it is challenging to help the majority of consumers change their behaviours to embrace more sustainable ways of living – such as taking shorter showers or washing clothes at lower temperatures. Similarly, we can’t control which energy supplier people choose at home, or how energy efficient their home appliances are. But there are some areas where we can make a difference.

We’re focused on achieving systemic change through our brands – by reformulating products to cut GHG emissions in use, by helping consumers lower their GHG footprint by reducing food waste or choosing plant-based foods and helping them understand the GHG footprint of products they purchase. We’re also focused on accelerating the global transition to renewable energy which will help reduce emissions in consumers’ homes.

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. Through innovation, research and development expertise, and partnerships with suppliers, our brands are finding ways to lower emissions from using 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 a representative sample of 3,000 products across 14 countries which account for around 60–70% of our annual sales volume. We’ve done this to cover every stage of the product lifecycle, 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 – and the footprint of our products.

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

Deodorant aerosols, are a particular challenge. For instance, aerosol propellants in the US account for around 3% of our GHG footprint. 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. In the US, we’re pushing for regulatory changes that would allow us to use natural hydrocarbon propellants with a smaller climate footprint instead of HFCs.

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 Omo/Persil, Surf and Seventh Generation – cuts the GHG emissions per load by as much as 50%. We’ve also taken great strides to eliminate phosphates from our laundry products, one of our most GHG-intensive ingredients, which reduces CO2 emissions by up to 50% per consumer use.

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 400+ 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 topics – and building brand loyalty too.

Overhead view of Knorr Future 50 foods cookbook

Future foods

Knorr’s new recipes are inspiring people to choose healthier plant-based options for them and the planet, such as a lentil-based spaghetti bolognese, which cuts the carbon footprint of a comparable meat-based dish by 83%.

Overhead view of ingredients and a finished pasta salad dinner using Hellmann’s mayonnaise

Love leftovers

If food waste were a country, it would be the third biggest emitter in the world after the US and China. Hellmann’s is helping people to prevent food waste and love their leftovers with recipes, waste-saving tips and campaigns backed by celebrity chefs.

Illustration of Seventh generation laundry bottle on a yellow background

Renewable cities

Seventh Generation’s long-standing support for the Sierra Club’s Ready For 100 campaign led to 100 US cities pledging to switch to 100% renewable electricity by 2035.

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 – with a number of projects in the pipeline.

Communicating the climate impact 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. 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’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 can 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 respective supply chains to understand and communicate their GHG footprint.