Climate change and the devastation it causes matter to our business and our consumers. Unchecked, climate change threatens to disrupt agricultural value chains, threaten food security, increase water scarcity and act as a downward pressure on global growth.
The business case for climate action is clear. Key benefits to our company include lower operational costs and greater resilience in our energy supply, as well as improving the security of supply of our raw materials due to changing rainfall patterns and extreme weather events. By proactively cutting our greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint, we also reduce our exposure to increasing environmental regulation and taxes.
We’re combining actions to change our own business and value chain, with collective efforts and advocacy to help achieve the wider systems changes needed to create a zero-carbon world.
Our climate strategy is focused on a number of areas:
Around 24% of our GHG footprint comes from raw materials for ingredients and packaging. Mitigating the physical impacts of climate change is critical because we depend on raw materials sourced from countries that are particularly vulnerable to rising sea temperatures and changing weather patterns. An important step in mitigating this risk was the launch in 2018 of the renewed Sustainable Agriculture Code (SAC 2017) (PDF | 8MB), which has guidance on all aspects of Climate Smart Agriculture.
Our commitment to source commodities like palm oil, soy and paper & pulp sustainably is helping to avoid emissions from deforestation from agricultural commodity supply chains. Limiting average global temperature rise to 1.5°C will be impossible without a major role for nature-based solutions. The ‘natural technology’ of forests is currently the only proven means of removing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide at meaningful scale, and restoration of carbon-rich peatlands offers the chance to rapidly reduce land based GHG emissions.
We’re especially focused on breaking the link between palm oil production and habitat loss. As the world’s largest single buyer of palm oil – 3% of global production each year – we try to use our scale to transform the industry and make sustainable palm oil the norm. We’re also encouraging the entire industry, including growers, traders, manufacturers and retailers to set and meet high standards of palm oil production, extending beyond current certification schemes.
In particular, we are focused on helping catalyse transformative change at the landscape or jurisdictional level in South-East Asia; and on ensuring – through our networks and relationships – that large-scale, performance-based payments for emissions reductions from forests are available to tropical forest countries.
Our own factories and sites are the parts of our value chain over which we have the greatest control. We've committed to becoming carbon positive in our operations by 2030. That means 100% of our energy will come from renewable sources – and we intend to directly support the generation of more renewable energy than we need for our own operations, making the surplus available to the markets and communities in which we operate.
Our Foods & Refreshment Division has prioritised reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ice cream freezers since 2008. As the world’s largest producer of ice cream, we have committed to accelerating the roll-out of freezer cabinets that use more climate-friendly natural (hydrocarbon) refrigerants.
Climate change and waste are two of the biggest environmental challenges the world is facing. We’re working to tackle them by changing the way we source, make and distribute products. But consumption habits – how people use products at home – are just as important.
A shift to vegetarian and veganism is helping to reduce emissions. The business opportunity for natural and plant-based foods and beverages – as well as hygiene and cleaning products – is significant as consumer demand is growing. We have a range of vegan and vegetarian variants for our Foods & Refreshment brands such as our 100% vegan Magnum ice cream.
Our Home Care and Beauty & Personal Care brands are also taking action. For example, our Cif Power & Shine ecorefills, launched in 2019, attach to current Cif Power & Shine bottles. It’s designed to be diluted in people’s homes so 97% less water is transported. More products fit onto pallets and 87% fewer trucks are needed, cutting GHG emissions. And our concentrated liquid laundry detergents from brands such as Persil, Omo, Surf Small & Mighty and Seventh Generation’s ultra-concentrated EasyDose™ enable people to wash their clothes at lower temperatures and reduce GHG emissions by up to 50% per load.
Through our eco-design programme, we’re reformulating products to use fewer but higher performing ingredients. We’re taking this approach in both laundry powders and liquids to reduce the levels of conventional surfactant – our most GHG intensive class of ingredients – by up to 50%. Our phosphate reduction has reduced CO2 emissions by up to 50% per single use by consumers. And we’re continuing to investigate technologies that could help us create more zero-phosphate products in the future.
66% of our GHG footprint occurs when people use our products at home. So we’re using our knowledge and resources in innovation and R&D to bring people the products they enjoy but which also respond to the challenge of climate change, while creating business growth opportunities.
Tackling climate change requires transformational changes to the broader systems in which we operate. For this, we need ambitious government policy that creates the right context for change and business action. It’s critical that organisations from all sectors work in collaboration, partnering on projects and initiatives.
We need continued leadership from businesses, governments, cities, states and regions to continue the virtuous cycle of action and ambition. We call this virtuous circle an “Ambition Loop”. This means continued leadership on deforestation, corporate commitments to action, such as science-based targets and zero pledges, policy reform to level the playing fields for renewable energy and financial disclosure and innovation to allow markets to correctly price risk and allow capital to flow to more sustainable investments.
We support the advocacy work of the We Mean Business coalition and are actively involved in a number of other business-led initiatives such as WBCSD’s Low Carbon Technology Partnership Initiatives, RE100 which campaigns for renewable energy, the Tropical Forest Alliance, the HRH The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group and the B Team. We have publicly supported calls for carbon pricing and are a member of the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, hosted by the World Bank.
We are signatories of the Caring for Climate initiative, led by the UN Global Compact together with UNEP and the Secretariat of the UNFCCC, which aims to shape the engagement of businesses with climate change. We are committed to engaging responsibly to help shape climate policy through positive lobbying and regularly review our trade association memberships to ensure alignment with our internal policy positions on climate change. In the last few years, incompatible trade association positions on climate change has been a factor in our decision to revoke membership of at least one trade association.