7 Oct 2021 --- Multinational consumer goods company Procter & Gamble (P&G) has unveiled its new Climate Transition Action Plan which outlines a comprehensive approach to what it sees as the key challenges ahead. The company has also joined the United Nation’s Race to Zero and the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaigns.
The newly-announced climate plan follows P&G’s environmental sustainability goals which it set out in 2020 as part of its Global Citizenship Report. As part of the roadmap, P&G has pledged a new goal to achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across its operations, as well as setting interim aims to edge closer towards to the ultimate aim over the next two decades.
Click to EnlargeP&G’s action plan affects the entire product cycle. Source: P&G. “People around the world want to purchase brands that help them live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle and the latest science has made it clear that urgent, decisive action must be taken to avoid the most significant impacts of climate change,” details a P&G spokesperson.
P&G’s plan to net zero will prioritize cutting the majority of its emissions across its supply chain, from raw material to retailer. For residual emissions in these categories that cannot be eliminated, the company states it will use natural or technical solutions that remove and store carbon.
David S. Taylor, P&G Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, promises: “We are fully committed to use P&G’s innovation and ingenuity to unlock new solutions to address climate change. The task ahead of us is urgent, difficult and much bigger than any single company or country. P&G is tackling these challenges head-on by reducing our footprint and leveraging our scale to foster unprecedented collaboration across our value chain.”
A global responsibility
The company’s goals for 2030 are in place to accelerate and support its progress toward net zero and have been submitted to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), which strives to promote ambitious climate action in the private sector by enabling companies to set science-based emissions reduction targets. Knowing that the climate crisis affects every home and family, everywhere in the world, a spokesperson for P&G highlights: “As a global company that serves five billion people, we believe we have a responsibility to step up and accelerate action related to protecting our common home while helping others throughout our value chain do the same.”
Developing its carbon-neutral efforts over the next decade, the P&G spokesperson explains: “We are building on our carbon neutral for the decade 2030 goal for our Scope 1 & 2 emissions (operations), to a bolder and holistic net zero by 2040 ambition inclusive of our Scope 3 emissions (supply chain).”
Click to EnlargeIf successful, net zero emissions will be achieved by 2040. Source: P&G. P&G’s 2030 interim goals are to reduce emissions across its operations by 50% and reduce emissions across its supply chain by 40%. The ambitions sent to the SBTi are to lower supply chain emissions from priority categories by 40% per unit of production by 2030. Also, the company aims to reduce global upstream finished product freight emissions intensity by 50% by the end of this decade.
“While no one has all of the answers on how to bring a net zero future into focus, we will not let uncertainty hold us back,” says Chief Sustainability Officer Virginie Helias. “To achieve these goals, we will leverage existing solutions and seek transformative new ones that are not available in the marketplace today.” In reaching for these goals, P&G states it will require partnership across the private, non-profit and public sectors and involve every aspect of P&G’s business, from the beginning of its products’ lifecycle to the end.
The company’s key aim is to significantly decrease GHG emissions as quickly as possible by utilizing solutions that are available now. Reducing emissions across P&G’s entire operations has been a long-standing aim. From 2010 to 2020, the company has lowered absolute emissions across its international operations by 52% through energy efficiency and renewable electricity. Moving forward, it is also advancing natural climate solutions to balance any remaining emissions from its operations that cannot be eliminated by 2030.
New projects to help protect and restore forests and other ecosystems are part of this strategy. Accelerating renewable electricity is also a key item on P&G’s list of climate change actions. P&G states it is currently “nearing” its 2030 goal of purchasing 100% renewable electricity. It has to date purchased 97% globally.
Decarbonizing its supply chain and logistics is also crucial, with P&G’s supply chain and logistics emissions from raw material to retailers currently standing at approximately 10 times that of its operations. This aim has resulted in the company pledging to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030, as well as its plans to increase the transportation efficiency of outbound finished products by 50%. Key P&G brand Pampers is working with suppliers to lower their carbon footprint and has avoided an estimated one million metric tons of GHG from the production of its materials over the past five years.
Innovation and invention to combat challenges
P&G states it is following the current guidance from the SBTi for net zero. “Our ambition to net zero by 2040 will reduce emissions across the value chain of all our business units from raw material to retailer,” says the company’s spokesperson. “This effort will require inventing and scaling new solutions such as recycled carbon, carbon capture, and renewable thermal energy, while also advancing technical or natural climate solutions to balance any remaining emissions in these categories that we cannot eliminate.”
Click to EnlargeInnovation in renewable materials will be applied to some of P&G's biggest brands. Source: P&G.Aware of operational emissions it cannot yet remove, P&G emphasizes that its teams are working hard to develop the next generation of low-carbon technologies and materials. Leveraging renewable thermal energy is a current focus. P&G uses geothermal, solar and renewable steams at some manufacturing sites, but notes that engaging in ongoing activities to lessen emissions will require more innovation. The company has partnered with the World Wildlife Fund, manufacturers and governments to create the Renewable Thermal Collaborative to find and grow renewable, cost-competitive thermal energy solutions.
“Thermal energy represents a significant challenge for many industries as they chart a path towards net zero,” outlines Marcene Mitchell, the World Wildlife Fund’s Senior Vice President, Climate Change. “The Renewable Thermal Collaborative can help unlock sustainable, scalable solutions that cut emissions. P&G is a founding member of the RTC and has shown strong leadership in this space.”
Advancing low-carbon technologies, materials and packaging is a major part of P&G’s strategy as the company looks to identify new ways to decarbonize its supply chain. P&G is partnering to develop innovation in materials derived from renewable, bio-based or recycled carbon across many of its brands including Head & Shoulders, Pantene, Ariel, Tide and Pampers. P&G is also exploring ingredients made from captured carbon dioxide.
Highlighting the magnitude of its climate change commitments and pledges to achieve positive contributions towards protecting and preserving our planet, the spokesperson for P&G emphasizes: “Our Climate Transition Action Plan is the first time we are publicly laying out the detailed scope, breadth, and depth of our climate actions beyond our net zero ambition across every aspect of our product’s life cycle, including the emissions we do not control directly such as consumer use and product end-of-life.”
By Natasha Spencer-Jolliffe, BPC Insights Senior Journalist