By Andy Pharoah, Vice President, Corporate Affairs & Sustainability
As the world looks to rebuild from the pandemic, this will be a critical year in changing the trajectory on climate change and the health of our planet. Changes in our climate and environment are already having a material impact on people’s lives, livelihoods and the global economy, further exacerbated by the pandemic. Beyond the near-term implications of COVID-19, we have not lost sight of creating a healthy planet on which all people can thrive.
Our Sustainable in a Generation Plan, which we launched in 2017, came with a $1 billion investment to extend our focus deep in our extended supply chains to drive transformational change in sustainability. We have already surpassed that financial commitment and we continue to invest at increasing rates. We’re focusing our efforts to create a healthy planet where all people can thrive — from cutting emissions in our direct operations, through to addressing sustainability challenges throughout our extended supply chains.
Transforming broken global supply chains
We’re taking bold action to transform our global agricultural supply chains to mitigate their impact on the environment, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across our extended supply chain and ensure their long-term resilience.
As part of this, we have assessed our agricultural supply chains to prioritize the ten raw materials we identified as having the biggest impact on our social and environmental challenges.
One example of our bold action in addressing these challenges is our work to tackle deforestation and the conversion of natural ecosystems in our supply chains. Most recently was the delivery of a deforestation-free palm oil supply chain through our Palm Positive Plan, a significant milestone in our efforts to tackle deforestation and advance respect for human rights. Palm oil is used in more than half the world’s packaged goods across a range of food and personal care items. When produced sustainably, palm oil can deliver value through the entire supply chain by providing agricultural advantages and better livelihoods for smallholder farmers, suppliers and workers. This is just one example of finding the areas we need to improve in and taking action, not just talking about it.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
Over the past two years we’ve broken the link between economic growth and carbon growth, proving you can be a successful business, yet still reduce your emissions. We have science-based targets based on the Paris agreement to reduce our GHG emissions across our value chain by 27% by 2025 and 67% by 2050 — in order to do our part to keep the planet from warming beyond two degrees.
In our direct operations, we’re already making great strides in cutting emissions. Today, more than 54% of electricity in our operations is from renewable sources, and we’ve switched to 100% renewable electricity in 11 countries where we operate, including: Australia, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Lithuania, Mexico, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.
We’re on track to hit our 2025 GHG target in direct operations (42% reduction) within the next three years. This is part of our commitment to achieving net-zero in our direct operations by 2040 (a target we set over a decade ago).
Innovating to ensure our packaging doesn’t become waste
We’re also rethinking our approach to packaging to create a world where packaging doesn’t become waste. This includes reducing the packaging we don’t need, and redesigning the packaging we do need to ensure it’s reusable, recyclable or compostable.
Addressing our design is one part of the puzzle, but it’s critical we also have the right recycling and waste systems in place in local markets — in order to drive transformational change. That’s why we’re working in partnership with other businesses, industry and local governments to improve recycling and waste management systems to maximize the chances of our packaging being recycled.
There’s not one simple answer but with the right innovations and by working in partnership to drive systems change, we can make a huge difference.
Restoring natural ecosystems to rebuild coral reefs
We’re also investing in the restoration of natural ecosystems, such as coral reefs, to improve the health of the planet and livelihoods of those in our extended supply chains which depend on them.
Our business and the many communities we source our raw materials from depend greatly on all the ocean and its reefs provide — be it food, income or coastal protection. Yet, up to 90% of coral reefs are predicted to be lost by the 2040s if we do nothing. That threatens 25% of global marine life with extinction and impacts 500 million people (including a number of those in our supply chain) who depend on the ocean and its reefs as a source of food, income and protection, and this number will continue to rise. That’s why it’s critical that we’re taking action now.
To be successful, business needs to stand for more than just near-term financial performance, and in this new world, winning is just as much about having a positive impact on the society in which a company operates.
We know the world we want tomorrow starts with how we do business today. It’s our inspiration for pushing boundaries, and how we hold ourselves accountable when it comes to addressing these sustainability challenges.