Procter & Gamble has committed to “neutralizing” its direct emissions by 2030, using offsets to realize half of the cuts. But that tepid effort will leave more than 98% of its annual emissions, produced in supply chains and product use around the world, spilling up into the atmosphere unchecked, Bloomberg Green reports.
Five billion people purchase Procter & Gamble products, “and everything involved in the manufacture, sale, and use of those goods generates more than 230 million tonnes of greenhouse gas each year,” writes columnist Akshat Rathi.
Under ever-increasing pressure to take its climate impact into account, the consumer products giant has announced it will tackle the Scope 1 and 2 emissions produced directly in its factories and offices, “neutralizing” some four million tonnes by 2030, in a plan that combines two megatonnes of direct cuts with a US$100-million investment in offsets generated by nature-based projects like tree planting.
Trouble is, writes Bloomberg, those direct emissions account for less than 2% of the company’s annual atmospheric impact. The rest is “produced in its vast supply chain or through the use of goods by consumers running washing machines with Tide detergent or showering with Pantene shampoo.”
P&G Chief Sustainability Officer Virginie Helias said the company does have initiatives to reduce those Scope 3 emissions, working to eliminate the deforestation produced by the palm oil that is ubiquitous in its product line, and educating the public so that “70% of laundry loads are run on low-energy wash cycles”.
But the company has no explicit targets for getting its Scope 3 emissions under control.
Bloomberg also points to continuing unease around nature-based offset programs. While P&G’s planned programs (reforestation in Brazil, California, and Germany, and mangrove protection in Philippines) will all be run by established and respected environmental groups, including World Wildlife Fund, “trees take decades to grow and capture the promised amount of CO2, and many projects fail to monitor and verify whether the carbon savings are real.”
P&G CEO David Taylor agreed that offsets “should not be the first thing,” but insisted Scope 3 emissions remain an elusive target, since so much depends on how the public uses its products—something he said is mostly beyond the company’s control.
However, citing P&G’s global rival, UK-based Unilever, Bloomberg says Scope 3 emissions are not quite as challenging as Taylor claims. While Unilever, too, has gone on record about the problem of how to change human behaviour, it “recently announced a plan to zero out a large chunk of its emissions by 2039, including about a third of those under Scope 3,” Rathi writes. Unilever said “it would wait as long as possible to invest in carbon offsets,” he added, and while it expects to spend $110 million per year over the next decade on nature-based solutions, those investments “won’t count those against its emissions”.
Bloomberg says it’s getting harder for companies to get by without targets to reduce their Scope 3 emissions. “The corporate sustainability-oriented Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), run by a group of environmental organizations that includes CDP and WWF, is pushing its partners to address this large subset of emissions,” Rathi writes. It’s mandating that any company “with more than 40% of its total emissions coming from its customers and supply chain must set Scope 3 reduction target for its plan to align with the Paris climate agreement.”
While P&G says its targets were approved by SBTi in 2018, the organization notes that its expectations are updated annually, and its “criteria for Scope 3 targets look different today than two years ago.”