Climate Action

Virginie Helias on how P&G is planning to reduce its emissions to achieve its 2040 net zero ambition

Following the Climate Innovation Forum in London Climate Action Week, Climate Action caught up with Virginie Helias, Chief Sustainability Officer at P&G, to discuss how the organisation is planning to reduce its emissions to achieve its 2040 net zero ambition.

  • 30 June 2022
  • Rachel Cooper

Following the Climate Innovation Forum in London Climate Action Week, Climate Action caught up with Virginie Helias, Chief Sustainability Officer at P&G, to discuss how the organisation is planning to reduce its emissions to achieve its 2040 net zero ambition. 

Q) Procter & Gamble has stated its plan to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions across its operations and supply chain by 2040. This is a huge commitment for a company that makes some of the most popular consumer goods around the world, including Fairy liquid and Gillette razors - can you tell us a little more about that and your positive impact framework? 

Indeed, P&G has set the ambition to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions across our operations and supply chain, from raw material to retailer, by 2040 as well as interim 2030 science-based targets to make meaningful progress this decade.  These interim goals are to reduce emissions across operations by 50% and across the supply chain by 40%, including a “no deforestation in our supply chain” commitment. 

The climate crisis affects every home and family, everywhere in the world. The majority of citizens globally now want brands they buy to help them live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle, and the latest science has made it clear that decisive action must be taken to avoid the most significant impacts of climate change.

P&G is a company deeply rooted in science, and the climate crisis requires bold goals supported by credible, science-based actions. Our actions on climate began over a decade ago, and we know there is more work to do. Our net zero ambition reaffirms our priorities to reduce emissions now, with the tools available to us today, as well as innovate toward continued reductions in the future. We have joined the UN’s Race to Zero and Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaigns and our Climate Transition Action Plan outlines our comprehensive efforts to accelerate climate action throughout our value chain.

Q) Please could you expand on how P&G is planning to reduce its emissions to achieve its 2040 net zero ambition?

We will prioritise cutting most of our emissions across our operations and supply chain, from raw material to retailer. For residual emissions in these categories that cannot be eliminated, we will use natural or technical solutions that remove and store carbon. As a science-based company, we are following the current guidance from the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) for net zero with at least a 90 percent reduction in emissions as a frame of reference and will provide an update as we make progress.

The scope of our net zero ambition includes our operations and supply chain. In formal GHG accounting terminology, this means the following categories of emissions are covered:

Scope 1: Direct GHG emissions from P&G sites;

Scope 2: Emissions associated with purchased energy for P&G sites;

Scope 3: Emission categories associated with purchased goods and services; upstream transportation and distribution (inbound transportation of raw materials from Tier I suppliers and outbound transportation of finished products to retail partners).

The scope of our net zero ambition aligns with recommendations from the Climate Action 100+ Net Zero Benchmark, guidance put out by the investor-led initiative to assess the world's largest companies on their progress toward net zero.

Q) Is P&G addressing emissions in the consumer use phase?

The April 2022 IPCC report stated that a drastic reduction in “demand” emission is needed (40-70%) if we are to limit temperature rise to 1.5oC so addressing Scope 3 emissions is a key priority for P&G. In the Climate Action 100+ Net Zero Benchmark for the consumer goods and services sector, Scope 3 emissions from purchased goods and services are the recommended scope. In fact, indirect consumer use is over 80% of our total emissions, so scope 3 is a major focus area for us when it comes to reducing carbon emissions.

We are going beyond our net zero ambition and doing more to make a collective impact – partnering with citizens to reduce GHG emissions from the in-use phase of products, creating alliances for carbon-efficient homes, and advocating for policy solutions to de-carbonise energy infrastructure.

Q) Please could you expand on these efforts to make a collective impact?

P&G and its brands currently provide citizens with tools and information on how small actions at home can make a world of difference for the planet. These include:

  • Making sustainability effortless at home. The one simple and very easy action for citizens is to turn the wash temperature of our clothes down (turning from the average UK temperature of 40oC to 30oC alone can reduce up to 35% of our individual footprint at home). Since 2015, Ariel (and its international equivalents) has helped citizens increase their use of low-energy laundry cycles to avoid roughly 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and the goal is to avoid more than 30 million tons by 2030. Ariel’s collaboration with WWF to raise its voice behind the ‘Every Degree Counts’ campaign to drive colder washing is a great example of how we are bringing this to life.  P&G Beauty brands (Head & Shoulders, Pantene, Herbal Essences and Aussie) have announced their first paper packaging innovations – shampoo and conditioner bars. These new products offer choice in the way people buy and use shampoo and conditioner.  The bars, offered in plastic-free packaging, have been formulated where one bar equals up to two equivalent 250ml liquid shampoo bottles. With the introduction of more and more post-consumer recycled plastic into regular bottles and the refill system, the launch of bars will further contribute to the reduction of 300 million bottles of virgin plastic per year.
  • Creating the home of the future. We are advancing solutions to de-carbonise homes with industry partners via the 50L Home Coalition. The 50L Home Coalition is a global action-oriented platform that convenes leaders from the private, nonprofit and public sectors to develop and scale viable technologies that address two of our most pressing global challenges: water security and climate change. By helping people reduce and track their use of hot water without trade-offs, the Coalition is bringing to life the low-carbon home of the future that can use 10 times less water than most use today – and by extension, less energy to heat that water and thus less emissions.

In addition, we are advocating for policies that will advance the use of renewable energy and reduce the carbon intensity of the energy infrastructure around people’s homes.

Q) What is next on your journey to net zero?

We continue to invent new solutions to tackle the challenges we face. We may not have all the answers, but we will not let uncertainty hold us back. There are some operational emissions we cannot yet eliminate; our teams are working hard to develop the next generation of low carbon technologies and materials. We've partnered with World Wildlife Fund, manufacturers, and local governments to create the Renewable Thermal Collaborative to identify and scale renewable, cost-competitive thermal energy solutions. We are partnering to advance innovation in materials derived from bio-based and recycled carbon, while also exploring carbon capture and storage to help enable a net zero supply chain. Tide, the North American sister brand of Ariel, is working with Twelve, a Silicon Valley start-up, to explore their carbon capture and utilisation technology that can incorporate CO2 from emissions into Tide ingredients.

We will continue to embed sustainability in how we do business, stepping up as a force for good and a force for growth by reducing our footprint across our business, developing products and programmes that deliver irresistible superiority in a sustainable way, and building partnerships to address the challenges we all face today.