The global fight against the impacts of climate change is a generational challenge like no other. This is a shared mission, but it is increasingly clear that levels of mistrust and skepticism are high.
The vehement campaign by young activists – like Greta Thunberg – challenged the status quo and highlighted the collective responsibility of current leaders to bring about change.
I firmly believe that we must collectively do all we can to demonstrate through our actions that climate promises should not be dismissed as “empty” or characterized by Greta and her contemporaries as little more than “blah blah blah”.
The central target? The concept of achieving “net zero” emissions. It is, after all, at the heart of the UN’s Race to Zero campaign and a central part of the effort to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 ° C.
For a business like ours, reaching ‘net zero’ means dramatically reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and ensuring that the remaining emissions we add to the atmosphere do not exceed the amount we remove. . It sounds like a simple equation, but delivering it is complex.
After all, few consumers probably take the incredible journey of bringing Royal Canin to their dog’s bowl, M & Ms to their convenience store, veterinary services to thousands of our clinics, or Ben’s Original to their table. Because to truly achieve net zero, we need to eliminate or offset GHG emissions across our entire value chain – from the farms that supply our ingredients to the end use of our product with consumers.
It is a tall order. But the science is clear and focusing on something less will not produce the required impact.
As we head towards the crucial UN climate conference COP26 in Glasgow next month, we all have a collective responsibility to try to ensure that the net zero goals – both countries and companies – are credible. and tailored to the purpose.
Unfortunately, I see serious risks with the recent wave of net zero announcements. Too often, key elements are missing, which will create a significant shortfall in our collective effort to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. So how do we fill these gaps and get us on the path to net zero?
First, I believe that any credible net zero claim must cover the associated emissions across the entire GHG footprint of the company, including all scope 3 emissions.
These are emissions for which you have some responsibility, but which may be beyond your control, such as emissions from our suppliers or retailers. It means going as far as how consumers use your products. For us, this includes the way our products are transported to stores, as well as the way consumers use them at home. Too often, these emissions are excluded entirely from net zero plans.
I can’t stress how important it is to cover your entire value chain, given that this is often where most businesses have the greatest impact. For us on Mars, agriculture and the resulting land-use change alone represent about 75% of our carbon footprint. We knew, as we crafted our fast-track commitment to achieve net zero by 2050, that tackling this was non-negotiable – no excuses.
Excluding the main causes of emissions from climate commitments will not lead to the critical change needed to tackle climate change and too many of the commitments that have been made are too narrow in scope.
The second imperative is to combine long-term commitments with immediate actions to change the trajectory of climate change. We cannot use long deadlines as an excuse for inaction and delay.
Within Mars, we mobilize all of our activity, aware that the change we want cannot wait decades. We must continue the transformation that will help achieve these emission reductions and hold ourselves accountable for the meaningful progress along the journey.
This is just the start, but I am proud that we have already succeeded in reducing our emissions by 7.3% across our value chain since 2015 despite our continued growth in our business. In our direct operations, we have already reduced our emissions by almost a third.
But I don’t underestimate the size and complexity of our own commitment to achieving net zero across our entire supply chain, nor what it means for others who are committed to doing the same. The old ways of doing business will not bring about the required changes, and it is clear that a transformational overhaul of corporate supply chains will be essential. This will require a mix of approaches, including a shift to renewables, stopping deforestation and the conversion of natural ecosystems into the way we source materials, and mainstreaming climate action at the core. business operations – including linking executive compensation to GHG emission reduction targets. And we can’t achieve our goals without also challenging suppliers to set their own climate goals and take action.
Finally, we urgently need an agreed and consistent definition of net zero emissions. Currently, we have a kind of general scrum that allows for multiple interpretations.
It does not encourage best practice, nor will it bring about the change the planet needs. As the Science-Based Target Initiative finalizes the first global standard for organizations to engage and achieve net zero, expected at the end of this year, we hope it will lead to greater alignment and greater great ambition of the net zero targets. To be clear, it’s not about striving for perfection – it’s about progress and our collective success in creating a common future.
Failure to close the gaps that exist in some current net zero commitments will undermine their credibility and, more importantly, the climate action movement.
We cannot allow that to happen.