How can a company maintain focus on sustainability commitments at a time of major change?
Anna Pierce, Director of Sustainability, Tate & Lyle PLC looks at how science-based targets can provide certainty that businesses are on the right track to reach net-zero.
We all need to step up if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Certainly, the urgency with which we drive sustainability improvements in our business has ramped up significantly in the past few years as the reality of the climate crisis has come into sharper focus. That’s why, in 2020, as part of a wider set of environmental commitments, we at Tate & Lyle set ourselves a series of science-based carbon reduction targets for 2030.
Our targets were validated and approved by the Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi) in August 2020. These included a 30% reduction in absolute Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, direct emissions from our operations and purchased energy, a 15% reduction in absolute Scope 3 or value chain emissions, and a pledge to eradicate coal from our operations, which we achieved last year.
Evolving to meet changing consumer needs
As is our nature, we continue to evolve as a business dedicated to meeting the changing needs of consumers and the global food and drink industry that serves them. Health and wellness is by far the most significant consumer trend driving industry innovation, and our R&D and day-to-day work has increasingly been geared towards helping customers to support healthy living. To that end, in April of this year, Tate & Lyle completed the sale of a major business unit in the Americas which fully focused the Company on making ingredient solutions that help lower sugar, fat and calories, and add nutrition, fibre, mouthfeel and plant-based protein to food and drink.
Ambitious, achievable targets have always been at the heart of our sustainability programme. With the sale came a significant reshaping of our operational footprint and the need to reassess our environmental commitments to ensure they were not only feasible, but ambitious. This is a necessary step for any company that prioritises climate change when restructuring or when business growth occurs either through acquisition or organic growth. With the support of experts in assurance and risk management, and infrastructure consultancy firm AECOM for sustainability consulting services, we worked to reassess our carbon footprint and identify the best opportunities for positive environmental impact. We wanted to build a credible roadmap to carbon net zero, which is a non-negotiable for responsible businesses and key element for successfully partnering with other purpose-led food and drink brands.
In 2021, we analysed in detail what a carbon net zero pathway by 2050 would look like for our Scope 1, 2 and 3 GHG emissions. As part of this work, we carried out Scope 1 and 2 decarbonisation assessments at Tate & Lyle’s four largest production facilities (after the sale of the major business unit), which together generate the vast majority of these emissions. We then looked at the impact on our Scope 1, 2 and 3 footprint of changes in policies by governments or other organisations, and decarbonisation commitments in our value chain including our customers. We also considered other issues outside our control which would affect our decarbonisation plans, such as the decarbonisation of electricity from the grid and the electrification of different types of transport such as trucks and trains. Importantly, a wide range of global internal teams, from enterprise risk management to procurement, manufacturing to commercial, helped to build understanding around company processes, as well as the external landscape, including industry trends, regulatory changes and infrastructure considerations in our key markets. Not only did this approach help us to understand the extent to which climate-related impacts were already being felt within our business and supply chain, it also created a forum for cross-functional teams to have focused sustainability-related conversations and embed climate-related risk management into their own planning and strategy development.
Establishing a pathway to decarbonisation
Our decarbonisation assessments showed that we could achieve carbon net zero by 2050 in terms of Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions through a combination of electrifying our production facilities, further use of co-generation boilers, purchasing more energy from renewable sources and benefitting from the development of new technologies such as green hydrogen. Overall, based on our current operational footprint, we identified a pathway to reduce our total carbon footprint (Scopes 1, 2 and 3 GHG emissions) by around two thirds by 2050 from our 2019 baseline. The emissions making up the remaining third, where we are still working on identifying a pathway, are nearly all in Scope 3, a significant portion from agriculture. That is why supporting sustainable agriculture is so important and why in 2018 we established a first-of-its-kind U.S. corn sustainability programme and started laying the groundwork for our sustainable stevia programme in China the following year.
On the basis of all this work, we remain committed to our Scope 1, 2 and 3 GHG emissions reduction targets for 2030 and have committed to reaching carbon net zero by 2050. Advances in technology, changes in policy and many other factors will no doubt mean that our decarbonisation trajectory will change as we move towards 2050. However, what won’t change is our determination to deliver on our targets by 2030, and to meet our net zero commitment by 2050.
Mission Positive: To Net-Zero and Beyond in Manufacturing
Manufacturing represents a critical piece of the UK’s net-zero puzzle. But beyond simply ‘reducing’, manufacturing firms also have a key role to play in enhancing the environmental and social sustainability of the communities they serve.
Accounting for more than 60% of direct industrial emissions in the UK, manufacturing is an energy-intensive industry and one that has work efficiently to reduce emissions in line with previous UK climate legislation.
But the transition to net-zero emissions is unprecedented and one that will require manufactures to not only decarbonise at a quicker pace, but also engineer and spur the market for green solutions like turbine blades and solar PV panels.
This report aims to highlight the optimism in the sector in not only playing a key role in reaching net-zero, but also contributing to a “net-positive” approach to society, the economy and the planet.
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