Molson Coors unveils 1.5C science-based targets, new sustainable packaging goals

Molson Coors is the world's third-largest brewer and owns brands such as Carling

The US-based brewer will strive to halve its direct (Scope 1) and power-related (Scope 2) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, against a 2016 baseline, by 2025. The SBTi has verified that this target aligns with the Paris Agreement’s more ambitious trajectory, in which the global temperature increase is capped at 1.5C.

To complement its emissions target, Molson Coors has also launched a new plastics and packaging strategy, which focuses in on life cycle emissions and circular economy principles.

Given that 37% of Molson Coors’ absolute carbon footprint is accounted for by packaging – largely across the areas of raw material sourcing, manufacturing and transport – the new strategy commits the firm to reducing the carbon emissions from its packaging portfolio by 26%, also by 2025 and against a 2016 baseline.

A key step towards meeting this aim will be ensuring that all plastic packaging includes a minimum of 30% recycled content.

But, given that plastics currently account for just 2% of Molson Coors’ global packaging portfolio by weight, larger emissions reductions are likely to be driven by encouraging suppliers to use renewable energy and switching to lower-carbon material types and packaging designs. The business is notably aiming to remove plastic rings from Carling and Coors Light cans sold in the UK by the end of March 2021, after switching to a plastic-free, fibre-based alternative for its Colorado Native craft beer in the US.

The UK business also plans to remove the plastic film wrap from large multipacks by the end of March 2020, in favour of cardboard packaging.

Further key goals set out in Molson Coors’ new packaging strategy are an ambition to ensure that all packaging is 100% reusable, recyclable, compostable or biodegradable by 2025, and a promise to collaborate with governments, local authorities and industry to improve recycling infrastructure.

In a first step towards the latter of these ambitions, the company has joined The Recycling Partnership – a business-led coalition of 45 US-based organisations working collectively to promote the growth of the national circular economy. On a global scale, it has signed the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, which has garnered the support of 250+ actors across the value chain on a common mission to create a “new normal” for packaging.

“As a global brewer with a strong family heritage, we have always taken seriously our responsibility to brew a more sustainable future,” Molson Coors’ chief executive Mark Hunter said.

“Plastic waste poses a clear environmental challenge, and as a consumer-packaged-goods company, we play an important role in helping to solve the global waste crisis.”

Better beer

Molson Coors’ latest moves build on its ‘Beer Print’ sustainability strategy and ‘Better Barley, Better Beer’ framework, which aims to tackle the biggest environmental challenges in the company’s supply chain.

To date, the strategy has seen Molson Coors invest more than $20m in initiatives to bolster supply chain stability, with the ultimate aim of ‘future-proofing’ its key resource – barley – and the communities which produce it.

Key investment areas have included technologies and education programmes to minimise water use on barley farms, research and development of specially bred barley strains and the company’s Grower Direct Portal – a digital tool which enables farmers to collect precise, time-specific environmental data at field level.

Despite this progress, critics have repeatedly questioned Coors’ lobbying position after the company’s then-president, Pete Coors, hosted a fundraiser for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Shortly after taking up office, Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement, and has since made a series of speeches promoting fossil fuels and single-use plastics.

Sarah George

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