Business

Procter & Gamble's climate commitment leaves most emissions untouched

Ninety-eight percent involve supply chain, washing machines

David Taylor, Procter and Gamble CEO, speaks on the opening day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in Ja
David Taylor, Procter and Gamble CEO, speaks on the opening day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2019. (Bloomberg)

Procter and Gamble products are bought by 5 billion people, and everything involved in the manufacture, sale and use of those goods generates more than 230 million metric tons of greenhouse gas each year.

The consumer-goods giant is now moving to cut some of its climate-warming emissions, while continuing to send the vast majority into the atmosphere.

The new commitment announced by P&G on Thursday moves to neutralize emissions from its factories and operations.

By 2030, the company will cut those emissions in half and invest $100 million over the coming decade in nature-based projects, such as tree planting, to offset the rest.

But direct emissions, known in climate accounting as Scope 1 and 2, make up only a small fraction of P&G’s total greenhouse-gas footprint — about 4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

The rest of the company’s emissions — accounting for more than 98 percent of its annual total — are 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 manufactures shampoo, conditioner and body wash products in Iowa City, with more than 300 workers.

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Virginie Helias, P&G’s chief sustainability officer, said the company has initiatives to reduce the Scope 3 total, such as ensuring that 70 percent of laundry loads are run on low-energy wash cycles and eliminating deforestation caused by its palm-oil suppliers.

But the company has no explicit goals set for all of its Scope 3 emissions.

P&G is trying to catch up to its peers on setting and meeting ambitious sustainability goals.

“We believe, with everything we know today, that we must move faster and move more significantly,” P&G CEO David Taylor said.

Those moves, for now, rely more on offsets than emissions cut.

P&G will fund offset programs that aid reforestation in Brazil, tree-planting in California and Germany, and protection of mangroves in Philippines.

Each of these projects is run by a respected environmental group — World Wildlife Fund, Arbor Day Foundation and Conservation International, respectively. These efforts promise to capture on average about 3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year-less than 2 percent of the total emissions P&G disclosed in its new sustainability report.

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