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Tackling Scope 3 emissions associated with laundry: An end-to-end journey

Sponsored: Is tackling Scope 3 emissions a company’s greatest sustainability challenge?

Clothes inside of a washing machine

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

This article is sponsored by Procter & Gamble.

At P&G Fabric Care, we are on a mission to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at every step of the laundry value chain, and as a wider business to be net zero by 2040, from raw material to retailer — a target we cannot achieve without reducing Scope 3 emissions.

Scope 3 emissions pose the greatest challenge for organizations looking to reduce their carbon footprint. This is because, unlike Scopes 1 and 2, all emissions classified as Scope 3 are caused by activities not directly controlled by an organization, but that can be improved through influence and collaboration.

Occurring at multiple stages of an organization’s activity or a product’s lifecycle, Scope 3 emissions can be described as either upstream — referring to GHG emissions, which for laundry is mostly related to purchased goods and services or downstream, which are mostly related to product use.

The following describes the approach we are taking to reduce GHG emissions outside of our direct control, and our biggest learnings to date.

1. Invest time in understanding the true scale and impact of Scope 3 emissions

Understanding upstream Scope 3 emissions requires a significant investment in capacity building. Everyone in an organization must be acutely aware of the importance and aligned on the need to account and track Scope 3 emissions. It is important to assess and understand current methodologies for measuring emissions and select one that: a) conforms to core international standards for carbon accounting and reporting and b) can be applied across the business to map upstream Scope 3 emissions across the product portfolio. Accounting for the GHG emissions generated at each stage of a product’s lifecycle allows us to calculate its total carbon footprint and identify where to target our efforts so that the most meaningful emissions savings can be made.

Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) conducted for our Tide and Ariel laundry detergents reveal that the in-use phase is responsible for most of the carbon footprint. Largely driven by the energy required to heat the water in wash cycles, we need to raise awareness with consumers that the most positive action they can take to reduce laundry’s carbon emissions is to turn the temperature dial down and wash laundry loads on colder settings.

On average, raw materials account for the second largest contribution to a laundry product’s CO2 footprint. To significantly reduce emissions from raw materials, we are investigating with our suppliers the feasibility of novel low-resource or even carbon negative processes, such as low-GHG feedstocks, and the use of technologies such as carbon capture and use (CCU). We are also working closely with them and "moonshot" thinkers who offer exciting sustainable solutions for the future to develop, test and potentially scale these new technologies.

2. Supporting suppliers on their sustainability journey to reduce emissions together

We understand that our goal of reducing GHG emissions at every step of the laundry process cannot be achieved without working closely with our suppliers to support them in creating new solutions and scaling proven technologies to ultimately reduce emissions.

Back in 2022, P&G Fabric Care, alongside the Home Care division, launched the "Cleaner, Better Together" program to standardize GHG accounting methodology, data exchange and data governance across our supplier base. The goal of the program is to facilitate the exchange of data and share access to best practices for process optimization. By actively engaging our supplier network in P&G’s science-based approach to sustainability, the program promotes joint value creation by driving irresistible and sustainable superiority, so that we can all progress towards reducing our carbon footprints.

Man speaking in front of a crowd on a stage

Sundar Raman, CEO of P&G Fabric & Home Care addresses P&G’s first in-person global ESG Supplier Summit. Image courtesy of P&G.

As part of the program, we recently hosted our first in-person global ESG Supplier Summit at P&G’s Brussels Innovation Centre, which brought materials, packaging and contract manufacturing suppliers together with top Fabric and Home Care leaders, industry partners and innovative companies identified as having critical technological advancements of interest. The goal of the event was to foster relations between players in and across the supply chain and to inspire an open dialogue about how we can work together to improve accountability and leadership across the cleaning industry.

3. Have a clear plan for tracking progress

Mapping the baseline carbon footprint and actively engaging suppliers in the quest to reduce GHG emissions must be supported by clear short-, medium- and long-term plans to track progress.

P&G has an aggressive Scope 3 reduction target, aligned to the Science Based Targets Initiative’s guidance. We are committed to reducing our supply chain GHG emissions by 40 percent per unit of production by 2030, with no absolute CO2 increase, and our Fabric Care division is looking to lead this effort.

We are also going beyond our supply chain to set reduction targets linked to our downstream Scope 3 emissions, specifically the in-use phase of products. Despite the difficulty in accurately tracking consumer-generated emissions, we have set targets as a means of measuring the success of the awareness campaigns encouraging people to turn to cooler wash cycles. In 2022, just over half (56 percent) of laundry loads in North America were washed on cold, saving 2 million metric tons of CO2 (compared to a 2020 baseline of 48 percent). And in Europe, wash temperatures have reduced by an average of 2 degrees Celsius in the same period.

Our belief in science-based analyses underpins P&G’s corporate strategy to be net zero by 2040. Intermediate targets have been set and are detailed in our Ambition 2030 plan, which organizes targets by four pillars: climate; waste; water; and nature.

We have made good progress on our goals to date, but there is still a lot more to do in a space that is evolving rapidly. We must set the bar exceptionally high as we need solutions that will endure over time. The only way we can all succeed is by connecting, partnering and sharing our learnings, which P&G Fabric Care is committed to doing. We hope you will join us.

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