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The appliance of science!

Jennifer Spence, Head of Sustainability Strategy at Essentra PLC

There are no short cuts to reducing carbon emissions. While there are, of course, actions that can be taken in the short term to signify progress, it pays to think strategically rather than tactically in the journey towards net-zero, and to find ways of having those strategic goals and plans validated and benchmarked by credible third parties if they are to have any tangible substance.

In 2022, Essentra PLC reported considerable progress in reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, reducing its scope one and scope two emissions by 27% from 2019. This prompted us to set new targets, not only for scopes one and two, but also for scope three to cover emissions across the entire value chain for the first time. The results have once again been impressive, suggesting our emissions for scope three emissions have fallen by a third since 2022.

While this scope three figure needs to be read with a note of caution, not least because the spend-based model initially used to calculate emissions has since been changed, progress is still in a positive direction. Comparing like-for-like percentages may be difficult, but we know for certain we are on the right track.

Calculating scope three emissions is the biggest challenge for us all. It relies on quality data, and a gold standard to measure progress against. And in terms of further improving data, we’ve made significant advances in recent months.

In transportation, we’ve started to implement a new software that’s allowing us to calculate carbon emissions per shipment, something we’ve not been able to do with such accuracy before and something that is also helping to bring our supply chain partners along with us on the journey. We’re not going to hit net-zero if our partners are not thinking about net-zero in the same way.

In materials, we’ve also made significant progress. We have steadily moved away from fossil fuel polymers to materials that are more sustainable. We’re using materials that themselves feature more recycled content, and we’re exploring the greater use of biomaterials that are being developed and tested within our recently opened Centre of Excellence. We can measure and reduce the kilograms of carbon for every polymer we buy, and have a much better grasp of the material’s end of life and how that also contributes to our overall emissions.

Without doubt the most significant development in recent weeks, and one which we believe is crucial going forward, is the validation of our future targets based on science. Being one of only a handful of manufacturers in our sector who has signed up to the Science Based Target initiative (SBTi), our scope one, two and three target ambitions have been validated and approved by the SBTi in line with a 1.5° trajectory.

In the language used by the SBTi itself, in our overall ambition, Essentra has committed to reach net-zero GHG emissions across our value chain by 2050. In the near term, this means committing to reducing absolute scope one and two GHG emissions by 50% by 2030 from a 2019 base year. Essentra also commits to reduce scope three GHG emissions from purchased goods and services and upstream transportation and distribution, by 55% per GBP of value added by 2030 from a 2022 base year.

Longer term, we have committed to reaching net-zero by 2050, and this means reducing our scope one and two GHG emissions by 90% by 2040, and reducing our scope three emissions by 90% by 2050.

So why is any of this important? It’s important because it evidences our commitment to decarbonisation. It’s not greenwashing; they are real, achievable targets backed by science. They are targets that have been rigorously tested and now publicly declared, and in which we are investing significantly in the time and resource needed to make them happen.

It’s important also because our progress towards decarbonisation is evidenced in several ways and not just with SBTi. We are also members of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), publicly declaring the impact our business has on the environment. In our most recent assessment, we achieved a CPD score of A- for 2023, showing the tremendous progress we have made but that there is still more work to be done.

We have also more recently joined the United Nations Global Compact – a voluntary leadership platform for the development, implementation and disclosure of responsible business practices. While the UN Global Compact tends to steer more to the ‘social’ aspects of an Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) policy, the link between people, and the environment is critical.

We are shortly to publish our climate transition plan and it is our people who will make that transition a success. While it is important to focus on targets, it is also important to understand and develop the culture and new skills that may be required to accommodate the new equipment and changes to business practices that may be needed to protect our business, our people and our world long into the future.