Five new retail and business associations announced today during the closing day of the fifteenth United Nations Biodiversity Conference COP15 pledges to become Accelerators for the Race to Zero.
Natura &Co’s advice to companies on their path to net zero
My journey towards helping Natura &Co reach Net Zero began with a rejection.
It was 2010 and I was leaving my role in the marketing team. What I really wanted was a move back into our Research and Development (R&D) unit. Instead, my director told me there was no room and I should think about working in the sustainability department instead.
I didn’t know it then, but I realise now what a huge opportunity I was given.
A decade later, in 2020, we set out Natura &Co’s Commitment to Life — our 2030 Sustainability Vision to address the climate crisis and reach net zero, protect the Amazon, defend human rights, and shift our business towards circularity and regeneration.
Achieving this won’t be easy and we face many challenges along the way but I’m confident we will meet this target.
“The dual path”
We’re a company made up of four purpose-led beauty brands: Avon, Natura, The Body Shop and Aesop. Those four brands are at different stages in their path to net zero. For example, Natura’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory started in 2005 and in 2007 it launched its program to become 100% carbon neutral.
Our other brands are at earlier stages in the journey, but we have set the ambition for the entire company to achieve net zero by 2030, 20 years ahead of the UN commitment.
This involves not just reducing our emissions but, crucially, tracking them throughout our entire value chain, including our suppliers. We began measuring emissions across our value chain in 2007 and we were able to reduce them by 33% in the following five years to 2013. By 2020 we had reduced them by a further 11%. We have now set ourselves the target of lowering emission intensity by another 13% by 2026.
However, collaboration will be crucial because we estimate that 95% of our emissions come from our suppliers and their value chains. Thankfully, some of our suppliers share this mindset and are offering greener solutions themselves.
People in sustainability, including myself, always want more but we must remember this is about growing the business as well as delivering our sustainability goals. It should never be an either/or situation.
We are on what I like to call “the dual path” and our consumers and shareholders are supportive of the way Natura has integrated sustainability into its business model. Therefore, it was very natural when we decided to become a certified B Corporation and we had no concerns from investors about losing focus on delivering financial results.
Pressure to meet the 2030 target?
With less than a decade to reach net zero, this challenge continues to generate a lot of debate internally and we don’t have all the answers yet as to how we will reach our goal.
When it comes to climate change there is no silver bullet.
The advance of technology over the next three to four years is going to be a huge help. For example, the electrification of our supply fleet. We expect that by 2027 the production of electric vehicles will be cheaper than traditional fossil fuel engines and therefore we could be able to cover around 80% of our last mile distribution in the key markets that we operate.
Another factor is mapping out how some of our ambitions will actually be funded. The good news is that after COP26 I believe we will see more progress, particularly in investment. With that investment, I think we can and will deliver good results.
Beyond net zero?
What’s most important right now is that we establish a common view of what net zero means. It cannot just be about carbon credits, but instead about the overall level of effort you need to make to reduce emissions in your supply chain.
I am confident, however, that when it comes to our regenerative solutions, we could become net positive.
Both Natura and The Body Shop have worked for the last two decades with traditional and indigenous communities on how we can generate a business model that gives more value to the Amazon and other countries around the world.
One example is the Ucuuba seed which comes from trees in the Amazon’s wetlands. Those trees were threatened with extinction as loggers valued its lightweight wood for products such as broomsticks and matchsticks. Natura has developed a product range from the fruit’s butter and is helping communities in the Amazon to value the tree’s seed, in turn multiplying their incomes threefold.
Advice to other companies on their path to net zero
- The basic rule is you need to know where you are as a company on your journey. What are the sources of emissions in your business and your value chain? It needs to be more than an estimate, and it’s important that companies dig deeper to understand the numbers.
- When you have the data – it’s very important that you manage it and integrate it into the daily activities of the company. For example, we discovered 60% of our emissions came from the products we created. So, it was important to combine the environmental impact with our R&D innovation so that whenever a researcher is working on a new product, they are also looking at its environmental impact and how we reduce it.
- You must engage with others (suppliers, peers, other sectors). No one can achieve these commitments without partnerships and collaboration.
Between now and 2030 – we have a lot of hard work ahead to realise our Commitment to Life ambition. I may not have landed that job in our R&D unit all those years ago, but I hope the work I do now delivers some of the most important results not just for Natura &Co but for our planet.
We need to produce what people want, in a way the planet can afford. Read on for more about how both the Breakthrough Agenda, and action within individual industrial sectors, are stepping up to this challenge.
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