With all eyes on COP 27 this month, there’s been a significant amount of debate around how we adapt, rethink and improve virtually every aspect of our lives in order to function more sustainably on an individual, national and international level.
While achieving Net Zero is going to take a lot of work in a lot of areas, one key challenge from a corporate perspective that needs facing is how we collectively reduce Scope 3 emissions, which are defined as indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in a company’s value chain.
The importance of Scope 3 emissions was underlined by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), which identified this issue and helping to scale science-based decarbonisation across the value chain as one of the four key areas of its COP27 program. The SBTi provides companies with a clearly defined path to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement goals and Vita is the world’s first flexible PU manufacturer to have set approved targets in accordance with this initiative.
At Vita, we’re committed to working with our partners and supply chains so that we can cut down Scope 3 emissions. To find out more about how this works, we spoke to our new Head of Sustainability, Natalie Watson, as well as Procurement Director Rob Evans, about Vita’s Scope 3 emission reduction plans.
What are Vita’s emission targets?
Rob Evans: For Vita, Scope 3 emissions represent the main area of opportunity to further minimise our impact on the environment. This stems from the fact that manufacturing polyurethane foam actually requires very little energy input as it’s an exothermic reaction. What’s more, we have already cut our Scope 1 emissions (direct emissions) by approximately 20% in the last three years and we’ve successfully reduced our Scope 2 emissions (indirect emissions generated from purchased energy) to zero. Thanks to this work on Scope 1 and 2, Scope 3 now represents more than 95% of Vita’s emissions.
Natalie Watson: We’ve proved that it’s possible to significantly cut the direct emissions that we have control over. Therefore, we now need to ensure that our suppliers are on the same low-carbon journey and that together we’re heading towards an environment in which we’re all using renewable energy, recyclables and re-purposed materials with improved logistics throughout the chain.
Our target for Scope 3 emissions is to reduce them by 13.5% by 2030 – a target that has been validated by SBTi’s independent climate scientists alongside our Scope 1 and 2 targets. We have a comprehensive inventory for all our Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions and this is held on our GHG compliance tool, which is supplied by our energy partner Schneider electric.
What are the main challenges to reducing Scope 3 emissions?
Natalie Watson: There are essentially two main challenges here. The first is ensuring that our suppliers are on the same trajectory to a low-carbon environment as we are, and the second is putting in place robust measurement mechanisms and data-gathering procedures to know for sure that emissions reporting is consistent across the supply chain. This is particularly important for accurately measuring metrics such as the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of products, which is a way of comparing the global warming impact of different gases.
Rob Evans: There are certain market forces that are making it difficult for the manufacturing sector to cut back on its Scope 3 emissions. This includes the fact that the cost of materials containing recyclable and renewable feedstocks is currently cost-prohibitive, as they are more expensive than materials made from virgin hydrocarbons. In addition, creating Lifecycle assessments (LCA’s) for our products based on inputs from the supply base can be expensive and time-consuming.
How can supply chains better work together to cut emissions?
Natalie Watson: It’s important to align the value chain between suppliers, manufacturers and customers, as not all customers and suppliers may currently be on the same path. Having these conversations and choosing the right customers who have a clear strategy to reduce carbon emissions is vital, as this then flows back through the chain and ensures that everyone is on the same page.
Rob Evans: Elaborating on the mutual value creation inherent in going green will really help. To achieve this, the supply chain needs to work together to identify mutual targets that are suitable for everyone. Getting this right will go a long way to speeding up the transition to a low-carbon economy.
How is Vita working with its suppliers on Scope 3 emissions?
Natalie Watson: Data collection presents a significant challenge, especially when dealing with an issue as complex as Scope 3 emissions. To solve this, we’re working with expert consultants to ensure that our data is clear and comprehensive. In particular, we’re getting primary data directly from our suppliers in the form of Lifecycle Assessments (LCA’s) together with the Global Warming Potentials (GWP) of their products.
Rob Evans: From 2025, our sourcing choice will also include emission reduction as part of where we allocate volume. To achieve this, we have started the process to collect primary data through our Know Your supplier and Our Environment questionnaires. Natalie Watson: In short, it’s about connecting every link in the value chain and making sure that the sustainability message has sunk into the hearts and minds of suppliers, customers, and end users and that they’re convinced about joining us on our green journey.
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