How we can protect the climate
Becoming climate neutral, one step at a time
What does climate neutrality mean? How can a product be climate neutral? How do you calculate a company’s carbon footprint? What can I do to improve my personal carbon footprint? Discover answers to these questions here.
Can I live in a climate neutral way? Are there any products that don’t harm the climate at all? Read on for detailed information on climate neutrality.
Climate neutral – what does that mean?Climate neutrality can be thought of as a balance. The emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide or methane (also called GHG emissions), must correspond to the uptake of these gases from the atmosphere into so-called carbon sinks. To achieve the goal of net zero emissions, all climate-damaging emissions must be offset by removing the same amount of greenhouse gases from the air.
Climate neutrality can be calculated, not measuredThe term “climate neutral” essentially refers to a mathematical figure. In fact, there are few products or services that are 100% climate neutral. Even regionally grown apples might have been harvested by a picking machine, packed and then transported to market by tractor. All these factors add up.
In this sense, climate neutral means that for a product or service, either no GHGs are produced in purely mathematical terms or exactly the same amount of GHGs is absorbed from the atmosphere as is emitted.
In other words, the transport of apples is on the debit side, while the absorption of CO₂ from the air by the apple tree is on the credit side. The bottom line should be a zero. A climate neutral business or a climate neutral lifestyle means that our climate-impacting emissions do not increase as a result of our actions. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that they decrease.
How can products or services be climate neutral?Many companies offer climate neutral products or services. With some, like fruit or furniture, this is easy to understand. But even air travel is being advertised as climate neutral, despite the harmful emissions that are released when kerosene is burned to power the airplanes. For a flight to be climate neutral, an airline must offset the same amount of GHG that escapes into the air when the fuel is burned.
At Weleda, we do not want to pursue this approach of simply offsetting our climate impacts. Instead, our we are changing our business practices for the better.
What are carbon sinks?In the global carbon cycle, carbon sinks are particularly important. These are natural reservoirs that can absorb and store carbon. Soils, forests and oceans are the earth’s largest natural means of carbon storage. So far, there are no artificial means to absorb significant quantities of CO₂ emissions from the atmosphere.
Managing gardens and farmland organically around the world is one of the ways Weleda is helping to preserve carbon sinks. Organically managed soils have been shown to store more carbon than conventionally managed soils. We also encourage our cultivation partners worldwide to convert to organic farming practices. And we actively support projects like the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF), which works together with the Indonesian population to protect endangered orangutans and preserve their habitat, as well as to reforest and irrigate the tropical rainforest.
How climate neutral am I?Living a climate neutral life isn’t easy. Because it’s not just about heating, flying and driving. The Internet offers many carbon calculators to estimate your personal climate footprint, and good ideas on how to reduce your personal CO₂ emissions in everyday life. What should I eat? How much meat should I consume? Which utility provider should I choose? Instead of the car, can I travel by foot, bicycle or train? Individuals can do a lot by rethinking consumption habits and adopting new approaches. You can also support climate protection initiatives, of which there are many. These differ primarily in the quality of the projects used to offset or reduce GHG emissions. The prices for offsetting one metric tonne of CO₂ also vary accordingly. This is partly due to the type of projects supported and the country in which they are located. The better certificates ensure that the measures not only benefit the climate, but also the local people. One recognized seal of quality, for example, is the so-called Gold Standard.
What are CO2 equivalents?
The impact that greenhouse gases (like methane) have on the climate is expressed in terms of CO2 equivalents (CO2e).
- 324,000 g CO2 equivalents are caused on average per passenger during a short-haul flight of about 500 kilometres.
- 12,300 g CO2 equivalents are caused on average by 1 kilogram of beef. This type of meat has the greatest impact on the climate.
- 1,700 g CO2 equivalents are produced on average to make 1 kilogram of tofu. So eating tofu saves a lot in comparison to eating red meat.
- 4,500,000 g CO2 equivalents are generated on average per year and per person when using the Internet in Germany, including online orders. This value is lower in countries where the consumer electricity supply on offer is more sustainable overall. For example, in Switzerland, Internet usage generates fewer CO2 equivalents per year and per person on average.
The climate footprint of a companyA company that manufactures products must purchase raw materials, process them, then package and transport the finished product to stores. All this requires energy, resources and services.
When calculating a company’s climate footprint, emissions are grouped into three “scopes”:
- Scope 1: Direct emissions. These are CO₂ emissions caused by the company itself, for example for process heat, through heating or driving a company car.
- Scope 2: Indirect emissions. These emissions include purchased energy like electricity and heating. They are used by the company but are generated outside of it, for example at a power plant. Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions comprise about 1% of Weleda’s emissions.
- Scope 3: Other indirect emissions. These occur in the company’s value chain, while making and selling a product. They include emissions from the cultivation and supply of raw materials, in packaging, or during distribution or waste disposal. They also include business travel and emissions from financial investments, wage payments, commuter traffic and taxes. Scope 3 emissions are a broad category of GHG impacts that a company does not always directly influence. Scope 3 comprises about 99% of Weleda’s emissions.
What is a climate neutral company?The term “climate neutral company” is not legally protected. However, an international standard is currently being developed: ISO 14068 “Greenhouse gas management and related activities – Carbon neutrality”. This standard will provide a clear, common definition of the term “climate neutrality” in order to ensure transparency and impartiality in the assessment of climate performance.
Companies often describe themselves as being CO₂ neutral or climate neutral if they do not cause emissions that are harmful to the climate, or if they offset the greenhouse gases (GHGs) they produce. These are usually based on Scope 1 and 2 emissions from the company’s direct operations. One of the ways companies can reduce these emissions is by conserving energy and switching to low-carbon energy sources. Scope 3 emissions, which focus on the company’s value chain, do not necessarily have to be offset completely to be considered climate neutral. This area is very broadly defined, and operating in a climate-neutral manner is a highly ambitious goal. It’s good to check which areas in which a company claims to be climate neutral and whether it provides transparent and verifiable information about its climate strategy.
Weleda accounts for GHG emissions according to the corporate standard outlined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, an international initiative. Learn more at www.ghgprotocol.org
"When Weleda was founded in 1921, climate change was not yet an issue – but mindful management in harmony with nature was. Today we can combine the two: a climate-positive economy and our commitment to biodiversity and healthy soils.”
Dr. Stefan Siemer, Weleda Group, Head Corporate Sustainability.
Weleda will be arithmetically climate neutral for Scope 1 and 2 from 2021 onwardsOur world has changed since Weleda was founded in 1921. We face major challenges: climate change, dwindling biodiversity and resources, vast amounts of waste and high greenhouse gas emissions. Like our founders, we want to be pioneers today. Sustainability, biodiversity, soil health and climate protection are rooted in our corporate goals.
In 2021, Weleda will become climate neutral in terms of its energy footprint for Scope 1 and 2. We will achieve this through a wide variety of measures. This includes using 100% renewable energy in our buildings at Weleda headquarters in Switzerland since June 2021, including for energy-intensive production processes: green electricity, woodchip heat for heating, generating our own electricity through photovoltaics, geothermal energy for heating and cooling, and biogas in manufacturing.
The energy-related climate footprint of all Weleda branches is around 10,000 metric tonnes of CO₂ equivalent per year. This corresponds to Scope 1 and Scope 2 according to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.
We are also working on further improvements in Scope 3. For example, we have continuously increased the proportion of recycled materials in our packaging, and reduced the weight of many packages by dispensing with outer packaging or package inserts. Weleda employees also contribute to these efforts personally. In 2020, they cycled and walked 107,386 kilometres in our “Bike to Weleda” programme.