It's no secret that climate change is here, and that it's changing our earth. Glaciers are melting, seas are rising, and plant and animal ranges are shifting. And while a handful of billionaires may be shopping for real estate in outer space, we’d prefer to keep our feet firmly planted on this Earth that we love. That means taking immediate action to protect our planet.
It’s already too late to preserve—or reclaim—the climate we used to enjoy. But we're not the type to sit around and wait for our Chubby Hubby to have a meltdown. We know we have to act urgently to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change.
For that reason—and a million others—we've been working hard to address our climate footprint. Here’s what we’ve done so far, and what we’re doing next to shrink that footprint.
Doing something starts with knowing something. And while we've been actively working to reduce Ben & Jerry's overall environmental impact for decades, we now have the data to measure greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and estimate our carbon footprint each year, including what contributes to it the most.
Here's what we know:
- Dairy ingredients account for around 53% of our carbon footprint, while our other ingredients (nuts, dough chunks, swirls, and other add-ins) add another 21%.
- Manufacturing accounts for just 1% of total GHG emissions, but getting the ice cream from the factory to stores and Scoop Shops accounts for another 7%.
- A single pint of Ben & Jerry's produces about 3.4 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2e (also known as our "emissions intensity").
Tracking these numbers annually tells us where we have the biggest opportunities to reduce our footprint, and how we’re doing on our journey.
It's great to have goals. It's even better when those goals are grounded in science.
That’s why we look to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), which drives ambitious climate action by enabling companies to set science-based emission-reduction targets. Science Based Targets are precise and measurable targets designed to reduce emissions by a specific amount. That means we're held accountable to hitting actual numbers—not just that we're planting a few trees or buying carbon offsets to feel better about the energy we're using.
Which may have you wondering: Why aren’t we talking about carbon offsets or net-zero goals? The short answer: These efforts are too vague and unfocused—and of dubious efficacy. We understand that companies can’t be carbon-neutral until the entire economy is carbon-neutral. Net-zero claims are too often used to make corporations look like they’re taking meaningful climate action without really addressing systemic issues. For those reasons, we’ve chosen to stick with science, and with our SBTis.
Here's what Ben & Jerry's SBTis look like:
- Company-owned facilities will use 100% renewable energy by 2025.
- We’ll reduce our emissions intensity by 40% by 2025 (from our 2015 baseline).
- We’ll reduce our emissions intensity by 80% by 2050.
Those are some pretty big goals. So we decided to focus on improving three main categories:
Sourcing and Ingredients:
Dairy production accounts for over 50% of Ben & Jerry's total emissions, so it's where we have the greatest opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint. We're exploring and implementing solutions around a few main areas:
- Enteric emissions: By changing what we feed our cows, we hope to reduce their gas (politely known as "enteric emissions"). Focusing on improving forage quantity and quality will yield carbon, water, soil health, and biodiversity benefits in addition to animal health and economic benefits. We are also working to accelerate piloting and adoption of enteric feed additive solutions.
- Manure management: Manure digesters on farms capture methane from manure and use it to generate renewable energy. We’re also working with researchers on manure land application methods. Together, these steps help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve soil health and water quality.
- Regenerative feed and cropping: We work with farmers to implement best practices in regenerative agriculture in order to maintain and improve soil health, lower synthetic inputs, and increase farm biodiversity. We will also focus on homegrown feed, circular and deforestation-free feed, and increasing grass in the diet our cows eat.
- Packaging: We love cones because they're plastic-free, contain the drips, and you can eat the whole thing! But that pint in your freezer has to be packed in something, so we're laser-focused on creating a more sustainable packaging process by reducing the amount of single-use petroleum-based plastic packaging used throughout the supply chain and in Scoop Shops.
Since dairy counts for such a large part of our carbon footprint, one of the easiest and most effective ways of shrinking it is to, well, sell less dairy. Crazy, right? But stick with us. Here's what we're trying instead:
- Increasing low-carbon product innovation and sales, such as Non-Dairy ice cream and cookie dough. (New Non-Dairy flavors, anyone?)
- Looking for opportunities to use more lower-carbon ingredients, such as sunflower seeds and almonds produced using regenerative farming methods.
Manufacturing Operations & Scoop Shops
Ben & Jerry's manufacturing and retail operations contribute less than 6% to our baseline footprint, mostly because we've tackled it head-on. And there's actually some good news here:
- We're nearly at our goal of 100% renewable electricity for our global manufacturing operations, company-owned Scoop Shops, and offices.
- Where we can't buy renewables, we're working at energy efficiency, heat reclamation, and electrification (so we can harness the power of the sun and wind).
We're Taking Action to Beat the Heat. Join Us.
If it’s melted, it’s ruined. It’s true for ice cream, and it’s true for the planet. We make delicious frozen things that rely on ingredients harvested from the earth (hey there, cows, nuts, chocolate chunks, and swirls!), so of course we're invested in fighting the climate crisis. But we also live here, too. And so we're calling on all of our fellow citizens on this Earth to demand that our elected leaders support a rapid transition to a clean-energy economy. Time is running out, but we have what we need to get started, so take action now!