ADM unveils new climate change targets: ‘The health of people is inextricably linked to the health of the planet’

By Katy Askew contact

- Last updated on GMT

ADM outlines new climate change targets / Pic: soy plantation ©ADM
ADM outlines new climate change targets / Pic: soy plantation ©ADM

Related tags: Adm, Climate change, emissions, Greenhouse gas

ADM has unveiled an ‘ambitious’ new plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and energy intensity. FoodNavigator speaks to ADM’s chief sustainability officer Alison Taylor to learn more.

ADM has said it aims to cut emissions by 25% and energy intensity by 15% by 2035. 

The new goals follow on ADM’s original '15x20' plan, unveiled in 2011, that committed the ingredient supplier to per-unit improvements in energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, water and waste to landfill by 2020.

ADM was able to meet these goals ahead of schedule. To progress the group’s sustainability journey, the next step was to engage with consultants at WSP Global and conduct an ‘in-depth’ feasibility study​ to help formulate a new set of commitments that would enable ADM to step up its work against climate change.

“Based upon our recent feasibility study, ADM has set an ambitious goal to reduce our absolute Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 25% from its 2019 baseline by 2035. This represents an average annual reduction of 1.67% for 15 years,”​ the company’s sustainability chief Alison Taylor explained.

Scope 1 and 2 emissions cover direct operations and indirect emissions from the purchase of electricity.

This places ADM’s ambition ahead of that outlined by the Paris Climate Change Agreement that aims to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels (although the Paris deal does commit to pursuing an increase of 1.5°C). “[ADM’s new goal] is more aggressive than the absolute emissions contraction approach that considers the global carbon budget, which requires an average annual reduction of 1.23% to limit global warming to 2°C,”​ Taylor told this publication.

Three ‘key strategies’ to tackle climate change

Taylor explained that the feasibility study identified ‘three key strategies’ to progress its GHG and energy intensity goals.

“Our strategy to achieve the reductions include purchasing renewable electricity, increasing use of biomass fuels, transportation fleet changes, and in some locations, equipment changes,”​ she noted.

Areas of greatest potential impact include: 

  • Transition from coal to natural gas for onsite fuel use 
  • Purchase of renewable electricity
  • Co-fire solid biomass
  • Alternative vehicle fuels
  • Efficiency improvements in facilities and vehicles
  • Onsite carbon sequestration

“Many ADM processing facilities have significant heat and electricity needs. Through our feasibility study, we identified the main areas within our business where shifting current practices will generate the greatest reduction in emissions. Transitioning to cleaner energy will be a major focus for us as we work towards our 2035 goals and support a transition to a lower carbon economy.”

On renewable energy and biofuels, Taylor said ADM can ‘significantly’ reduce its Scope 2 emissions from energy purchased by switching to renewable sources. Meanwhile, the sustainability continued, lifting the amount of biofuels burned onsite will cut Scope 1 emissions. “We are moving forward with several projects to use biodiesel in our fleet of boats and trucks.”

Switching to less carbon-intense fuels in both stationary and mobile equipment is another important area that ADM will focus on. “Some facilities may feasibly be able to switch to natural gas or co-fire biomass in the boilers. We are also assessing the use of liquefied natural gas for our boat fleet and compressed natural gas for our truck fleet in certain geographies,”​ Taylor elaborated.

Finally, the company will be building on what it calls ‘energy treasure hunts’: “ADM has had success over the past few years conducting energy treasure hunts which identify energy efficiency and reduction opportunities across our facilities globally.”

Rapeseed Canola Field (c) ADM
Rapeseed Canola Field ©ADM

While Scope 3 emissions, which include all other emissions within the value chain such as agricultural output, are not included in the targets, Taylor stressed that the company is making progress here too.

“Regarding Scope 3, we have a focus on no-deforestation in our supply chain, and we report on that progress... We are involved in robust sustainable agriculture initiatives with farmers in our supply chain. We understand that working with partners in our supply chain is an effective way of furthering our desire to mitigate the effects of climate change on our planet.”

Long-term commitment to meet future responsibilities

The need to act on climate change is paramount for all stakeholders across the food chain, Taylor believes. It is an issue that touches everyone linked to ADM’s business, from employees and suppliers through to customers and end consumers.

“As a global enterprise, climate change is an issue that has implications for ADM employees, stakeholders, the communities in which we operate, and all aspects of our business. As a leader in nutrition and agriculture, we believe the health of people is inextricably linked to the health of the planet.

“We recognise our responsibility to lower emissions related to our business and are continuously working to decrease the environmental footprint of our operations to support a prosperous, sustainable future.”

Indeed, as the COVID-19 pandemic ravages global economies, Taylor believes it is vital that large corporations like ADM keep their eyes on the prize and focus on longer-term outcomes. The company has pledged US$1m to support various organisations involved in the fight against COVID-19, including the World Health Organization. 

“Companies like ADM are critical in providing nutrition to the world. At times like this, it is vital that we focus on short term challenges while continuing to make the long-term decisions and commitments that will allow us to meet our responsibilities for years to come. The only way we can continue to enrich the quality of life around the globe is to do both.”

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