Unilever — which owns brands including Ben & Jerry’s, Magnum and Wall’s — is set to trial increasing the temperature of its ice cream freezers in a bid to lower energy use.
The consumer goods giant said the move could cut greenhouse gas emissions by around 20% to 30% a unit. Its two pilots, one in Germany and one in Indonesia, are due to take place this month and next year respectively.
According to the firm, the industry standard for freezer temperatures in many markets stands at minus 18 degrees Celsius (around 0 degrees Fahrenheit). The temperature of freezers in the trials will be minus 12 degrees Celsius.
Unilever said it will assess both energy use and the “product performance” of its ice cream at the new temperature. “Following the completion of the first two pilots and if successful, Unilever will work to ‘warm up’ its last mile freezer cabinets in a phased approach,” it said.
Emissions from what it calls “retail ice cream freezers” represent 10% of the company’s value chain greenhouse gas footprint, it said.
By 2039, Unilever wants net zero emissions across its value chain. In 2021 it says total scope 1 emissions, relating to its own operations, and scope 2 emissions — which also include the purchase of electricity and thermal energy — came to 710,740 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
Scope 3 emissions — which refer to indirect greenhouse gas emissions across its whole value chain — were 61,007,131 metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2021.
The bigger picture
As the 2020s progress, corporations around the world are attempting to burnish their sustainability credentials by announcing net-zero goals and plans to reduce the environmental footprint of their operations.
While there is a significant degree of skepticism about many of the sustainability-related claims businesses make — concrete details are often hard to come by and the dates for achieving these targets are sometimes decades away — the fact they are making them at all is instructive, and points to a certain amount of pressure on corporations from some investors.
During a panel discussion chaired by CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick earlier this year, Judy Kuszewski, chief executive of sustainability consultancy Sancroft International, spoke to the above point.
“One of the most exciting and most, perhaps, unexpected developments that we’ve seen in the last couple of years or so is that climate change is actually a topic that investors are looking carefully at right now,” she said.
They are “really asking questions about the company’s strategy and their future fitness to … deal with the inevitable changes that are ahead of us,” she added.