6. Environment >
Global Warming Social Footprint
We have been working to reduce the global warming-causing greenhouse gas emissions that result from making Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for several years. Our efforts have included improving efficiencies, investigating the practicality of renewable energy, and offsetting all of the carbon emissions from our manufacturing operations.
But we haven’t been able to answer one very important question about our company’s response to global warming: Exactly how much should we be reducing our greenhouse gas emissions each year?
In 2006, Ben & Jerry’s began a focused effort to answer this huge question. It’s an important question because in order to successfully meet the challenge of global warming as a world community, we need a plan that will share the burden of reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere equitably among regions, nations, industries, and individuals.
We don’t have such a plan yet in the United States, where carbon dioxide, the most significant greenhouse gas, is not regulated by the federal government. (We’re pushing Congress to fix that through our Lick Global Warming Campaign.
So we looked to a plan that some of the best climate scientists in the world have proposed called the WRE350 Plan. It spells out annual limits on the amount of carbon (in the form of carbon dioxide) humans can emit globally over the next 150 years in order to stabilize the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at a safe level of 350 parts per million. (A number of other proposed plans aim for higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, ranging from 450 to 750 parts per million. We chose the most aggressive plan, which we think represents the best response to global warming.)
Then, in consultation with the Center for Sustainable Innovation, we used a new analytical technique, the Global Warming Social Footprint, to figure out what the WRE350 Plan meant for Ben & Jerry’s. The purpose of the project was to identify an annual level of carbon emissions that our Company’s manufacturing operations could emit (in the form of carbon dioxide) that would represent our proportionate share of the WRE350 Plan.
It is our belief that if every business calculated a Global Warming Social Footprint and developed aggressive plans to meet its annual emissions targets, then our planet would have the ability to safely assimilate human-produced carbon emissions, resulting in stable levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide by 2150. While a lofty goal, we need to start someplace.
The results of our project indicated that our investments in energy efficiency and carbon offsets over the past several years have reduced our global warming footprint, but not quite as fast as the WRE350 Plan requires. Ben & Jerry’s manufacturing plants emitted 6,279 net tons of carbon in the form of carbon dioxide over the six years from 2001-2006, which is just 133 tons more carbon than our share of the WRE350 Plan allows. We therefore missed our cumulative WRE350 target by 2.2 % during the years from 2001-2006. (Our performance did meet the requirements of the less aggressive WRE450 plan, which many policy makers and businesses have embraced.)
In order for Ben & Jerry’s to achieve our WRE350 target, we’ll need to make further efficiency gains, switch to lower or no carbon energy sources, or purchase more carbon offsets.
In 2007, we’ll take what we’ve learned from this Global Warming Social Footprint and use it in developing a specific climate change plan.