Düsseldorf, Germany — Spartanburg, S.C.-based industrial and chemical manufacturer Milliken & Co. is committing to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 using science-based accounting of emissions.
The Science Based Targets initiative, a United Nations-backed collective of international organizations working to help companies set emission reduction targets, approved Milliken's 2050 net zero goal and its more-near-term 2030 goals. Milliken's plan, in line with SBTi's requirements, is "consistent with climate science and the Paris Agreement," breaking its reduction goals into three scopes of emissions.
Scope 1 includes all of the company's direct emissions including on-site fuel consumption such as gas boilers and fleet vehicles. Scope 2 includes all direct emissions from electricity generation purchased for Milliken's operations.
Milliken has already been working toward carbon emission reduction before it explored a net zero commitment, CEO Halsey Cook said at K 2022 in Düsseldorf. Since 2018, the company stopped using coal as a fuel source when it invested $25 million in a cogeneration facility, its largest site globally, that uses steam for power generation for industrial processes.
That capital investment "reduced our Scope 1 and 2 emissions already," Cook said. It will also work to reducing natural gas consumption in operations.
Scope 3 includes all other direct emissions from activities within the company or occurring from sources it does not control "including the carbon inherent in the materials that we are purchasing from our suppliers," he said.
Working with SBTi helped Milliken accurately account for all its emissions, Cook told Plastics News in an interview. "We actually weren't emitting as much carbon as we thought; that's the good news."
SBTi also helped Milliken to "learn what to look for" when setting its targets to achieve reductions "that are consistent with the pathways science tells us will limit global temperatures' rise to 1.5°C," Cook added.
"In the near term, we've committed to reducing absolute Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 50.4 percent by 2030 and reducing absolute Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030," he said.
Since 2030 is only seven years away, the company is already working to meet those reduction goals.
Longer term, Milliken plans to reduce its Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 90 percent by 2050 from its 2018 base year and to reduce Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent within the same time frame. In order to meet the Scope 3 goal, Milliken will need to collaborate and establish transparency with its suppliers while improving product analysis and product end-of-life considerations, Cook said.
"We'll share our progress as we go," he said, but most of these goals are on the company's "to-do list." One of the items on Milliken's to-do list is making emission reduction requirements for its suppliers.
"We feel like it's possible, but we still have to go toe to toe," he said. "It turns into a price discussion. … For now anyway, I think the price of carbon is going to go up every time, so I think taking carbon out of products will create pricing opportunities in the future."
Out of Milliken's top 100 suppliers, 45 percent "already have some form of emission reduction commitments," Deidre Sandrock, director of sustainability and innovation, said. "So this lift isn't from zero. … We've already got nearly half of that top hundred supplier base … [that are] committed to the same values.
"Our Scope 3 emissions are estimated to be almost three quarters of [our emissions], which is in line for chemical industry," Sandrock said.
But learning that estimation through SBTi approval placed emphasis the company's "upstream engagement," she added, and its tools for carbon accounting of the items it's purchasing.
The same emissions reduction requirements will not be expected of Milliken's customers, Cook said. "If we've set the price and they want to buy it, even though they may not have environmental goals, we know that because they're buying our product and there's less inherent carbon in that ... that's a good thing for the world."
Milliken's customers, especially in the automotive sector, are independently demanding carbon emission reductions from the company to decrease their own Scope 3 emissions, he said, "and they don't want to pay a dime more for it."
Those companies are also moving back requirement dates for those reductions, Cook added. "2050's not good enough; [automotive customers] want 2035 and you're not going to qualify if you don't do it."
Cook said he expects sustainability, decarbonization and circularity "will become the very basis of competition in the future" for all of Milliken's end markets.
The company hopes "low carbon" will become its own grade of polypropylene so its customers know that parts from the material have "inherently less carbon" in the production of the clarifiers or other additives, he said.
"We're enabling [our customers'] sustainability initiatives," Cindy Boiter, executive vice president and president of Milliken's chemical business, said. "We're helping all the way through the value chain."