Ball Corporation, the world’s largest provider of aluminium packaging, recently unveiled a detailed breakdown of its pathway toward achieving decarbonization. The company’s ‘Climate Transition Plan’ focuses in large part on the reduction of Scope 3 emissions, increasing circularity in the sector, and positive policy advocacy. To learn more about the details, we caught up Björn Kulmann, Vice President of Sustainability at Ball.
It’d be great if we could start with a topline overview of Ball’s Climate Transition Plan. In your mind, what are the key takeaways?
Our Climate Action Plan sends a clear signal that aluminium is more than just the most circular material of choice moving forward, it’s also a true low-carbon option. A lot of companies are stuck on the net-zero-by-2050 goal, but we need to act now, halving our emissions by 2030 is what is needed to stabilize the climate, according to scientists.
This is the real challenge, and the focal point of our plan. With packaging representing up to 50% of our customers’ carbon footprints, our climate leadership will be a sound assurance for them.
A cornerstone of these efforts is that Ball will aim to achieve its decarbonisation plan without the use of offsets. What is the reasoning behind this?
We acknowledge that purchasing high-quality carbon credits in addition to reducing emissions along a science-based trajectory can play a critical role in accelerating the transition to net zero emissions at the global level. However, it has to come in the right order, we prioritize in-house emissions reductions, we do not purchase carbon credits yet. We may opt to purchase carbon credits in the future while we transition towards a state of net zero emissions.
One of Ball’s biggest challenges is Scope 3 emissions – which make up more than 90% of the company’s overall GHG footprint. What concrete steps is Ball planning to take in order to reduce emissions produced in its value chain?
We are not the only ones in that situation, for many companies, Scope 3 accounts for 80-90 percent of their overall climate impact. As those emissions fall outside the company’s direct control and should be tacked collaboratively with suppliers and customers, they represent clearly the biggest challenge.
Playing solo is not an option here, it’s about moving the needle on the decarbonization of the aluminium packaging as a whole. Whilst analysing the carbon footprint of our supply chain, we realized that the aluminium industry was already taking this climate topic very seriously, thinking out-of-the-box on key topics like advanced sorting and alloy innovation. Our role here is to spark the conversation within our industry, customers, suppliers and the wider climate community about how we can align and collaborate to get to the next level and deliver the Paris targets.
What role will circularity play as Ball seeks to achieve the goals it has set out in its Plan? Aluminium packaging already boasts an impressive recycling rate, especially when compared with other materials. What more can be done to boost this?
Circularity is really a card up our sleeve. The one and only reason why we are able to be so ambitious. A joker card that other substrates don’t have.
It requires up to 95% less energy to recycle aluminium than to produce primary metal and thereby avoids corresponding emissions. 50% of our planned reductions by 2030 are related to circularity, which includes reducing use of primary aluminium in our products with 85% recycled content.
The global recycling rate for aluminium beverage cans stands around 70%, making them the world’s most recycled beverage container. A rate much better than for other beverage and personal care packaging materials, but it’s still not good enough. If aluminium cans are to be a perfect fit for a circular economy, then the recycling rate needs to be close to 100%. We believe that is possible by 2030. We must work to keep improving collection rates and reducing diversion to non-can uses, so that aluminium can circulate at its highest economic value in a closed can-to-can loop.
Given the stakes at play as the packaging industry looks to decarbonise, transparency has never been more important. How will Ball be tracking and reporting on its progress?
Transparency is needed to ascertain whether an organization’s climate transition plan is ambitious, credible and if it demonstrates strategic shifts towards a low-carbon economy. We have no interest in being opaque and murky as we are confident in our ability to get there. On the contrary, we planned to provide our stakeholders with sufficient and relevant information to prove to them the validity of our approach.
We will continue to report our Scope 1-3 emissions on an annual basis. In addition, this Climate Transition Plan is version 1, and we will have to adapt the plan as we go, depending on how the world around us keeps changing and accelerating its race to net zero. We will also continue to take responsibility for the impact of our advocacy work, making sure it is directed towards the attainment of the Paris goals.
Ball has plotted out three different pathways to its end goals, as opposed to the conventional, singular approach. Why is this?
Climate transition pathways designed around the world have the potential to be derailed by countless factors. It is, for instance, impossible to predict with certainty the regulatory landscape or growth rates that will prevail in years and decades to come.
In light of this uncertainty, our analysis describes the three most technically credible, economically viable, socially acceptable and geopolitically reasonable near-term pathways to 2030 among the many we have identified. While our projections are not perfect, we cannot afford to delay.
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