Boortmalt carbon footprinting and SBTi commitment

Greenfish supported Boortmalt in setting Science-Based Targets.

My name is Gwendolyn Van de Velde and I am currently working on a project at Boortmalt, the world’s leading malting company, active on 5 continents. Their main business is to convert agricultural commodities like barley to malt, a key ingredient for several (non-)alcoholic drinks, including beer and whisky. As sustainability plays a central role in Boortmalt’s values and beliefs, they are eager to do their part in the transition towards a more sustainable economy. Energy Efficiency & Emission Reduction, as well as Water & Waste Management are therefore at the core of their business strategy.

Recently, Boortmalt decided to take a critical look at their sustainability objectives. Wanting to be more ambitious for the years to come, they started looking into the Science-Based Targets (SBTs) with the aim to get an idea of how fast and by how much they must reduce their emissions in order to prevent the worst effects on climate change. Looking for support in setting these targets, I am involved in this project of lifecycle assessment and end-to-end carbon footprinting in the context of an SBT’s setting and commitment.

Following the operational control approach of the GHG Protocol Standard, I first looked into the Scope 1 & 2 emissions, i.e., direct and indirect emissions related to Boortmalt’s plant operations worldwide, by collecting the energy consumption data per source stream as well as the country-specific and/or energy supplier-specific emission intensities. All activities representing a neglectable share of the total emissions and/or total annual expenditures were ignored.

The results of this analysis could be used to further develop Boortmalt’s energy and emissions roadmaps which formed the basis of Scope 1 and 2 emission reduction targets in line with the 1.5 degrees climate scenario.

As required by the SBT Initiative (SBTi), emission reduction targets must also be set for the indirect emissions occurring in a company’s value chain - the so-called Scope 3 emissions – if the relevant Scope 3 emissions of a company exceed 40% of the total Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. In addition, these Scope 3 targets should cover at least two thirds of the total Scope 3 emissions (SBTi, April 2021). That is why I started by performing an in-depth hybrid approach analysis of all Boortmalt’s Scope 3 emissions as suggested by the GHG Protocol Standard (Figure 1), to estimate their end-to-end carbon footprint from supplier to customer. Based on this analysis, there were three main sources of emissions in the value chain that I will look at in more detail, namely Purchased Goods & Services (agriculture), Upstream & Downstream Transportation & Distribution and Processing of Sold Goods.

Figure 1. Overview of GHG Protocol scope and emissions across the value chain (World Resources Institute, 2011)
Since Boortmalt’s operations are entirely reliant on agricultural commodities, Boortmalt is already working with its suppliers (farmers, cooperative and dealers) to capture on-farm emissions and water usage data in online calculation tools like the Cool Farm Tool (CFT). Having analyzed the CFT results, farming came out as a major source of emissions along my client’s entire value chain. This was not surprising, however, since agriculture is the second largest source of pollution at the sector level in the EU (Figure 2).
Within CFT, Boortmalt also collects data on regenerative farming practices like crop rotation - where different crops are grown in the same area across a sequence of seasons - and no-till farming, which means growing crops without cultivating the soil. These regenerative farming practices allow reintroducing carbon back into the soil. Despite these positive climate effects, we currently have too little information on the impact of carbon sequestration within the global agricultural supply. For this reason, we decided not to include the impact of carbon sequestration in the Scope 3 target inventory. However, as also encouraged by SBTi, we are setting supplier engagement targets, to capture the majority of the farmer’s supply within CFT, so that in the coming year, conclusions can be drawn about the farmers’ actual carbon footprint, considering carbon sequestration and working together to grow more sustainable crops.

Figure 2 Greenhouse gas emissions by sector in the EU in 2017 (European Parliament, 2019).
Figure 2 Greenhouse gas emissions by sector in the EU in 2017 (European Parliament, 2019).
A second relevant Scope 3 emission source is the Upstream and Downstream Transportation & Distribution. Based on the inbound and outbound sales planning, I was able to determine the total upstream and downstream volumes transported, as well as the total distances travelled. Subsequently, I could estimate the transport emissions by considering the different transport modes, fuels, and geographical locations applicable. Despite the international presence of Boortmalt and the associated substantial amount of overseas transport, it was eventually not unexpected that the estimated transport emissions were very limited compared to the full end-to-end carbon footprint. Knowing that, on a global average, transport accounts for only 6% of the carbon footprint of food (Figure 3), I could conclude that my findings were a good reflection of this.

Figure 3 Global greenhouse gas emissions from food production (Ritchie & Roser, 2020).
Figure 3 Global greenhouse gas emissions from food production (Ritchie & Roser, 2020).
The last major factor in the Scope 3 emissions is the Processing of Sold Products. Although we already have an idea of the contribution of malt to the process emissions of Boortmalt customers based on leading studies, we are currently working together with several clients to finetune these figures. The next step is to establish customer engagement targets - as encouraged by SBTi - and set up projects to reduce our mutual emissions.

Having established the end-to-end carbon footprint, these three categories accounted for more than two-thirds of the overall Scope 3 emissions. Therefore, we have already set some sub-targets and as we want to support Boortmalt’s customers in reaching their (science-based) targets, we are currently considering their environmental commitments in order the finalize Boortmalt’s Scope 3 reduction target for the SBT commitment.

Because I have been working on this project for several months, I was able to provide my client with an accurate view of the emissions from his company’s entire value chain on a local, regional, and global level. This will allow them to prioritize emission reduction projects in their energy & emission roadmaps so that they can revise their climate goals and think about sustainability opportunities to launch together with external stakeholders. In the coming weeks, I will support finalizing all the documents for the SBT commitment that will be submitted very soon.

A key takeaway from this project is the urgent need for companies to look at their sustainability goals from a critical, scientific point-of-view. This is not only for the sake of our environment and climate conservation but also because it encourages companies to go the extra mile by looking into innovative solutions that will benefit their market position and reputation. Besides, companies should be aware that they need to get a clear view of the carbon footprint of their entire value chain by establishing Scope 3 inventories, in order to get the full picture of their impact on climate change. This way, they can work together with partners on meaningful projects in favor of our environment and avoid the worst-casefavour scenarios of climate change. And do you look at your scope 3 emissions?

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Gwendolyn Van de Velde