As the COP24 climate negotiations in Katowice, Poland enter their final days, Paulette van Ommen, Global Climate Lead at RE100 member DSM shares the actions the company is taking to step up on renewables, reduce its environmental impact, and accelerate market change.
Did you know that over a century ago, DSM started off as a Dutch coal mining company? Fast forward to today, we’ve transformed into a global, purpose-led, performance-driven company in nutrition, health and sustainable living, working at the frontlines of climate action.
With the world’s scientists flagging the climate disruption ahead of us, we believe that doing so is an important responsibility. Mother Earth has a fever, and we as humans are already affected by her sweating, sneezing, and coughing in the form of droughts, floods, and storms.
Taking climate action is also an opportunity. As the recent New Climate Economy report pointed out: a thriving, low-carbon economy could deliver a direct economic gain of US$26 trillion by 2030, compared to business as usual.
That’s why, at DSM, we improve our own environmental impact, enable the same for our customers, and advocate a progressive climate action agenda. In each of these, scaling renewable energy in an environmentally sound way is a key priority.
Firstly, when it comes to improving our own environmental impact, we’ve set ourselves clear goals. We’ll cut 30% of our own (so-called Scope 1&2) greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to 2016, in absolute terms.
How? By being smarter in our energy use, and by sourcing 75% of our purchased electricity from renewable sources by 2030 – a new, higher interim target we set earlier this year, as we journey to being 100% renewable.
In the Netherlands, we’re already at 100% renewable purchased electricity, thanks to our collaboration with energy company Eneco and the Dutch Wind Consortium, a partnership between DSM, Google, Philips, AkzoNobel. In the USA, we’ve teamed up with NextEra Energy Sources to buy wind electricity produced in Oklahoma.
Our €50 internal carbon price, which we use when reviewing large investment decisions – including on renewable energy and energy efficiency projects – helps us to future-proof our business.
We’re not acting in isolation. DSM is one of 158 companies in The Climate Group’s RE100 initiative, with a collective electricity demand greater than Argentina and Portugal combined, as the new RE100 report reveals.
We also encourage our suppliers to follow our lead. A few months ago, we kicked off this journey on the DSM Supplier Partnerships Day, where former UN climate chief and “stubborn optimist”, Christiana Figueres came over to inspire us.
Indeed, her latest Nature article (supported by DSM’s CEO Feike Sijbesma) flags that today, more than 50% of new capacity for generating electricity is renewable, with wind and solar doubling every four years.
Secondly, through our innovations, we also enable greenhouse gas emissions cuts for our customers, and their customers, who use our products.
For example, our solar solutions help boost the output of PV modules. Our endurance backsheets are 100% recyclable with no production waste and have a 30% lower CO2 footprint compared to fluorinated backsheets. Our backsheets also help extend the lifetime of PV modules in very harsh conditions, like in desert where it’s hot and there’s a lot of sand, and in tropical environments, where it’s hot and humid.
As IRENA and the International Energy Agency pointed out in a 2016 report, it’s key to integrate circular principles in renewable electricity generation, too, as PV module waste will emerge as a major source of electronic waste over the coming decades.
Thirdly, while we put our money where our mouth is, we also have to use our mouth when it matters.
Just before the current climate summit in Poland, together with 50 CEOs in the CEO Climate Leaders Alliance of the World Economic Forum, we launched an open letter to call on world leaders to accelerate and deepen their commitment to act on climate change.
Having a meaningful price on carbon is an agenda we’ve been driving for years now. Putting a price tag on carbon stimulates what we want more of (renewable energy, clean air, jobs, innovation) at the expense of what we want less of (pollution and heat-trapping gases).
For renewable electricity to scale further and faster, we need government policies and private sector leadership to be mutually reinforcing. This positive feedback loop, also called ‘the ambition loop’, is put into practice by our fellow RE100 members.
Many are adding their voice to the #StepUpNow initiative, which brings together a range of non-state actors who jointly demonstrate a clear movement for a stronger response to climate change in Europe. It builds on the success of a similar initiative we helped launch immediately after the 2016 presidential elections in the US: #WeAreStillIn.
While we’re still on a journey, DSM’s multiple transformations and ongoing actions inspire many people. Given what’s at stake, it’s now time to transform not only our individual companies, but our societies and economic systems.
We can still turn the tide, but to succeed, we have to be ready to make waves. Together. At DSM, we are! As a consumer, citizen and professional: are you?