In view of the dramatic progression with respect to global warming, carbon neutrality will be the order of the day over the coming years and decades. The global framework for this is the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to keep the rise in global temperatures well below 2°C, and ideally below 1.5°C. The world should be carbon-neutral in the way it lives and does business by no later than the second half of the century. There is a CO2 budget for this purpose which must not be exceeded. Continental can also make a contribution here across the entire global value chain of its products, from the procurement of materials, through manufacturing, transport and consumption, to recycling at the end of use.
How important is it to consider the entire value chain in efforts to reduce the climate driver carbon dioxide? The figures speak for themselves: Global player Continental produced “only” 1.05 million tons of carbon dioxide directly itself in 2021. But when you consider the entire value chain – so including pre-production, transport routes to the global production sites, or the emissions that arise when products are used – the figure rises to around 110 million tons of carbon dioxide for which Continental is directly or indirectly responsible. This corresponds to at least 0.2 to 0.3 percent of total global emissions.
Carbon neutrality therefore has an entirely different scope beyond “just” CO2-neutral factories and production plants.
Continental’s sustainability program focuses the company on the best benefit for the climate and on a clear paradigm shift at the right point in time. The company has therefore adopted a strategy that will have an impact over both the short and long term, and Continental is working intensively on further reducing its own CO2 footprint. It is doing this, for example, through purchasing green electricity for all plants worldwide since 2020.Continental’s entire procurement of electricity thus became CO2 neutral all at the same time. The calculated savings in CO2 emissions within the limits of the plants (Scope 1 + 2) led to a reduction in its own carbon dioxide emissions of almost 70 percent in total in 2020. On the path to carbon neutrality in production processes, Continental is committed to energy efficiency measures by deploying new technologies in production processes. The remaining residual emissions are to be neutralized.
Net|Zero|Now – Continental’s Immediate Action Program for Climate Change Mitigation
The Net|Zero|Now program is an important complement to the reduction measures already implemented. With Net|Zero|Now, since 2022 Continental has offered customers with ambitious sustainability targets the possibility of achieving carbon neutrality for their business with Continental along the entire value chain. To this end, the so-called carbon backpack that is left over as a result of doing business with Continental is neutralized. In particular, this includes emissions generated through purchased materials, logistics, in-house production as well as end of use and recycling, but not the use phase by the end customer or our customers’ emissions. The focus of the program is on Continental products for emission-free vehicles. In addition, the program is now also being offered for the combustion-engine vehicle business and the industrial business. The program thus helps companies meet the increasingly ambitious carbon neutrality targets on the market.
“Net|Zero|Now is an immediate action program for climate change mitigation,” explained Dr. Steffen Schwartz-Höfler, Head of Sustainability at Continental. “We are thus offering our customers innovative products, systems and solutions that are carbon-neutral. So they can neutralize the carbon backpack of their business with us through negative emissions. Worldwide – and regardless of whether or not the business involves emission-free vehicles.”
Neutralization measures complement activities aimed at long-term reduction
Net|Zero|Now ensures customers ultimately receive net greenhouse gas neutrality – net zero, for short. This means that no more emissions are generated than can be removed again from the atmosphere. To achieve net zero and thus neutralize its carbon backpack, Continental has focused specifically on negative emissions. Negative emissions are highlighted in the Paris Agreement as a way of neutralizing CO2 emissions and are an important addition to reduction measures that can already achieve immediate positive effects today and neutralize unavoidable, long-lasting emissions. As a result, the global rise in temperature can be limited to a maximum of 2°C, or in the best-case scenario 1.5°C, as stipulated by the Paris Agreement.
Continental measures its Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions, reports these transparently and has them confirmed independently. The carbon backpack of the business activities measured in the Net|Zero|Now program is determined on this basis. The calculated emissions are then neutralized through an equal quantity of negative emissions. For this purpose, Continental works with recognized partners on high-quality and certified projects in ecosystem recovery and forestation in order to bind the corresponding quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere, thereby easing the global carbon budget.
Continental has set itself ambitious goals for achieving carbon neutrality: By 2040, all of Continental’s production processes are to be made carbon-neutral. The aim is to continue reducing emissions of climate-damaging carbon dioxide so that as little as possible must be compensated for. In the long term, complete carbon neutrality across the entire value chain is to be achieved in close collaboration with suppliers and customers – and by 2050 at the latest. “Continental is thus consistently meeting the targets of the Paris Agreement of 2015,” explained Reinhart. “The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) confirmed this at the end of 2020. Our own production is therefore on track for the target of 1.5°C; for our value chain, we are significantly below 2°C.”