Charting the Course to Net Zero: How Leading Dairy Brands are Pioneering Sustainable Practices for the Scope 3 reduction

Dairy brands are charting a sustainable future, with giants like Starbucks and Vinamilk leading the way. As the industry addresses its 4% global emission contribution, it's also safeguarding livelihoods for a billion people. The journey to net zero is both an environmental and social imperative.

Charting the Course to Net Zero: How Leading Dairy Brands are Pioneering Sustainable Practices for the Scope 3 reduction
Photo by Jakob Ben Cotton / Unsplash

As the global call for sustainability intensifies, the dairy industry is not left behind. Recognizing the importance of Scope 3 emissions, which account for the majority of the dairy sector's carbon footprint, major players are taking action. From Starbucks' commitment to sustainable dairy to Vinamilk's groundbreaking carbon-neutral initiatives, discover how brands like Nestlé, Danone, and others are addressing their value chain emissions and shaping the future of eco-friendly dairy.

The urgency of climate change and the global push for sustainability have placed industries worldwide under the spotlight. The dairy industry, with its extensive supply chain, faces unique challenges in addressing Scope 3 emissions. Leading companies like Starbucks, Nestlé, Danone, and Vinamilk are spearheading initiatives to ensure a sustainable future for dairy, with a particular focus on their value chain emissions.

Starbucks' Sustainable Dairy Journey
Starbucks, understanding the significance of Scope 3 emissions, has made them a focal point of their sustainability strategy. Since its inception with the first Caffè Latte in 1984, cow's milk has been integral to Starbucks. Recognizing the environmental impact of dairy, Starbucks introduced the Sustainable Dairy Program in 2022. This program, in collaboration with farmers, aims to improve the sustainability of the entire dairy production value chain, from feed production to milk processing.

Vinamilk's Path to Carbon Neutrality
Vinamilk's "Pathways to Dairy Net Zero 2050" initiative is a testament to the company's commitment to addressing its Scope 3 emissions. Aligned with the Vietnamese Government's commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, Vinamilk is dedicated to reducing its environmental footprint across its entire value chain, from sourcing raw materials to distribution.

The Broader Industry Perspective
While Starbucks and Vinamilk are making significant strides, they are not alone in this journey. Major players like Nestlé and Danone are also investing heavily in sustainable dairy practices, with a keen focus on their Scope 3 emissions. A notable mention is the Pathways to Dairy Net Zero initiative, a global movement dedicated to reducing the dairy industry's GHG emissions over the next 30 years, with a significant emphasis on value chain emissions.

Pathways to Dairy Net Zero - An In-depth Look 🐮

"Pathways to Dairy Net Zero" is a groundbreaking initiative in the agricultural sector, aiming to reduce the dairy industry's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the next three decades. Launched on September 22, 2021, during Climate Week and just before the United Nations (UN) Food Systems Summit, it encompasses dairy farms of all sizes and types, as well as organizations throughout the dairy supply chain.

Key Objectives:

  1. Commitments: Secure commitments from the global dairy value chain to tackle climate change, nourish a growing population, and sustain the billion livelihoods dairy supports.
  2. Tools & Pathways: Develop methodologies, tools, and pathways to transform these commitments into actionable steps.
  3. Progress & Best Practices: Highlight global progress, share best practices, and emphasize that all farms, dairy systems, and regions can enhance their sustainability.

Six Guiding Principles:

  1. Mitigation: Enhance production and process efficiency to further reduce GHG emissions intensity.
  2. GHG Removals: Protect carbon sinks like soil, forests, grass, and peatlands.
  3. Avoidance and Adaptation: Improve feed, manure, fertilizer, and energy management practices.
  4. Insets and Offsets: Identify and implement credible reduction alternatives.
  5. Measurement and Monitoring: Regularly measure GHG emissions to plan mitigation and monitor progress.
  6. Overall Support: Emphasize the dairy sector’s climate ambition and promote the initiative.


  • 2014: Dairy Sustainability Framework's establishment.
  • 2016: Dairy Declaration in Rotterdam.
  • 2019: FAO's Global Climate Change and Global Dairy Cattle Sector Study.
  • July 2021: Initiative's announcement.
  • September 2021: Initiative's launch at the UN Food Systems Summit and Climate Week.
  • November 2021: Progress shared at COP26.
  • November 2022: Mitigation pathways launched at COP27.

Endorsed by significant figures like Mr. Qu Dongyu, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the initiative underscores the dairy sector's pivotal role in sustainable food systems.

Challenges on the Road to Net Zero
Addressing Scope 3 emissions is a complex task, and the journey to net zero for the dairy industry is fraught with challenges:

  1. Technological Limitations: Innovations in feed, manure management, and methane reduction are ongoing, but large-scale implementation remains a challenge.
  2. Economic Concerns: The initial costs of transitioning to sustainable practices can be prohibitive for many dairy farms.
  3. Consumer Awareness: Educating consumers and driving demand for eco-friendly dairy products is a continuous effort.
  4. Diverse Production Systems: Tailoring sustainable practices to different regions, climates, and production systems adds complexity.
  5. Regulatory Hurdles: Navigating the regulatory landscape and ensuring compliance can be challenging for dairy producers.
While the dairy industry contributes to nearly 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, it also supports the livelihoods of up to a billion people worldwide. This dual responsibility underscores the industry's unique challenge: to nourish the world sustainably. As leading dairy brands commit to net-zero targets, they're not just addressing environmental concerns but also ensuring that dairy remains a viable livelihood for countless farmers globally.

The journey to net-zero emissions in the dairy industry, especially concerning Scope 3 emissions, is challenging yet crucial. By acknowledging the hurdles and addressing them head-on, leading brands are not only ensuring a sustainable future for the dairy industry but also contributing significantly to the global fight against climate change.


  1. From protein diversification to net-zero targets: Dairy's long and winding path to sustainability - Dairy Reporter, 2023.
  2. Starbucks furthers commitment to sustainable dairy - Starbucks Stories, 2023.
  3. Vinamilk announces pathways to dairy net zero 2050 and the first carbon-neutral factory and farm in Vietnam - PR Newswire, 2023.
  4. About the Pathways to Dairy Net Zero Initiative - Pathways to Dairy Net Zero, 2023.