A report published this week by Oxfam International claims that the world’s “Big 10” food and beverage companies, including many well-known to Canadians, are both highly vulnerable to climate change and are major contributors to the problem. Together they emit so much greenhouse gas that, if they were a single country, they would be the 25th most polluting in the world. Oxfam says that “The “Big 10”, Associated British Foods, Coca-Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg, Mars, Mondelez International, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever, should be capable of cutting their combined emissions by a further 80 million tons by 2020. This would be equivalent to taking all of the cars in Los Angeles, Beijing, London, and New York off the road.
Among the many key points made in the report:
- The “Big 10” together emit 263.7 million tons of GHGs – more than Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway combined. Emissions from their operations account for 29.8 million tons. Of their total emissions, about half come from the production of agricultural materials from their supply chains, yet these emissions are not covered by the reduction targets the companies have set.
- Experts predict that by 2050 there will be 50 million more people made hungry because of climate change.
- Some of the “Big 10” companies admit that climate change is already beginning to harm them financially. Unilever says it now loses $415 million a year, while General Mills reported losing 62 days of production in the first fiscal quarter of 2014 alone because of extreme weather conditions that are growing worse because of climate change. Oxfam projects that the price of key products like Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and General Mills’ Kix cereal could spike by up to 44% in the next 15 years because of climate change.
- Agriculture and forests drives around 25% of global GHG emissions and that these emissions are growing as demand for food rises. Experts say that if the world is to keep within a “safe” 2C threshold by 2050, net global emissions from the food sector needs to fall to zero and actually become a “carbon sink” by mid-century – working to remove GHGs from the atmosphere. Yet emissions trends are currently heading in the opposite direction.
- All of the ‘Big 10’ recognize the need to reduce indirect agricultural emissions within their supply chains and seven of them annually measure and report on these emissions through the Carbon Disclosure Project– but not Kellogg, General Mills or Associated British Foods. Only Unilever and Coca-Cola have committed to reduction targets that address emissions in their supply chains, but none of the ‘Big 10’ have committed to clear reduction targets specific to their agricultural emissions.
- None of the ‘Big 10’ require their suppliers to set targets to reduce emissions.
- All of the ‘Big 10’ have set targets to reduce emissions from their operations, but these are often not science-based and don’t reflect their full contribution to the problem.
- Several of the ‘Big 10’ companies have committed to ambitious timelines to end deforestation in their supply chains for palm oil but only Mars and Nestle extend these policies to other commodities that are drivers of deforestation and land use change.
Oxfam’s announcement of the report and a link to the full 30 page report and a summary are available at http://www.oxfam.org/en/grow/pressroom/pressrelease/2014-05-20/big-ten-food-companies-emitting-as-much-worlds-25th-most-polluting-country