Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Carbon spotlight falls on food giants

June 2014

The ‘Big 10’ food and drink companies together emit more greenhouse gases than Scandinavia and, if they were an individual country, would rank as the 25th most polluting, a new report from Oxfam claims.

The ‘Big 10’ are Associated British Foods, Coca-Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg, Mars, Mondelez International, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever. Climate change contributes to storms, floods, droughts and shifting weather patterns, which affect food supplies and are putting pressure on prices, causing more hunger and poverty. Oxfam projects that the price of key products like Kellogg’s Corn Flakes could spike by up to 44% in the next 15 years because of climate change.? ?

Oxfam says the companies are capable of cutting their combined emissions by 80 million tons compared to business as usual by 2020 – as much as both Mexico and South Africa have pledged. The companies are not doing enough despite the threat climate change poses to the sustained supply of ingredients they need for their products, their economic might and the need to feed a growing population. Between them, they generate £650 million ($1.1 billion) a day in revenues, equivalent to the total gross domestic product of all the world’s lower income countries. ?

Oxfam’s director of UK campaigns and policy Sally Copley said: “By failing to cut emissions adequately the ‘Big 10’ are putting short term profits ahead of the long term interests.”? ?

Oxfam singled out Kellogg and General Mills as two of the worst on climate and is calling on them to lead the sector towards more responsible policies and practices. Oxfam says they should disclose their agricultural emissions and biggest polluting suppliers, set targets to cut emissions from their supply chains and speak out more to other industries and governments to address the climate crisis. ?

Oxfam says that the food industry drives around 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions and that these emissions are growing as demand for food rises.

Of the ‘Big 10’s’ 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. It is with these agricultural emissions that Oxfam finds the companies being particularly negligent.

The report also highlights the fact that only Unilever and Coca-Cola have committed to reduction targets that address emissions in their supply chains. None of the ‘Big 10’ have committed to clear reduction targets specific to their agricultural emissions. 

Global | Carbon Emissions

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