'Big 10' urged to act on climate change

Tuesday, 20 May, 2014

The food and beverage industry’s environmental credentials have come under fire after an Oxfam Australia report called for Australia’s top 10 food and beverage companies to up their game on reducing carbon emissions within their supply chains.

The report, ‘Standing on the Sidelines - why food and beverage companies must do more to tackle climate change’, calls companies such as Kellogg’s and General Mills environmental ‘laggards’ and says they must do more to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

According to Kelly Dent, Oxfam Australia’s food policy specialist, the top 10 food and beverage companies together emit more greenhouse gases than Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway combined.

“If they were a single country, they would be the 25th most polluting country in the world,” Dent said. “The ‘Big 10’ companies could cut their emissions by 80 million tonnes by 2020 - when global emissions need to start reducing in order for the world to stay within a safe climate - which would be the equivalent to taking all Australian cars off the road.”

Of these companies’ total emissions, about half come from the production of agricultural materials from their supply chains, but these emissions are not covered by the reduction targets the companies have set, Oxfam says.

Dent claims some of the companies have admitted that climate change is affecting them financially. Extreme weather conditions that are worsening due to climate change are reportedly costing Unilever US$415 million a year, while General Mills reported losing 62 days of production in Q1 2014 alone due to extreme weather.

“Too many of today’s food and beverage giants are crossing their fingers and hoping that climate change won’t disrupt the food system, imagining someone else will fix it,” Dent said.

“As companies that are deeply exposed to climate impacts, it’s in the interest of food and beverage companies to see a more ambitious national and global response. We are therefore urging them to also speak up for stronger government policies and programs to tackle climate change.”

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