F&B sector can't afford to ignore agricultural emissions

Wednesday, 09 September, 2015

Some of the world’s leading household brands are missing a significant opportunity to mitigate climate risks by focusing solely on their direct operations, rather than working collaboratively with suppliers.

Global non-profit CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, says that the biggest source of food-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions occurs before produce leaves the farm gate, yet less than a quarter of the major brands that disclosed to CDP reported their indirect GHG emissions from agricultural production. 

With emissions from agricultural production responsible for 10–14% of global GHG emissions, the lack of data from companies on this area suggests that at least 10% of global emissions are being unaccounted for. 

CDP has released the report ‘The forgotten 10%: Climate mitigation in agricultural supply chains’, drawing on data collected by 97 food, beverage and tobacco companies. 

With over a third of the brands disclosing to CDP reporting lower costs from implementing climate change-related agricultural management practices, the agency believes there is a clear business case to act. 

“Collaboration with stakeholders holds the key for brands seeking to unlock opportunities to become resilient to climate change,” says Frances Way, co-chief operating officer, CDP. “Our data shows that companies who engage with one or more of their stakeholders are more than twice as likely to see returns from emissions reduction investments as companies that don’t.”

The good news is that companies are heading in the right direction: the majority of the major brands surveyed say they are engaging suppliers on managing climate change. For example, SABMiller — the world’s second largest brewer by revenue — reports achieving average carbon dioxide equivalent reductions of 16% over the past four years by working with its barley farmers to improve irrigation and fertiliser techniques.

Coca-Cola HBC AG, Dairy Crest Group, Danone, Kellogg Company, Nestlé and Unilever are identified as being ahead of the pack for their approach to climate mitigation in their agricultural supply chains. CDP says these companies have not only disclosed their agricultural emissions over the past two years, they have also reported on implementing agricultural management practices with climate change-related benefits. 

French food giant Danone describes engaging suppliers on reducing carbon dioxide emissions as “a key opportunity to cut cost while building the equity of our brands and of our company”, as well as a chance to create value for its suppliers.

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