One of the investment community’s leading climate advocacy groups is pushing the food sector—which contributes nearly a third of all global emissions—to greater transparency and alignment with a 1.5°C climate stabilization target.
Food Emissions 50 is seeking to engage “50 of the highest-emitting publicly traded food and agriculture companies in North America, with the goal of accelerating the transition to a net-zero emissions future in the global food and agriculture sector,” Boston-based Ceres announced in a release late last month.
The organization is encouraging institutional investors to begin pressuring companies like Walmart, General Mills, and Starbucks “to improve emissions disclosures, set ambitious emission reduction targets, and implement climate transition action plans in line with the Paris agreement,” the release states. Those big investors are well placed to drive change directly—for example, through shareholder votes—and indirectly by offering advocacy and education to the companies they do or might invest in.
An initial benchmark analysis released by Ceres shows just how much ground needs to be covered: “70% of the 50 companies do not disclose emissions from agriculture, and more than 80% do not disclose emissions from land use change.”
Furthermore, “more than 60% do not include any Scope 3 in their reduction targets.” Scope 3 includes indirect emissions that arise from an organization’s activity or the distribution or use of its products, rather from anything the company directly owns.
Among the details revealed in the benchmark analysis: food giants Mondelez and Starbucks are walking some of their talk on climate action by publicly disclosing Scope 3 emissions from agriculture and land use changes, and from the goods and services they buy. Their decarbonization targets include Scope 3 emissions and are aligned with 1.5°C.
Walmart, meanwhile, is making progress, now offers full disclosure of product and service emissions, and has emissions targets that extend to Scope 3 and are consistent with the 1.5°C goal. It has yet to disclose emissions from agriculture and land use, however.
Ceres names Brazil-based meat behemoth JBS as an organization with a lot of ground yet to cover—the company appears as a sea of red on the group’s accounting of how companies are doing in terms of transparency and emission reduction targets. Costco, food distribution giant Sysco, and plant protein juggernaut Beyond Meat also have some heavy lifting ahead to come up to par (the last, at least on the transparency front, according to a January post in Sustainable Review).
“High-emitting food companies have a significant role to play in achieving a net-zero emissions economy,” said Julie Nash, Ceres’ director of food and forests. “Moving top North American food companies to disclose and reduce supply chain emissions will have considerable ripple effects in the global food and agriculture sector.”