Food manufacturers

How ambitious are food manufacturers’ emissions targets?

Friday, April 22 was Earth Day. This year’s theme was Invest in our planetcalling on everyone, including government, citizens and businesses, to help fight climate change.

“If companies don’t act now, climate change will damage economies even more deeply, increase scarcity, drain profits and job prospects, and affect us all,” wrote Earth Day Network, the proponents of the annual event, on its website.

Only 100 companies have been responsible for more than 70% of emissions since 1988, i.e. a study of the international non-profit organization CDP found in 2017. In this light, pushing the private sector to help reduce emissions seems like a necessary step to reduce global emissions.

Blurry goals and greenwashing

Most companies have some form of climate strategy in place. However, without clear guidelines and accountability, there is a risk of unclear goals, empty promises and greenwashing.

Investigating the climate strategies of 25 major global companies, the non-profit NewClimate Institute found promises made in these public strategies are often ambiguous and emission reduction commitments are limited.

“All 25 companies assessed in this report are committed to some form of zero emissions, net zero or carbon neutral goal,” the researcher wrote in February. “But only three of the 25 companies (…) clearly commit to deep decarbonization of more than 90% of their full value chain emissions by their respective zero and zero emissions target years.”

In the absence of regulation, companies increasingly need to set clear and credible objectives. This is where independent certification schemes such as the Science Based Targets (SBTi) initiative come in.

The SBTi is a collaboration between the CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, the World Resources Institute and the World Wide Fund for Nature. More than 1,300 companies have joined science-based targets consistent with Paris Agreement goals and endorsed by the SBTi.

It should be noted, however, that joining the initiative is voluntary. Therefore, even companies that are part of the initiative with the lowest targets still indicate a willingness to reduce their emissions more than companies that have decided not to join.

Which companies have the most ambitious emissions targets?

just food analyzed companies’ emission reduction targets in the SBTi database. Because it can be difficult to compare goals across different companies and industries, the analysis only includes companies with absolute goals.

Absolute goals are only relative to a baseline, while intensity goals – those that have been excluded – are relative to a unit or economic output, for example, an emissions reduction per million dollars of profit.

The data shows that fewer companies are committed to Scope 3 than to Scopes 1 and 2, and that the targets set for Scope 3 are less ambitious.

Scopes are emission categories defined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, a framework for reporting greenhouse gas emissions from the private and public sectors. Scope 1 covers direct emissions from owned or controlled sources, Scope 2 covers indirect emissions – for example, from electricity generation – and Scope 3 covers all other emissions direct from the value chain.

Setting Scope 3 targets as a business is just as important, if not more so, than setting Scopes 1 and 2 targets, explains SBTi: “For the majority of sectors, the main sources of a company are located upstream and/or downstream of their core business.

Establishing Scope 3 emissions commitments is only the first step. Addressing them presents a myriad of challenges.

Taking the average of the companies’ stated goals in each sector indicates how ambitious each sector is compared to the others. The average target per sector was calculated by averaging the reduction target percentage and averaging the time between the base year and the target year.

Based on the average of the Scopes 1 and 2 objectives of 66 companies, the agri-food sector has undertaken to reduce its emissions by 43.5% in 11.5 years. That’s less ambitious than the average for all companies. For all companies in the database, the average target is a reduction of 44.6% over a 12-year period.

Among food manufacturers, Unilever plc had the highest commitment to Scope 1 and 2, with a target to reduce these emissions by 100% by 2030.

On the other hand, Cargill and Mondelez International aim to reduce their Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 10% by 2025.

The SBTi categorized each goal set by companies according to future trajectories. The trajectory may be either towards 1.5°C, well below 2°C, or 2°C above pre-industrial levels by 2050.

To avoid the most significant consequences of climate change, global temperature rise must remain below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2050. However, the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change evolution (IPCC) shows that the current trajectory will result in global warming between 2.2 and 3.5°C. In response to the urgent need to further reduce emissions, the SBTi will only accept “Scope 1 and 2 target submissions that are consistent with a 1.5°C trajectory” beginning July 15, 2022.

With a total of 40 companies, most with absolute and intensity targets in the food manufacturing sector are in line with a trajectory of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2050, while 26 companies would not be able to submit their targets in the future. SBTi standards.

Just Food Guide: The Road to Net Zero – Big Food’s Emissions Pledges

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