Coca-Cola, Unilever, Nestlé and 70 other major food brands already are engaging suppliers on managing climate change, but much work remains to uncover this specific but significant area of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new CDP report.
The biggest source of food-related greenhouse gas emissions occur in the agricultural production portion of producer's supply chains, but less than a quarter of the major brands that disclosed to CDP this year reported their indirect emissions from agricultural production.
With emissions from agricultural production responsible for 10-14 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the lack of data from companies on this area suggests that at least 10 percent of global emissions are being unaccounted for, the report says.
The forgotten 10%: Climate mitigation in agricultural supply chains looks at how some of the most recognizable household brands are managing climate change. It draws on data collected by 97 food, beverage and tobacco companies on behalf of 822 institutional investors that represent over a third of the world's invested capital.
There is a clear business case for these companies to act, the report claims. Over a third of the 97 brands disclosing to CDP report lower costs from implementing climate change-related agricultural management practices. Likewise, well over three quarters of the reported climate-linked agricultural practices resulted in two or more benefits for farms and their suppliers, such as soil quality improvements, water savings and yield increases.
The agricultural sector is a major contributor to climate change, coming just behind the energy sector in its impact on global emissions, according to CDP. It also is one of the most at risk: over 90 percent of companies tell CDP that their business is vulnerable to physical climate change impacts.
Increasing extreme weather events and droughts — including the drought in California, which is costing the agricultural sector over $2 billion and counting — serve as a stark reminder that these brands must move now to secure their future financial viability, the report says.
Last week, General Mills announced a commitment to reduce absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent across its full value chain over the next 10 years. The commitment was calculated using science-based methodology to achieve a level of emission reductions that science suggests is necessary to sustain the health of the planet.