The bosses of food companies including Danone, General Mills, Kellogg, Mars and Unilever have signed a letter agreeing to ‘reiterate their support’ for addressing climate change.
The ten companies – completed by Ben & Jerry’s, Clif Bar, Fetzer Vineyards, Stonyfield and New Belgium Brewing – said that they would ‘make real and lasting changes to how we do business’ and encouraged both governments and consumers to support efforts to improve food security and protect the environment.
The companies described the Paris Agreement, which commits governments to limiting greenhouse gas emissions and controlling the rate of increase in the planet’s temperature, as well as the speed at which it has been ratified, as ‘an incredible testament’ to the importance of the climate change issue and the United Nations’ response to it.
They were among the 14 signatories of a pledge to accelerate business action on climate change last year, organised by the sustainability organisation Ceres.
The leaders of Coca-Cola, Hershey, Nestlé USA and The Hain Celestial Group also signed that letter.
In a statement released this week to coincide with the COP22 conference on climate change, the ten executives said that action was needed to protect the global food system, which ‘is under pressure like never before’.
The letter read: “How do we feed the world’s growing population – estimated to exceed 9 billion by 2050 – while at the same managing agriculture and land-use change, which account for almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions? Unchecked, agricultural emissions will outstrip reductions from decarbonising the economy elsewhere, pushing us beyond the 2°C limit [in the Paris Agreement]. Agriculture-related emissions could take up the entire global greenhouse gas emissions budget by 2050.
“A food system already under pressure will become destabilised, placing livelihoods, farming communities, agricultural supply chains and consumers at risk. Food price shocks will increase as climate impact on yields become more acute.”
Last year, the companies made a number of commitments to support climate change action, including through better management of soils to help bring CO2 levels down, reclaiming degraded land to increase food production and improve the lives of farmers, halving food loss and waste to reduce emissions and improve incomes throughout the value chain, and by cracking down on deforestation and the land use pressure that drives it.
‘But it is clear,’ they have now said, ‘that we need to make a step change in the way we produce food’.
They have promised to reduce the environmental impact of their agricultural activity, improve the livelihoods and resilience of smallholders and women farmers, cut food loss and waste across their businesses, and promote better nutrition and more sustainable diets.
It is hoped that their actions will go some way to tackling an unstable climate and unsustainable food supply chain.
Paul Polman, chief executive officer of Unilever, said that the COP22 conference had ‘rightfully given agriculture and food security centre stage’ and that it was now time for businesses, policy makers and civil society to accelerate their efforts to reduce the climate impact of agriculture.
“This is an important moment in global political and economic history, and we absolutely must come together to solve the immense challenges facing the planet,” added Barry Parkin, chief sustainability officer for Mars. “Climate change, water scarcity and deforestation are serious threats to society. It is imperative that global businesses, like Mars, do their part to face down those threats.”
And Diane Holdorf, Kellogg’s chief sustainability officer, said: “The climate commitments made in Paris last year must now be implemented with urgency. Leadership through action is how we make transformative change across our food system. Kellogg Company has helped to improve the livelihoods of 15,000 smallholder farmers, meeting our commitment four years ahead of schedule. And we’ve committed to reduce emissions from our operations by 65% and to work with our direct suppliers to help reduce their emissions by 50% by 2050. As a global business, we are leading through action to address climate change.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019