Global food firms unite to demand climate action

The chief executives of 10 multinational food and beverage companies including Mars, Nestlé and Unilever have come together to urge political leaders to forge a robust climate deal in Paris this December.

The companies have today (1 October) written a joint letter addressed to ‘US and global leaders’; impelling them to act swiftly and decisively on global warming, which poses a direct threat to global food supplies. (Scroll down to read letter).

They have also jointly pledged to boost their companies’ sustainability efforts; advocate enforceable, science-based carbon reduction targets, and share their own best practices to encourage other global companies to join their climate efforts.

Opportunity knocks

The letter, co-ordinated by sustainability advocacy organisation Ceres, states: “The challenge presented by climate change will require all of us – government, civil society and business – to do more with less. For companies like ours, that means producing more food on less land using fewer natural resources. If we don’t take action now, we risk not only today’s livelihoods, but also those of future generations.

“We are asking you to embrace the opportunity presented to you in Paris, and to come back with a sound agreement, properly financed, that can affect real change. We are ready to meet the climate challenges that face our businesses. Please join us in meeting the climate challenges that face the world.”

The signatories, which also includes General Mills, Kellogg Company and Danone, make three pledges within the letter. They say they will: –

Re-energize our continued efforts to ensure that our supply chain becomes more sustainable, based on our own specific targets;
Talk transparently about our efforts and share our best practices so that other companies and other industries are encouraged to join us in this critically important work;
Use our voices to advocate for governments to set clear, achievable, measurable and enforceable science-based targets for carbon emissions reductions.

Polman’s plea

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that, by 2030, the effects of global warming will be seen across a wide spectrum of crops in both arid and non-arid regions, with changes in temperature and rainfall patterns leading to food price rises of between 3% and 84% by 2050.

It is hoped that a bold, internationally binding agreement developed at the UN’s COP21 meeting in Paris in 60 days’ time could mitigate the effects of climate change by keeping global warming below the 2°C threshold.

Unilever’s chief executive Paul Polman, who last month received the United Nations’ Champion of the Earth Award, said: “Businesses have a responsibility to act but we can’t do it alone. Consistent and credible government policy signals are essential, which is why we are urging political leaders to take action.”

Many of the letter’s signatories have already set ambitious targets for reducing emissions and driving sustainable sourcing in their supply chains. Mars, Unilever and Nestlé, for example, have each pledged to achieve 100% percent renewable energy across their operations, through the RE100 initiative.

This is the second letter that has been sent by industry to policymakers on climate change in the space of 24 hours. A group of 28 aviation industry CEOs and association leaders have written to governments calling for stronger support to reduce the sector’s environmental footprint.

Luke Nicholls

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