World's largest food supplier targets 25% emissions cut by 2035

The world's largest food and ingredient supplier, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), has set new emissions and energy targets which it claims are aligned with the Paris Agreement's 2C trajectory.

Pictured: Plants at one of ADM's soy plantations. The firm produces a swathe of commodities including oilseeds, corn, wheat flour and cocoa. 

Pictured: Plants at one of ADM's soy plantations. The firm produces a swathe of commodities including oilseeds, corn, wheat flour and cocoa. 

Under the new targets, which are set against a 2019 baseline, ADM will strive to reduce its absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 35% and its energy intensity – the amount of energy it consumes to produce one unit of product - by 15% by 2035.

ADM claims the targets are aligned with the Paris Agreement’s 2C trajectory but has not yet gained verification from the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

The new aims build on a previous sustainability strategy, the “15x20 plan”, implemented in 2011. ADM said it had updated its goals both because climate science has improved in recent years and because it met all of its original 2020 goals around GHG emissions, water and waste ahead of schedule.

In order to meet its new goals, ADM has said it will invest in transformation across four key areas: purchasing and generating renewable electricity; increasing the use of biofuels for heating and transport; transforming the transport fleet using a combination of electric vehicles (EVs), CNG-powered HGVs and LNG boats; and installing energy-efficient equipment at key locations.

These areas were identified as those most material in terms of emissions to ADM, and those where implementing changes are most financially viable. ADM worked with global engineering and professional services giant WSP to develop this pathway but has not yet produced a costed, time-bound roadmap containing all the specific actions it will need to take.

ADM’s chief executive and chairman, Jucan Luciano, said the new goals are “ambitious yet achievable” and take into account growing consumer demands for business action on climate change within the agri-food sector.

“The GHG emissions we’ll save will be the equivalent of those from charging every single smart phone on the planet 250 times,” he said. “This is going to have a real impact and is a key way in which we’re going to continue to give our customers an edge in meeting the market challenges of today and tomorrow.” 

A sector in the spotlight

The global agri-food sector has been placed firmly at the centre of climate discussions in recent months, given its historic and systemic problems with deforestation, high-carbon fuel use and hard-to-abate emissions from animal agriculture.

Research published last year by the IPCC concluded that food and drink production alone is has been the driver of 75% of deforestation by area size to date and that land use – mainly for agricultural purposes – currently accounts for 23% of global GHG emissions on an annual basis.

Moreover, the agri-food sector is widely regarded as one of the world’s most exposed to both physical climate risks such as droughts, floods and heatwaves and transition risks, as consumers shift towards plant-based diets.

In response to the challenge, ADM committed to end deforestation, peatland degradation and the over-exploitation of natural resources across its global supply chains in 2015.

Other big-name food brands, however,  have set approved emissions and energy targets in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C trajectory, which broadly translates to net-zero in or before 2050. Food majors with 1.5C targets include Unilever, Danone and Mars.

Sarah George



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