Tyson Foods sets global net-zero target for 2050

Tyson Foods produces around one-fifth of all the beef

The business revealed the major new commitment through the latest iteration of its annual Sustainability Progress Report. The report details Tyson Foods’ progress towards existing science-based targets to reduce absolute emissions by 30% by 2030, against a 2018 baseline, but states that the business no longer feels that alignment with the Paris Agreement’s 2C trajectory is ambitious enough, in light of updated scientific research since 2018.

To develop new interim goals aligned with 1.5C, the business will update its global baseline emissions figures by the end of 2023 and work with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

But, based on existing figures, Tyson Foods has already mapped four priority ‘focus areas’ for reducing emissions. These relate to high-emitting and/or hard-to-abate parts of the value chain.

The first focus area is reducing emissions in operations through energy efficiency measures and renewable energy procurement. On the latter, there is a commitment to meet 50% of US-based operational electricity demand with renewables this decade. Lessons learned will then be used to help global operations follow suit. There is no confirmation on reaching 100% renewable electricity.

Deforestation and land management are the second and third focus areas. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that land use currently accounts for almost one-quarter (23%) of human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and that agriculture has driven 75% of deforestation globally to date.

On deforestation, the new headline commitment is to deliver a deforestation-free network of global supply chains by 2030. A 2019 assessment by PROFOREST found that 94% of Tyson Foods’ expansive supply chain network is at no to low risk of deforestation, but this will need to be brought to 100%, and new measures for identifying and remediating specific breaches will need to be developed.

On land management, the Sustainability Progress Report reveals that Covid-19-related disruptions left Tyson Foods unable to fully deliver a commitment to improve environmental land practices across two million acres of corn by 2020. It will now increase the number of acres for a new 2025 target and will also expand an existing target to implement sustainable beef grazing practices across five million acres, also with a 2025 deadline. Recognising that animal feed has been linked to deforestation and poor land use management, there is also a new target to procure 100% sustainably sourced feed globally by the end of the decade.

The fourth and final focus area for delivering net-zero is climate policy. Tyson Foods has stated that it will “continue to join alliances, such as the Net Zero Business Alliance, that encourage companies and policymakers to advocate for further action to support and incentivise climate commitments” and continue to “voice support for legislation on the local, state and federal levels that champion climate policies and legislation”. There is no information, however, about whether the business will leave any partnerships or coalitions found to be taking a neutral or opposing stance to tougher climate policies.

The news comes shortly after JBS, the world’s largest protein producer, announced the issuance of a $1bn sustainability-linked bond. Proceeds raised will support JBS to deliver its own 2040 net-zero target.

ESG hub

To coincide with its Sustainability Progress Report and net-zero target setting, Tyson Foods has launched a new online environmental, social and governance (ESG) ‘hub’.

The site, the business claims, “provides stakeholders with in-depth background and performance data on the three focus areas of our sustainability strategy, as well as other ESG frameworks and reference sources”.

It includes a link to annual reports, as well as policies on governance, natural resources, animal welfare and ‘people’, which covers employees, consumers and communities.

In the wake of Covid-19, many large businesses and major investors are choosing to use ESG to describe activities that may once have been badged as CSR or responsible business. The latest edition of the Carrots and Sticks database, which analyses corporate reporting frameworks, found that ESG disclosure is becoming mainstream globally. Businesses to have adopted the approach over the past year include Kraft Heinz and Kao Corporation.

Sarah George

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