Big 10 Food Companies Must Do More on Climate Change, Says Oxfam

Oxfam is pointing the finger at the Big 10 food companies for not doing anywhere near enough to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Together, they emit more than Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway combined – 263.7 million tons a year.

Unilever, Coca-Cola, Nestle and Mars are the best of the bunch – but could do more – and Kellogg and General Mills are the worst. Other companies on the list are Danone, PepsiCo, Associated British Foods and Mondelez International.

They are capable of zeroing out another 80 million tons of emissions by 2020, says Oxfam, the equivalent of taking all the cars off the road in LA, Beijing, London and NYC.

About half the emissions come from their agricultural supply chains, which aren’t included in company climate targets.

Rainforests cleared for palm plantations in Indonesia:


"They must face up to the scale of greenhouse gas emissions produced through their supply chains, and address the deforestation and unsustainable land-use practices they allow to happen," says Oxfam in its report, Standing On The Sidelines.

Some are already feeling financial impacts of climate change:  Unilever says it’s losing $415 million a year and General Mills lost 62 days of production in the first quarter alone from extreme weather. 

"Too many of today’s food and beverage giants are crossing their fingers and hoping that climate change won’t disrupt the food system imagining somebody else will fix it. The "Big 10" companies generate over $1 billion a day and have great power to influence global food chains, says Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam.

The food industry needs to become a carbon sink not an emitter by mid-century, says Oxfam. It is calling on Kellogg, General Mills and Associated British Foods, in particular, to disclose agricultural emissions and their biggest polluting suppliers, as well as set targets to get emissions out of their supply chains. 

Oxfam’s investigation shows:

  • All the Big 10 recognize the need to reduce agricultural emissions in their supply chains – 7 annually measure and report on them, but not Kellogg, General Mills or Associated British Foods;
  • Only Unilever and Coca-Cola have emissions targets that for their supply chains, but none have clear targets specifically on agricultural emissions;
  • None require suppliers to set emissions targets;
  • All have targets to cut emissions from operations, but they aren’t tough enough. Unilever is alone in setting science-based targets.
  • Several have committed to ambitious timelines to end deforestation in their supply chains for palm oil but only Mars and Nestle extend these policies to other commodities that are drivers of deforestation and land use change;
  • An Indonesian company that sells palm oil to Cargill, a supplier of Kellogg and General Mills and other food industry giants, is allegedly involved in burning forests to produce palm oil, contributing to a massive forest fire that alone created greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the annual emission from 10.3 million cars;
  • With Unilever, Coca-Cola and Mars being the exceptions, the companies are not doing enough to publicly urge government and other businesses to do more to tackle climate change, including by challenging damaging or inadequate positions of trade associations that represent them.

Many of these companies are key contributors in the food industry’s fight against GMO labels: PepsiCo, Coca Cola, Nestle and General Mills.  

Read Oxfam’s report:

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