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Climate Action 100+ sets new decarbonisation expectations for food and beverage industry in line with Paris Agreement goals

24th August 2021

Ceres and PRI publish sector strategy for the global food and beverage industry, outlining recommended investor expectations for actions companies must take to transition to a net zero economy

This content was originally published on Ceres.org and unpri.org

Investors involved in Climate Action 100+, the world’s largest investor engagement initiative on climate change responsible for over USD $55 trillion in assets, released today a new set of expectations that lay out the necessary actions for the food and beverage sector to make progress towards achieving a net zero future in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Outlined in Global Sector Strategies: Recommended Investor Expectations for Food and Beverage, the investor expectations aim to inform and improve constructive engagements between investors and food and beverage companies, which are responsible for some of the highest levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

The sector strategy report was developed by Ceres and PRI, two of the founding investor networks of the Climate Action 100+ initiative. It comes weeks after scientists warned that the planet is at risk of failing to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and the necessary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions without immediate policy changes in the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report.

 

Food and beverage sector emissions account for about a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, with most of the emissions coming from the supply chains of food and beverage companies. Neither the individual companies nor the sector as a whole will be able to meet science-based emissions reduction targets without addressing supply chain upstream emissions from agriculture and land use change.

”The scale of the food and beverage supply chain means that the sector faces extensive challenges around addressing emissions and moving towards net-zero,” said PRI CEO and global Steering Committee member of Climate Action100+ Fiona Reynolds. “We’re encouraging companies in the sector, and investors working with those companies, to be aware of and take action on addressing emissions throughout these supply chains. This includes committing to targets around reducing the impact of emissions related to agriculture and livestock, securing green transportation and distribution of products and sourcing sustainable packaging solutions, among others. We’re urging the sector to take note of the report released today and to work collaboratively to embed climate considerations into their operations.”

As the Climate Action 100+ report points out, in order to align with the IEA’s Net Zero by 2050 scenario, scope 3 land-based emissions must be reduced by 85% compared to a business as usual scenario. The sector is currently not on track to meet that target by some margin, with little evidence of specific strategies to measure and reduce scope 3 emissions. Scope 1 and 2 emissions, which make up about 17% of food and beverage sector emissions, must also be reduced as much as possible.

Mitigating emissions in this sector presents companies with a significant challenge, in addition to enormous business and environmental opportunities. According to the report, eliminating deforestation, restoring previously cleared land, and employing agricultural practices that mitigate and sequester carbon alone all have the potential to mitigate more emissions than implementing renewable energy technologies across all sectors.

To accelerate coordinated action across the value chain and address the sector’s unique challenges and opportunities, Ceres, PRI, and Climate Action 100+ investors, in consultation with external sector experts and food and beverage companies, have outlined priority actions for individual companies, the broader industry, and investors. These engagement recommendations span every part of the food and beverage supply chain – from improved sourcing practices to eco-friendly packaging.

Key expectations of companies include:

  • Integrating supply chain climate action into corporate decision-making processes and procurement policies
  • Incentivizing and supporting agricultural producers to reduce the climate impact of crop and livestock production and enhance agricultural carbon sequestration
  • Aligning capital expenditures, product development, and R&D with a 1.5-degree scenario
  • Transitioning to more efficient and renewable energy use and transportation across operations, distribution, and supply chains
  • Improving processing, manufacturing, and packaging practices to reduce emissions and food loss
  • Partnering with peers, suppliers, and policymakers to drive transformations across the sector

Investors have an important role to play in accelerating the net zero transition within the food and beverage industry by engaging companies both within and outside the sector on key actions to support the net zero transition. This includes engagement with chemical companies that produce agricultural inputs such as seeds and synthetic fertilizers, machinery companies that produce agricultural and farm machinery, and banks that play a key role in financing agricultural commodity production in emerging markets.

“Climate change poses a series of material risks to the food and beverage sector — to avert its worst impacts and enable our society to achieve goals for a net zero future, swift action is needed across the sector, not simply on the margins,” said Jared Fernandez, ESG Analyst and Proxy Voting Manager at Boston Trust Walden. “This requires moving beyond risk mitigation to innovation—engaging farmers to reduce manufacturing and production impacts and reorienting capital allocation to businesses aligned with a 1.5-degree scenario. The Climate Action 100+ Food and Beverage Global Sector Strategy report provides investors credible, actionable information to engage and accelerate a transition within the sector, which in turn helps mitigate climate-related risks at the portfolio level.”

“Because the food and beverage sector is behind over a quarter of total greenhouse gas emissions, the companies have not only the responsibility but opportunity to reduce these emissions,” said Natalie Wasek, Shareholder Advocacy Manager at Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investing. “Investors have urged companies to adopt reduction targets, but without full sector and supply chain collaboration, the decarbonization transition has not been possible. Investors are looking for action plans to hold these companies accountable for reaching their targets. The Climate Action100+ initiative can help make this happen.”

The sector strategy report is part of a wider new workstream from Climate Action 100+, a globally coordinated effort led by its founding investor networks, in consultation with lead investors, signatories, external experts and focus companies. It marks the first time Climate Action 100+ investors have collectively engaged with specific sectors on climate action, and have facilitated a regular dialogue to discuss how cross-sector collaboration is required to accelerate interim decarbonisation targets.

Global Sector Strategies for the aviation and steel sectors were published earlier in 2021. In the coming months, the investor networks that coordinate Climate Action 100+ will release additional strategy reports for other key sectors. The global recommendations of each strategy will be tailored into region and sector-specific actions that investors can take to sectors and focus companies in their regions.

About Ceres

Ceres is a nonprofit organization working with the most influential capital market leaders to solve the world’s greatest sustainability challenges. Through our powerful networks and global collaborations of investors, companies and nonprofits, we drive action and inspire equitable market-based and policy solutions throughout the economy to build a just and sustainable future. For more information, visit ceres.org and follow @CeresNews.

About PRI

The Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) is the world’s leading proponent of responsible investment. Supported by the United Nations, it works to understand the investment implications of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors and to support its international network of investor signatories in incorporating these factors into their investment and ownership decisions. The PRI acts in the long-term interests of its signatories, of the financial markets and economies in which they operate and ultimately of the environment and society as a whole. Launched in New York in 2006, the PRI has grown to more than 4,000 signatories, managing over $121 trillion AUM.

About Climate Action 100+

Climate Action 100+ is the world’s largest investor engagement initiative on climate change. It involves more than 615 investors, responsible for over $55 trillion in assets under management. Investors are focused on ensuring 167 of the biggest corporate greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters take the necessary actions to align their business strategies with the goals of the Paris Agreement. This includes improving corporate governance, reducing GHG emissions, and strengthening climate-related financial disclosures.

The 167 companies include the initial 100 ‘systemically important emitters’, identified with the highest combined direct and indirect GHG emissions, and additional companies selected by investors as critical to accelerating the net zero transition.

Launched in 2017, Climate Action 100+ is coordinated by five investor networks: Asia Investor Group on Climate Change (AIGCC); Ceres (Ceres); Investor Group on Climate Change (IGCC); Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) and Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). These organisations, along with five investor representatives from AustralianSuper, California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), Gam Investments, Ircantec, and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Asset Management form the global Steering Committee for the initiative. Follow us on Twitter: @ActOnClimate100.