Oxfam accuses food industry of fuelling climate change

The “Big 10” food and beverage companies emit so much greenhouse gas that, if they were a single country, they would be the 25th most polluting in the world. Kellogg and General Mills are two of the worst climate offenders, says an Oxfam report released yesterday.

Oxfam’s “Standing on the Sidelines” looks at the social and environmental policies of the world’s biggest ten food and beverage companies: Associated British Foods, Coca-Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg, Mars, Mondelez International, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever. Together they emit 263.7 million tonnes of greenhouse gases – more than Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway combined.

Oxfam believes that the companies should be able to cut their combined emissions by a further 80 million tonnes by 2020. This would be equivalent to taking all of the cars in Los Angeles, Beijing, London, and New York off the road.

But according to the report, most of these companies are failing to do their part to effectively reduce their emissions. It singles out Kellogg and General Mills as two of the worst when it comes to the climate for failing to disclose their agricultural emissions or who are their biggest polluting suppliers and for failing to set targets to cut emissions from their supply chains. The report mentions an Indonesian company that sells palm oil to Cargill, a supplier to food industry giants including Kellogg and General Mills, that is allegedly involved in burning forest land to produce palm oil and contributing to a massive forest fire that alone created greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the annual emissions from 10.3 million cars.

The irony is that the food and beverage industry is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Storms, floods, droughts and shifting weather patterns affect food supplies and puts pressure on prices. Some of the “Big 10” companies have even admitted that climate change is harming them financially. For instance, General Mills reported losing 62 days of production in the first fiscal quarter of 2014 alone because of extreme weather conditions caused by climate change, which products such as Kellogg’s Corn Flakes could spike by up to 44 per cent in the next 15 years alone due to climate change, claims Oxfam.

“The food industry has a moral imperative and a business responsibility to dramatically step up its efforts to tackle climate change,” said Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima. “These companies should be leading the fight to help stop climate change from making people hungry.


Photo credit. David Gilbert/RAN/Creative Commons

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