Ceres Launches Program to Help Food Sector Reach Paris Agreement Goals

The group says the global food system accounts for one-third of the world’s emissions, and it wants institutional investors’ help to engage the highest polluters.

Sustainability nonprofit organization Ceres has launched an initiative to engage 50 of the highest-polluting publicly traded food and agriculture companies in North America to set goals toward achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

The initiative, called Food Emissions 50, will involve institutional investors seeking commitments from companies to disclose greenhouse gas emissions across their entire value chain and to set science-based emission reduction targets aligned with the Paris Agreement.

Ceres said it is targeting the food sector because the world’s food system is responsible for approximately one-third of all global greenhouse gas emissions. It said the majority of the emissions are embedded in the production of key agricultural commodities and fall under scope 3, or indirect, emissions from the supply chain for companies that source, manufacture, distribute, and sell agricultural or food products.

According to Ceres, reaching the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels will not be possible without a significant cut in the food and agriculture sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“High-emitting food companies have a significant role to play in achieving a net-zero emissions economy,” Julie Nash, director of food and forests at Ceres, said in a statement. “Moving top North American food companies to disclose and reduce supply chain emissions will have considerable ripple effects in the global food and agriculture sector.”

In conjunction with the launch of the program, Ceres published an investor statement of support, and a list of the 50 companies it plans to engage. Ceres said because disclosure of full value chain emissions in the food sector is weak, it selected companies based on their high market capitalization and their exposure to the highest-emitting agricultural commodities. The organization also released an initial benchmark analysis of the companies’ scope 3 emissions disclosures and emissions reduction targets.

Ceres also developed a common high-level agenda for companies to cut emissions across the food supply chain. Specifically, the boards and senior management of the targeted companies will be expected to:

  • Disclose greenhouse gas emissions across their entire value chain and set science-based emission reduction targets aligned with the Paris Agreement;
  • Develop and disclose comprehensive climate transition action plans for reducing emissions in line with what is needed to limit warming to 1.5 °C; and
  • Implement the actions identified in those plans and disclose progress.

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