Climate Action Explained: A Must-Have Guide to Reducing Food Emissions

By Nicole Jenkins

Sustainability and procurement professionals at major food companies often tell us they are, quite simply, overwhelmed. Overall, they know what to do: Reduce emissions now. But there is a tsunami of information, often conflicting, on exactly how to weigh the multitude of possible solutions and actions to deliver the greatest impact across their unique value chain to achieve their goals.

The result? People tasked with the critical work of reducing food companies’ emissions are both inundated with information and also lacking the much-needed guidance to build a pathway to pursue a climate strategy swiftly and efficiently.

In this report, Environmental Defense Fund, along with experts at Deloitte, have provided example pathways for six key commodities aligned with the Science Based Targets initiative’s (SBTi) Forest, Land, and Agriculture (FLAG) guidance for food companies to more strategically work toward these ambitious climate targets.

Our new guide, Strategic Roadmaps for SBTi Forest, Land, & Agriculture Targets: Prioritizing Action for Impact, equips sustainability and procurement teams in the food sector with actionable guidance to progress toward SBTi goals. This strategic framework, which focuses on the largest sources of emissions by specific greenhouse gas (GHG), will enable companies to prioritize meaningful next steps and better plan the actions needed over the next decade to accelerate climate progress and meet today’s climate expectations.

Sign up for our webinar on May 9 for a deep dive with experts and food company sustainability leaders into the new must-have guidance for the food sector.

How Should Food Companies Prioritize Climate Action?

The SBTi FLAG guidance has become a predominant tool for food and agriculture companies looking to set ambitious climate targets. As a result, many food companies are now setting SBTi FLAG targets and in tandem establishing paths toward achieving them.

The SBTi FLAG commodity pathway allows companies to set near-term intensity targets for commodities that make up a substantial portion of their emissions footprint. However, when it comes to achieving these targets, there are many different and emerging solutions in the agricultural sector, which can make it difficult to decide what to prioritize. This guide breaks down, by commodity, the prioritization to help companies dive in where it matters most.

There’s another factor making food sector sustainability professionals’ jobs much harder: Their approach to looking at emissions footprints. Many companies still only analyze agricultural greenhouse gases (GHGs) in carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e). But because this can oversimplify important differences between key agricultural greenhouse gases, this approach doesn’t offer clarity on what climate interventions to focus on first. This makes crafting a sustainability strategy even more difficult.

A new approach is needed, and this how-to guide provides that framework. By breaking out prominent and potent agricultural GHGs—methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide—for six primary commodities as examples, our guide helps sustainability teams deliver a new approach to drive emissions reductions efficiently and in highest service to their climate strategy.

Reserve your spot in our May 9th webinar to dive into this vital sustainability guidance for the food industry, led by experts and influential leaders.

Why Should Food Companies Act on Climate Now?

Food companies’ supply chains depend on a stable climate. Yet drought, heatwaves, and wildfires are already threatening food supply chains around the world, and becoming more frequent as the planet warms. Research shows that extreme heat and global warming will increase inflationary pressures, hiking the cost of goods worldwide.

By following the examples in this guide to pull the most impactful levers to slow climate change, food companies will not only accelerate progress toward climate targets—they’ll also reduce the financial risks associated with rising global temperatures.

Leveraging key climate opportunities now is our best chance to reduce major risks to our agricultural system and corporate value chains, enhancing profitability and ability to adapt to a changing climate.

What Can Food Companies Do NOW to Drive Down Emissions?

The agriculture sector’s significant contribution to GHG emissions has been met with action by many food companies of all sizes that are motivated by the risk of environmental, social, and economic losses resulting from the immediate and near-term effects of a changing climate.

To meet this imperative, companies should prioritize 3 types of action:

  1. Act to implement scalable solutions
  2. Advocate to reduce barriers to adoption of solutions
  3. Advance promising solutions from R&D to commercialization

Our essential guide shares details on how to follow these three steps across six example commodities—wheat, corn, soy, beef, poultry, and dairy.

Taking these three types of actions in tandem and in a way that accounts for the strategic differences among agricultural greenhouse gases will enable companies to better target the largest emissions sources, taking the first big steps in the path towards meeting their climate targets and ultimately opening up opportunities for new and enhanced efforts to support swifter progress and drive greater impact.

Doing so will require supporting farmers and ranchers in practice adoption through technical and financial support that make trialing and implementing solutions sets more practical, attractive, and less risky.

Companies cannot afford to waste a moment in adopting more strategic and prioritized climate action to make food production sustainable for years to come – the continued ability of our food system to support a growing population depends on it.

Read the essential new guide today, and click here to secure your place for the May 9th webinar, where you’ll gain valuable insights into this new guidance for the food sector.