EDF Climate Corps Launches Food and Agriculture Pilot Program

By Mali’o Kodis and Katie Anderson

Food and agriculture is a significant contributor to climate change, emitting a whopping 30% of global emissions, approximately the same size as the transportation sector. As companies continue to pledge progress on their science based targets, it becomes crucial that the private sector focus on Scope 3 – emissions from their supply chains. Addressing the climate solutions within animal agriculture is challenging, and often requires a dedicated team of experienced individuals. Without this capacity and expertise, many companies are unable to advance their agriculture climate strategies efficiently and require additional support to drive progress.

That’s why EDF’s Climate Corps graduate fellowship program is launching the Animal Agriculture pilot program during the summer of 2023. The pilot will embed fellows within companies that have a significant footprint from animal agriculture, like restaurant chains, grocery retailers, meat and dairy companies, cooperatives, and other companies in the food and agriculture sectors. The aim of the pilot is to help those organizations reduce emissions and implement high impact sustainability solutions.

The importance of focusing on Scope 3 emissions

For most food and beverage companies, the majority of emissions come from their supply chains – commonly referenced as Scope 3 emissions.  Research has found that of the top 50 U.S. food and beverage companies reporting comprehensive carbon footprints, Scope 3 accounts for 89% of total reporting emissions. It will be crucial for companies that rely on the production, processing, and selling of animal agricultural products to reduce their Scope 3 emissions to achieve ambitious climate targets.

One of the major greenhouse gasses emitted in animal agriculture is methane. An extremely potent greenhouse gas, methane has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in the short term. This means cutting methane emissions is one of the fastest ways for businesses to make progress toward their sustainability targets –  the IPCC calls for a 30% reduction in agricultural methane emissions by 2030.

Where Climate Corps comes in

Climate Corps connects graduate students that have sustainability expertise with companies in need of a capacity boost to set and meet emissions reductions goals. The program provides extensive training and support to tackle issues like supply chain engagement and Scope 3 emissions that occur in the food and agriculture industries. 

Hiring a Climate Corps fellow can allow a company – especially those faced with tackling Scope 3 emissions – to overcome barriers like expertise and capacity. Fellows are specifically trained to implement food and agriculture emission reduction strategies. 

Fellows could support in any of the 3 following areas:

1. Alignment with standards/guidances. With new Science Based Targets FLAG guidance, companies are looking to set greenhouse gas emissions goals aligned with the new rules.

2. Stakeholder engagement. Building momentum around emissions reductions goals and activities is critical – with both internal and external stakeholders. 

3. Strategic roadmapping. Setting a commodity specific or methane specific emission reduction target is one of many steps on the pathway to net zero emissions.   

Is your company tackling the robust challenge of reducing emissions in Scope 3? Apply to host a Climate Corps fellow by completing this application by February 1.