Food and drink companies to fall short on carbon reduction

The food and drink sector is not on track to meet its Paris Agreement goals. A lack of standards and tried and tested solutions, as well as challenges around scope 3 emissions, are holding back progress, according to research by AlixPartners. Since the 2015 agreement, emissions have been cut by just 1%.

Using World Benchmarking Alliance data on 235 agri-food companies in the US and EMEA, as well as the commitments made by the 13 largest food and beverage companies in the West, the consultancy estimated that carbon emissions should fall by 29% between 2019 and 2030. That figure is short of the global industry goal of 38% under the UN climate agreement and the science-based targets initiative. 

The researchers also conducted interviews with 200 sustainability and operations executives from retailers, manufacturers and suppliers. From these conversations they deduced that the gap to the target “widens further”, with a 25% reduction a more realistic outcome.

Indeed, fewer than 50% of the experts were confident of hitting emissions reduction targets for scopes 1 and 2. For scope 3 this fell to well below 25% overall, dropping to 4% among retailers specifically. Difficulties in measuring these emissions have served to exacerbate this lack of confidence, the consultants said. AlixPartners called for more collaboration across the industry. 

“Consumer-products companies need to determine what they need to do and who within their business needs to act within the next 12 months and then within the next 24 months,” said partner Andy Searle. “The ‘doing’ needs to be transferred from the sustainability teams to those in operational roles, and with those in operational roles empowered to take action and goals embedded across the company’s organisational culture. Speeding-up and scaling-up will be vital to driving a successful outcome,” he added.

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