The Critical Role of the Food and Beverage Sector in Achieving Net Zero

29 September 2021
Elliott Davis Brad Spangler

The global food system is responsible for approximately one third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. That means what we eat, where our food comes from, how it is produced, and how much food we waste are significant drivers of climate change—and that without concerted action from food and beverage companies, achieving a net zero emissions future is not possible.

As the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 rapidly approaches, Meridian is working on a variety of projects to address the Agriculture, Food, and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector’s impact on the climate – from designing effective nature-based solutions, to curtailing capital flows that fuel deforestation, to tackling crimes that undermine climate and sustainability goals. Climate change demands urgent action from everyone: companies, governments, and civil society. Our work with one of our partners, Ceres, is helping drive corporate climate action forward through investor education and engagement on this critical issue.

With the support of Meridian, Ceres and Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) recently released the Climate Action 100+ Global Sector Strategies: Recommended Investor Expectations for Food and Beverage report. Climate Action (CA) 100+ is an investor-led initiative to ensure the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters act on climate change. This CA 100+ report shared critical context on the food and beverage sector’s climate impact, including that land-based emissions must fall by 85% (compared to a business-as-usual scenario) by 2050 to align with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Because the food and beverage sector is behind over a quarter of total greenhouse gas emissions, the companies have not only the responsibility but opportunity to reduce these emissions. Investors have urged companies to adopt reduction targets, but without full sector and supply chain collaboration, the decarbonization transition has not been possible. Investors are looking for action plans to hold these companies accountable for reaching their targets. The Climate Action 100+ Initiative can help make this happen.

– Natalie Wasek
Shareholder Advocacy Manager at Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investing

Investors play an important role in formulating company priorities by incentivizing their leadership to mitigate risks the company faces. In the food and beverage sector, failing to address value chain emissions from agriculture and land use will increasingly expose companies to risks associated with climate change, such as supply chain disruptions and regulation. CA 100+ supports investor engagements with companies to drive the business transition to a lower carbon economy. This report helps investors by outlining key actions food and beverage companies can take to reduce emissions, along with topics investors can raise with leadership to drive change.

Ceres partnered with Meridian to gather expert insights, facilitate stakeholder review of the report, and support additional research. We convened a scientific advisory committee of civil society experts to review the data and information in the strategy to ensure alignment with state-of-the-art practices and related messaging. Meridian helped shape recommended investor expectations for corporation action in the food and beverage sector.

This report is the first phase of Meridian’s food and beverage sector net zero work with Ceres. In the coming months, we will be diving into research on high-interest topics related to different emission mitigation pathways in the sector—the results of which will inform another report from Ceres in 2022 focused specifically on actions North American food and beverage companies can take. Stay tuned for more updates!

Read the Report

Learn more about key actions food and beverage companies can take to reduce emissions and topics investors can raise to drive change.