10 Food and Drink Companies That Are Making Climate Change Worse

The ‘big 10’ global food and drink companies together emit more greenhouse gases than the Nordic countries and would rank as the 25th most polluting country in the world if grouped together, the international charity and agency Oxfam claims in a new report on Tuesday.

In a highly critical overview of their climate change policies, it warns the companies – which represent the world’s most famous household brands – that they are risking financial ruin if they do not do more to use their clout and size to tackle the climate crisis.

The companies are Associated British Foods, Coca-Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg, Mars, Mondelez International, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever.

The new report, Standing on the Sidelines, says together they churn out more than Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland’s annual total of 250 million tons of greenhouse gases, according to its analysis of the Carbon Disclosure Project for company emissions and the most recent data for country emissions.

Oxfam insists the companies are capable of cutting their combined emissions by 80 million tons by 2020 and says they are not doing enough despite the threat climate change poses to the sustained supply of ingredients needed for their products, their economic might and the need to feed a growing population. Between them, they generate £650m ($1.1bn) a day in revenues, equivalent to the total GDP of all the world’s lower income countries.

Oxfam singled out Kellogg and General Mills as two of the worst on climate change policies and is calling on these “clear laggards” to lead the sector towards more responsible policies and practices.

Both have huge UK food businesses – Kellogg best-known for its Corn Flakes and Rice Crispies cereals and General Mills for Haagen-Dazs and Jus-Rol – and Oxfam urges them to disclose their agricultural emissions and biggest polluting suppliers, and set targets to cut emissions from their supply chains.

The Big 10 rated on policies to address agricultural emissions in supply chains
The 'big 10' rated on policies to address agricultural emissions in supply chains, by Oxfam Photograph: /Oxfam

Climate change is linked to storms, floods, droughts and shifting weather patterns, which affect food supplies and put pressure on prices, causing more hunger and poverty. Oxfam projects that the price of products like corn flakes could spike by up to 44% in 15 years because of climate change.

Oxfam’s director of UK campaigns and policy Sally Copley said: “By failing to cut emissions adequately the ‘big 10' are putting short-term profits ahead of the long-term interests of both themselves and the rest of us. Their influence and wealth are the perfect ingredients to stop putting their businesses at risk and making climate change worse."

Kellogg said: “Kellogg is committed to doing what’s right for the environment and society. As part of this commitment, we are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – along with energy use and water use – by 15–20% at our manufacturing facilities by 2015. Oxfam has recognised our commitment to working with global palm oil suppliers to source fully traceable palm oil, produced in a manner that’s environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable."

General Mills said: "Climate Change is a serious issue, and as a food company we are very aware of the impact that climate change could have on agriculture and the world’s food supply. General Mills has been actively engaged in positively influencing climate policy and has been taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its operations for many years."

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.