Food In Canada

Sustainable Change: An action plan to meet 2030 goals

By Cher Mereweather   

Sustainability Anthesis Provision Editor pick Greenhouse gas emissions

Photo © Smshoot/Adobe Stock

There are fewer than 100 months until 2030, the focus of a thousand and one climate and business targets that a moment ago probably seemed to you far away to be a cause for concern, but not outright urgency.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we need to reduce carbon emissions by 40 to 45 per cent by 2030 to avoid temperature increases of 1.5 C by the middle of the century.

Given the agri-food industry is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, is the world’s largest economic system and the industry at greatest risk, it feels more important than ever to take stock of how we are collectively doing on this journey to 2030.

Performance review

The World Benchmarking Alliance (a European nonprofit) recently published a report analyzing how the world’s top 350 agri-food companies, which represent half of the global food and agriculture revenue, are performing against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The findings are alarming. They are:

  • “The food industry is not taking environmental responsibility.”
  • “The food business is failing people.”
  • “Companies need to step up for a…decade of action.”

Those are just the titles of the key findings. Upon digging into the data, we find the majority of the 350 companies have no strategy in place for reducing risk of deforestation. Only 10 per cent can be sure their supply chains don’t contain child labour, and just seven per cent have science-based targets to reduce GHG emissions that are aligned to the 2030 Paris Agreement. This clearly shows the industry is not on track to meet SDGs.

From a purely Canadian perspective, the best Canadian company on the list (McCain) is ranked 55. What needs to change? We need to make it simple, easy and profitable for every CEO, CFO and entrepreneur to reduce their GHGs. We also need to do this together at an unprecedented scale and speed.

Action plan

I give you a sustainability action plan, so there’s no excuse for not implementing it.

Action Plan Step 1: Ask for help (this is the most important step in the whole process. You can’t and shouldn’t try to do this on your own).

Action Plan Step 2: Figure out your GHG levels. Water, energy, transport, waste… all emit GHGs. Use tools to calculate your current levels of emissions and focus your energies on Scope 1 (direct emissions from what you own or control) and Scope 2 (indirect emissions such as the purchase of electricity) to get your direct operations in order. You can then begin to focus on Scope 3 (i.e. your supply chain).

Action Plan Step 3: Set your target and commit to reducing emissions to that level by 2030. Then tell your teams, board, investors, customers and anyone else who needs to know.

Action Plan Step 4: Build your 100-month plan to get there.

The most important step in this process is the first one: ask for help from peers, colleagues, friends in food or even in other industries, as well as the myriad organizations and nonprofits who exist to support you in this work. Call me! Again, no-one needs to do this alone. We need to move quickly, and we need to be sharing knowledge.

With only seven per cent of our industry taking the 2030 goals seriously, we have a long way to go. I’m not prepared to entertain the idea that we won’t get there. The countdown is on, let’s do this together.

Cher Mereweather, CEO of Anthesis Provision, is a Canadian-based food industry sustainability expert.

This article was originally published in the February/March 2022 issue of Food in Canada.


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