Oxfam, May 21, 2014
Climate change threatens the world;s food and beverage industry like few other sectors of business. It is a major risk to food supply chains, to consumer demands and, ultimately, to companies' future profitability.
The Big 10 food and beverage companies -- Associated British Foods (ABF), Coca-Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg, Mars, Mondelez International, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever -- are significant emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs) across their global operations.
If together they were a single country, these 10 famous companies would be the 25th most polluting country in the world, emitting more GHGs (263.7 million tons per annum) than Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway combined. They are not doing nearly enough to cut their own carbon footprint.
But worse, they are failing to use their experience, leadership, and power to transform their own industry and push for the level of climate action the world needs. With a few notable exceptions, the Big 10 are being silent accomplices to this unfolding crisis. It is a serious charge because these companies should be fully aware of the impact that climate change is having on the planet's food system, given their dominance and reach into it. Two companies in particular, Kellogg and General Mills, are clear laggards among the Big 10. Both companies are highly vulnerable to climate impacts but also well positioned to lead the industry towards a more sustainable future.
Climate change is contributing to storms, floods, drought, and shifting weather patterns. These are causing crop failures, food price spikes, and supply disruptions. The end result will be more poverty and hunger. By 2050, there could be an extra 25 million malnourished children under the age of 5 because of climate change,and 50 million more hungry people.
This is the human dimension of the climate change crisis that is already unfolding. The poorest, most vulnerable people are being hit first and worst. But all of us will be affected. In major markets like the US and the UK, Oxfam calculates that climate change will drive up the retail price of products like General Mills' Kix cereal by up to 24 percent and Kellogg Corn Flakes by as much as 44 percent over the next 15 years. Such retail price hikes are the consequence of rising prices of commodities like corn and rice, projected to double by 2030, with half the price rise due to climate change.