Big 10 food companies emit 'as much as 25th most polluting country'

The ten largest food and beverage companies, if combined, would be the 25th most polluting country in the world, according to a report by Oxfam.

The so-called “Big 10”, which include Associated British Foods, Coca-Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg, Mars, Mondelez International, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever, emit 263.7 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

This is more than Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway combined, according to the Oxfam report, ‘Standing on the Sidelines’, published today (20 May).

These ten companies could be doing a lot more to improve their environmental footprint but some have made notable advances, Oxfam says.

Unilever, Coca-Cola and Nestlé were the three most assertive in their policies to tackle climate change. Kellogg and General Mills were the two worst performers.

“The Big 10 companies generate over $1 billion a day but are failing to use their power responsibly and we will all suffer the consequences. Kellogg and General Mills in particular are not doing their part. These companies should be leading the fight to help stop climate change from making people hungry,” said Natalia Olonso, the head of Oxfam’s EU office.

Storms, floods, drought and changing weather patterns caused by climate change have put pressure on food prices, by devastating crop yields, for example. Much climate change has been attributed to man-made causes, such as industrial and agricultural activities and transport.

The report shows that climate change has also affected the revenues of the companies themselves, with Unilever saying that it loses $415 million (€303 million) a year and General Mills reporting the loss of 62 days of production in the first fiscal quarter of 2014 due to extreme weather conditions.

The Oxfam report also shows that about half of the food companies’ total emissions come from the supply chains involved in the production of agricultural materials, which are not included in the reduction targets some of the companies have set.

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