How to measure food sector supply chain CO2 emissions

10 December 2018

More companies in the food sector will need to take steps to measure and reduce supply chain carbon emissions, according to non-profit Ceres.

The organisation has released a tool Measure the Chain: Tools for Assessing GHG Emissions in Agricultural Supply Chains, which aims to improve disclosure and mitigation of supply chain emissions in the food sector, known as scope 3 emissions.

Scope 3 emissions from 15 major food companies that disclosed in 2017 amounted to 629.9m tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

This is equal to annual emissions from 156 coal-fired power plants or 70.9bn gallons of gasoline. 

“The data is clear that agriculture supply chains are major contributors to climate change,” said Julie Nash, director of food and capital markets at Ceres.

“With recent advancements, food companies have guidance and tools to measure these supply chain emissions.

“Many iconic food brands are already disclosing supply chain emissions and setting targets to reduce them. More companies will need to do the same.”

summer 2018 survey conducted by Ceres found that less than one-third of the 50 largest food and beverage companies in the US and Canada publicly disclose emissions from agricultural production.

Out of the 50 companies analysed only 30 have active, company-specific greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets for their own operations. Among these 30 companies, only 15 provided scope 3 emissions.

Only eight of these companies, in turn, have explicit targets to reduce these emissions.

Ceres’ tool provides an overview of methodologies and greenhouse gas (GHG) calculation tools available to companies for estimating emissions from agriculture and land use change (LUC).

The tools include:

•         Cool Farm Tool: a GHG calculator to assess greenhouse gas emissions and carbon stock changes at the product or farm level. Intended for use by agricultural producers and suppliers, it allows the user to calculate GHG emissions resulting from the production of a crop or livestock product from a given farm in a given year.

•         Agricultural Life Cycle Inventory Generator: calculates life-cycle inventory data of the crop products and allows companies to generate custom product-level emission factors.

•         Gleam: a life cycle assessment model for the livestock sector which covers 11 livestock commodities at a global scale. Ceres believes a newer Excel-based version called Gleam-i is more user-friendly and accessible than its predecessor, which was not widely available to the public.
•         The BigChain Tool: identifies deforestation risks associated with the sourcing of raw materials using company-specific information on the commodity in question, amount outsourced, and region.

•         The Direct Land Use Change Assessment Tool: estimates LUC and resulting emissions associated with commodity crop production using national average data from multiple sources. The tool is not available for public use but instead is available via Blonk Consultants. However Ceres advises that unlike some other tools it can assess types of LUC beyond deforestation.

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