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'Hidden' McDonald's and Nestle suppliers ignore climate risks

by Thin Lei Win | @thinink | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 4 September 2019 18:14 GMT

A burger is seen at a McDonald's restaurant in Hong Kong July 27, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

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Lack of action by meat, fish and dairy firms to curb emissions and prevent deforestation could undermine commitments by high-street brands, index warns

By Thin Lei Win

ROME, Sept 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Three-quarters of the world's largest meat, fish and dairy firms do not measure their greenhouse gas emissions, undermining the climate promises of high-street brands they supply, including McDonald's and Nestle, an investor index said on Wednesday.

It also found that none of the 50 major meat and dairy producers in the index had any commitments to halt deforestation in areas where they buy soy or cattle, despite growing calls to stop the clearance of the Amazon for cattle ranches and farms.

"From cage-free eggs to plant-based burgers, high-street food brands have made bold commitments on sustainability in recent years," said Jeremy Coller of the Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR) network, which developed the index.

"It is the companies hidden upstream in the meat and dairy supply chain who face the most significant climate and public health risks ... Our research shows that the largest animal protein producers have failed to deliver any solutions."

McDonald's did not immediately respond to requests for comment but the fast-food company said in 2018 that it - along with its franchisees and suppliers - aimed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by one-third by 2030.

A Nestle spokesman said the world's largest food company was "committed to fostering responsible environmental and social practices" across its supply chain.

As extreme weather events become more common due to climate change, the world needs to change how it manages land and produces and eats food to curb global warming, the United Nations said last month.

Livestock - largely cattle raised for beef and milk - are responsible for about 14.5% of global greenhouse emissions, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says.

The index also found one-quarter of the top firms invest in plant-based foods, which scientists say are important to limit planet-heating emissions and to hold off climate change impacts ranging from worsening floods and droughts to growing hunger.

The $16 trillion-backed FAIRR network, which educates investors about the risks of intensive animal farming, is campaigning for fast food giants to publicly set and monitor emissions targets.

It said the meat and dairy firms in the index urgently needed to address climate risk and deforestation "to prevent the commitments of their customers, the high-street brands, from becoming nothing but fake promises".

(Reporting By Thin Lei Win @thinink, Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, and property rights. Visit www.trust.org)

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