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Carbon-Neutral Meat - Maple Leaf Hits A Milestone

What's happening? Canada's Maple Leaf Foods has announced it is carbon neutral. The firm has complied with the requirements of the Science-Based Target Initiative, cutting electricity use, reducing natural gas consumption and lowering water usage by more than 1.2 billion litres over the past four years. Maple Leaf has also invested in 10 high-impact environmental projects across North America to maintain its carbon neutral status.

Why does this matter? Maple Leaf is making the claim it is the world’s first major food company to attain carbon neutrality. Other food-producing firms, however, have already been certified as carbon neutral.

The UK’s Wessanen, for example, which owns the world’s largest fair-trade tea brand Clipper, has been certified with the global CarbonNeutral standard by Natural Capital Partners. The firm has pledged to operate on a zero-waste basis and offer 90% organic produce by 2025.

Maple Leaf has achieved carbon neutrality by both reducing its energy consumption and investing in carbon-offsetting initiatives. The latter, which is often pursued by corporates via the purchasing of carbon credits, has been criticised as being an imperfect approach to reducing the impact of emissions.

It’s often argued, despite their popularity with corporates, offsetting schemes don’t deliver the climate benefits they promise.  

The fact Maple Leaf, a packaged meats company, has been able to achieve carbon neutrality could raise a few questions about whether consumers really need to cut down on meat for environmental reasons.

Other major food conglomerates are also pursuing climate goals. Nestle, for example, hopes to achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The firm intends to reach this goal by introducing more plant-based products in-line with consumer preference, making use of 100% renewable energy and piloting carbon-capturing schemes among the farmers it works with.

Lateral thought from Curation – Plenty of attention is devoted to assessing and reducing the carbon footprint of food, but what about alcohol?

The rearing of crops which are fermented to produce the ethanol in alcoholic drinks has a profound environmental impact, with implications for both water supplies, emissions and biodiversity.

And that's without even considering the resources required to package, ship and refrigerate alcoholic drinks globally, with packaging accounting for 40% of Carlsberg's carbon footprint, for instance. The company recently developed a beer bottle made from paper, in an attempt to reduce its emissions.

Nick Finegold is Founder & CEO of Curation Corp, an emerging and peripheral risks monitoring service.

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