What is the greenwashing trick?
Big Livestock companies have found an effective way to avoid taking responsibility for their climate impact: they simply don’t measure or report on it.
Livestock companies downplay the climate impact of their products by narrowing which activities count towards their emissions. Recent analysis of the 50 largest meat and dairy companies from North America and Europe show that more than a third of them have not publicly published their sustainability targets, and only 10% have published their Scope 3 target emissions.
What are Scope 3 emissions?
Scope 3 emissions are the indirect emissions that come from a company’s supply chain. For Big Livestock companies, Scope 3 emissions would, for example include the production of soya for animal feed, and the methane-releasing burps of their livestock. If the number of animals in a supply chain increases, so will a company’s scope 3 emissions. For industrial livestock companies, animals in their supply chains make up 90-97% of their emissions – but this number is rarely reported voluntarily, and isn’t legally required to be reported.
How is this trick used?
If a Big Livestock company is not publishing their Scope 3 emissions (and around 90% of them aren’t), then they are conveniently ignoring their principal source of emissions. By leaving these emissions out of company reports – and sometimes failing to track them at all – these businesses can claim that they are on track to meet ambitious climate goals, while those goals are essentially meaningless.
By failing to measure or account for these Scope 3 emissions, companies are hiding their true climate impact from the public. In the instances that they do report these emissions, less attention is given to measures to reduce them, but instead they show all their efforts to reduce the 5% of their emissions.
Why is this bad for the climate crisis?
When companies don’t account for 90% of their emissions, those greenhouse gases don’t just disappear – they continue to be emitted into the atmosphere with little to no measurement or accountability. It’s impossible to know how much big meat and dairy companies are cutting their emissions, if we don’t know the scale of their contribution to climate change in the first place.
To stay below 1.5 degrees of warming (or even below 2 degrees) a reduction of emissions is necessary now. And to reduce those emissions, they must be fully counted, shared and verified.