Nestlé and Unilever React to Climate Report

A recent report released by the NewClimate Institute has accused big companies like Nestlé and Unliever of putting out ambitious sounding carbon goals that have very low integrity. The food giants, who have both made net zero pledges, have rejected this conclusion.

The Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor was conducted by non-profit organisations New ClimateInstitute and Carbon Market Watch, which said the 25 firms analysed accounted for 5 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions.

It looked at firms’ publicly stated strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in order to reach net zero. Companies set their own targets and the study gave each firm an ‘integrity’ rating. You can read about the report here.

“Setting vague targets will get us nowhere without real action and can be worse than doing nothing if it misleads the public. Countries have shown that we need a fresh start when adopting the Paris Agreement, and companies need to reflect this in their own actions,” noted Gilles Dufrasne from Carbon Market Watch.

“Nestlé’s interim emission reduction target of 50 percent by 2030 may really mean only an 18 percent reduction compared to its entire 2018 emissions footprint. This is not clearly consistent with the information that Nestlé presents in its own net-zero roadmap publication.”

This means that id Nestlé’s reduction target is compared to where emissions would be with no action taken (business-as-usual) instead of where emissions were in 2018, the report authors argue that the company is overstating said reduction.

Nestlé outright refutes this, insisting that climate targets are measured against a 2018 baseline of 92 million tonnes of CO2e, meaning it intends to deliver in ‘absolute terms’ a reduction of 46 million tonnes of CO2e by 2030.

Offsetting is another point of contention. Carbon offsets remain controversial, with detractors suggesting that they fail to address the underlying issue of GHG emissions and can be used for greenwashing. According to the report, Unilever’s position on offsetting is unclear and inconsistent.

Food Giants Fire Back

While stressing their commitment to transparency and external scrutiny, both Unilever and Nestlé were quick to defend their records on climate action.

“While we share different perspectives on some elements of this report, we welcome external analysis of our progress and have begun a productive dialogue with the NewClimate Institute to see how we can meaningfully evolve our approach,” a Unilever spokesperson said.

In a slightly sharper retort, Benjamin Ware, Global Head of Climate Delivery & Sustainable Sourcing at Nestlé, said NewClimate Institute’s work lacks understanding of Nestlé’s approach and contains significant inaccuracies.