Nestlé, Kellogg’s join Ceres’ call for federal climate action

Nestlé, Kellogg’s join Ceres’ call for federal climate action

Nestle image by Taina Sohlman via Shutterstock.

Nestlé and Kellogg's have joined Ceres' Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy, an advocacy coalition of businesses committed to working with policy makers to pass meaningful energy and climate legislation. The companies join General Mills, Unilever and dozens of other leading companies in acknowledging the risks of carbon pollution from power plants, as well as the economic benefits associated with energy efficiency and renewable energy deployment.

Launched in 2008 with a core group of five companies, including Starbucks, Nike and Timberland, BICEP since has expanded to 32 businesses from a broad spectrum of sectors, such as eBay, Symantec and Jones Lang LaSalle.

Nestlé and Kellogg's are no sustainability novices themselves. Nestlé, the world's largest food and beverage company, expects to reduce direct greenhouse gas emissions per ton of product by 35 percent by 2015, compared with 2005, leading to an absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Nestlé sells 1 billion products every day — products that end up in 97 percent of U.S. households alone.

Kellogg's produces and markets more than 1,600 foods, with worldwide sales of more than $14 billion. Last month, the company renewed its environmental and social commitments, which include responsibly sourcing 100 percent of its top 10 ingredients by 2020; continuing to reduce its energy use, water intensity, waste to landfill and packaging materials; and providing support to growers — especially women and smallholders — to adapt to climate change, optimize their inputs and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

In joining BICEP, Nestlé and Kellogg's will lend their sizeable voices to calling for a broad, bipartisan consensus among policy makers to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, with an interim goal of at least 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

BICEP has not been afraid to flex its brands' power in pursuit of its ambitious policy agenda. For one thing, it is calling for the U.S. to double its historic rate of energy efficiency improvement. The coalition also said the U.S. should require 20 percent of the nation's electricity be generated by renewable energy sources by 2020, and 30 percent by 2030.

To help make this happen, BICEP said the federal government should encourage and incentivize public and private investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy technology. Congress also should enact standards, incentives and other policies to promote efficient and alternative fuel vehicles, low-carbon fuels, reductions in vehicle miles traveled and transit-oriented development. To promote an efficient energy market, BICEP asserts Congress should adjust energy subsidies to discourage higher polluting energy sources and provide incentives for cleaner ones. Ultimately, all energy prices and relevant subsidies should reflect their full environmental, social and economic costs.

Recognizing that we already face many consequences of climate change, BICEP said the U.S. should support the development of adaptation technology to prepare for and adapt to extreme weather, water scarcity, reduced crop yields and other climate impacts that harm local communities as well as global supply chains. Emphasizing the "global" aspect of global warming, BICEP is also calling on the U.S. to support developing countries in designing and implementing low carbon growth strategies by encouraging technology transfers and forest protection.

All of this could be a tall order for Congress, which has displayed little interest in making climate change action a primary concern. Although legislators had introduced 221 bills focusing specifically on climate change as of August, 134 are meant to advance climate action, while 87 seek to hamper it, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

But this isn't stopping businesses from taking climate action internally. CDP recently reported that 29 major public companies in the U.S., including Dow Chemical Company, Goldman Sachs and ExxonMobil, are incorporating an internal carbon price into their business decisions. Likewise, at the Clinton Global Initiative's 10th annual meeting Tuesday in New York City, several groups representing the private, public and nonprofit sectors announced commitments to address global warming. Ingersoll Rand, for instance, committed to reducing the greenhouse gas refrigerant footprint of its products by 50 percent by 2020 and lowering global warming potential alternatives across its portfolio by 2030.

But the private sector can do only so much on its own — it will take robust public-private partnerships to leverage the relative strengths of business and government to address the social, environmental and economic challenges facing our planet. This kind of budding cooperation also was seen at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting, where AkzoNobel, The Nature Conservancy, Risk Management Solutions and Veolia announced their joining of 100 Resilient Cities as platform partners to provide important tools to help improve city resiliency moving deeper into the 21st century.

This public-private activity at the city level is encouraging, but we must do more at the national level. BICEP is attempting to do just that in November when it meets with legislators post-election in Washington, D.C. to advocate for climate policies. In joining organizations such as BICEP, forward-thinking companies are strengthening the call for federal policies that not only help safeguard our planet, but also our economy.

Nestle image by Taina Sohlman via Shutterstock.