JBS has appealed a recommendation in the US it stops advertising its 2040 net-zero emissions target amid concerns the meat giant could not reach its goal.

US non-profit The National Advertising Division (NAD) said JBS’s proposed steps could “reduce” emissions by 2040 but there was no evidence to show it would reach net-zero by this date.

But JBS said it would appeal the claims, saying it had “tangible investments and projects” to reach its target – although it has agreed to discontinue “one challenged net-zero claim”.

It told Just Food: “We respectfully disagree with the NAD’s decision. JBS takes our environmental sustainability initiatives very seriously, and we are working with credible, third-party experts to achieve our ambitious target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 with tangible investments and projects around the world, which are already well underway.”

NAD, a division of self-regulatory group BBB National Programs, said: “Aspirational environmental benefit claims create reasonable expectations on the part of consumers and, as a result, they require substantiation. 

“JBS provided evidence of a significant preliminary investment toward reducing emissions by 2040, including steps towards each of the stated ‘net-zero’ commitments, however NAD concluded that the record did not support the broad message conveyed that JBS has a plan that it is implementing today to achieve net zero operational impact by 2040.”

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It recommended JBS remove claims from its marketing such as: “Bacon, chicken wings and steak with net zero emissions. It’s possible,” and: “Leading change across the food industry and achieving our goal of net zero by 2040 will be a challenge. Anything less is not an option.”

NAD recommended JBS make “narrower truthful and not misleading claims” about its emissions-reducing efforts.

JBS committed to net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2040 in March 2021. The pledge spanned the company’s global operations, including Pilgrim’s Pride in the US and Moy Park in the UK, as well as its supply chain of agricultural producers, suppliers and customers.

This month’s NAD recommendation follows several greenwashing accusations against JBS since it launched its net-zero pledge.

In January, NGO Mighty Earth took issue over the company’s green bonds, filing a “whistle-blower complaint” with market regulator the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The NGO argued JBS made “fraudulent” claims for its sustainability-linked debt, or green bonds. It called on the SEC to launch an investigation. JBS refutes the claims.

A further greenwashing accusation was lodged against JBS last year, which the company also denied. According to sustainability non-profit The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, JBS increased its emissions by 51% in five years. The US advocacy group said JBS’s emissions rose substantially from 280.2 million metric tonnes (mmt) in 2016 to 421.6mmt in 2021.

JBS told Just Food at the time the advocacy group’s claims included “flawed methodology and grossly extrapolated data to make misleading claims, including the use of our processing capacity to estimate our emissions”.

Just Food contacted JBS for comment on the NAD recommendations.

The road to net zero – Big Food’s emissions pledges