Blog: Dean BestFMCG companies launch green initiatives down Mexico way

Dean Best | 30 November 2010

The latest round of climate talks are underway in the Mexican city of Cancun as the world's politicians continue to find a global deal on carbon emissions.

The last set of talks - in Copenhagen - failed last year and expectations for the Cancun round are not high and a binding deal is very unlikely. Some piecemeal progress, however, could be achieved.

Meanwhile, on the sidelines of the first day of the event (29 November), the world's consumer-goods companies announced their latest green initiatives.

The Consumer Goods Forum, which brings together CEOs from manufacturers, retailers and other stakeholders, said its members would "work towards" ending deforestation and "phase out" the use of refrigerant gases with "high global warming potential".

The Forum said its members would help achieve "zero net deforestation" by 2020.

Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy and Unilever boss Paul Polman, who lead the Forum's sustainability programme, said in a joint statement: "We believe that our industry has a responsibility to purchase these commodities in a way which encourages producers not to expand into forested areas. Our task is to develop specific action plans for the different challenges of sourcing commodities like soya, palm oil, beef, paper and board sustainably."

On refrigeration, members will begin phasing out the HFC refrigerants from 2015, the Forum said.

"This is the first time that the entire sector has aligned around the importance of taking action to accelerate the move to climate-friendly refrigeration," the statement continued, this time attributed to Coca-Cola Co. boss Muhtar Kent and Carrefour chief Lars Olofsson. "The technologies exist today for our sector to significantly reduce the direct and indirect emissions of the refrigeration equipment we use. This initiative by The Consumer Goods Forum demonstrates our commitment to action."

NGOs welcomed the moves, the Forum said. The WWF said the scale, geographical presence and buying power of the companies could help put an end to deforestation.

Greenpeace, meanwhile, said policy-makers now had to legislate to match the companies' "ambition" in stopping the use of HFCs.

The initiatives are likely to fail to appease some more militant campaigners but they are at least further evidence of the commitment of some in the food industry to alleviate the impact business has on the environment. Industry would be the first to admit that more needs to be done.


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