In recent years, businesses have started to notice that customers care about the environment. Many have responded by publicly setting goals to reduce their pollution and make better choices for the planet.
However, a recent examination of 20 of the world’s largest food companies showed that more than half of them have maintained or increased their air pollution instead of decreasing it, the New York Times reported.
The Times examined reports for 20 companies, including McDonald’s, PepsiCo, Chipotle, Mars, and Starbucks. While some, such as Mars, were actually making progress in reducing the amount of heat-trapping gases they release into Earth’s atmosphere, others had gotten worse in the last few years.
For example, McDonald’s promised to eliminate or cancel out all its carbon air pollution by 2050, but between 2015 and 2021, they actually increased by 12%, the Times reported. PepsiCo’s numbers rose by 7%, Chipotle’s increased by a whopping 26%, and Starbucks jumped 12% in just three years.
According to the Times, there are two main factors driving this growth. One is the expansion of the businesses themselves. The other is the disruption of supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the companies had to get their ingredients from new and sometimes more polluting sources.
Why is the increase in pollution a problem?
As the Times noted, the global food industry produces one-third of the human-caused heat-trapping gases released into the atmosphere each year. Those gases heat up the planet dramatically and are the main reason we’re facing what will probably be the hottest five years in history. That heat has severe effects on human health, wildlife, and the development of diseases and extreme weather around the globe.
To save our planet, we need to cut back on our air pollution, which means the biggest polluters need to do their part.
What can companies do to reduce their pollution?
As companies like Mars prove, it’s possible to stay conscious of the environment even while expanding and coping with instability in the supply chain. According to the Times, Mars decreased pollution by 8% compared to 2015, while raising revenue by 60%.
Barry Parkin, Mars’s chief procurement and sustainability officer, told the Times, “This has got to be about performance, not promises. We’ve had five years of companies making promises and being celebrated for the quality of their promises and not their performance.”
He also said that the company has earmarked $1 billion over the next three years for efforts to protect the climate.
The more the public pushes, the more likely it is that other companies will do the same.
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