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COP27: Food and Climate Change

November 03, 2022

How is food related to climate change?

We have long known that what we eat and how our food is produced affect our health and the environment.

Food needs to be grown and processed, transported, distributed, prepared, consumed and, sometimes, disposed of. Each of these steps creates greenhouse gases (GHGs) that trap the sun’s heat and contribute to climate change. About a third of human-caused GHG emissions are linked to food.

The largest chunk of food-related GHGs comes from agriculture and land use,– methane from cattle, nitrous oxide from fertilizers and carbon dioxide from deforestation for farmland.

A smaller share of GHG emissions comes from the refrigeration and transport of food, industrial processes, like the production of paper and aluminum for packaging, and the management of food waste.

Reducing food-related emissions

Decreasing food sector emissions requires changes at all stages, from production to consumption.

Where appropriate, shifting food systems toward plant-rich diets – with more plant protein, a reduced amount of animal-based foods and less saturated fats – could significantly reduce GHG emissions.

Alternative proteins – such as plant-based meat and dairy substitutes, insect-based proteins and cell-based/cultivated meat – are promising and are attracting growing demand, financial investment and technological innovation.

However, animal products remain an important source of food security, nutrition and livelihoods for large numbers of rural people worldwide. Improved feeds and feeding techniques can reduce methane generated during cattle digestion, as well as the volume of gases released by decomposing manure. Smaller herd sizes, with fewer, more productive animals can also help.

Better agricultural practices, such as improved manure and fertilizer management, rotational grazing to maintain healthy soil to store carbon and restoring degraded lands can significantly reduce emissions.

Alongside this, reducing food waste is key. Almost one billion tons of food – 17 percent of all food available worldwide – is wasted annually. Producing, transporting and letting this food rot cause more than eight percent of global emissions. If food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitting country in the world.

SGS solutions

Safety, quality and sustainability are key drivers in the food value chain. Each of these impacts the sustainability of your business and the marketability of your products.

Our ever-expanding food services include:

  • Food certification
  • Food safety and compliance
  • Food second-party audits
  • Agriculture and fishing solutions, including fertigation monitoring, precision farming and soil fertility testing

Our Sustainable Living portfolio also covers food and nutrition, health and wellbeing and product safety.

Whatever your organization’s size, we can help you to implement more efficient processes, address risks and stakeholder concerns, and accomplish sustainability goals.

For more information, see our Food Audit and Certification, Sustainable Living and GHG Verification and Reporting Services.

For inquiries, please contact:

Jason Hulbert
Associate Marketing Manager
m: +44 7912 426878

About SGS

We are SGS – the world’s leading testing, inspection and certification company. We are recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. Our 96,000 employees operate a network of 2,700 offices and laboratories, working together to enable a better, safer and more interconnected world.

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