How now, brown cow?
Livestock accounts for about 15% of global anthropogenic emissions, good for half of total emissions from agriculture. This makes of the agricultural sector the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases; one in which cows occupy an important place.
Time to do something about it, so they understood at Danone.
The 'little bottle'
Danone had their Science Based Targets validated since 2017. In addition, their first fresh dairy brand Actimel received the Carbon Trust Certificate early this year. Both milestones result from Danone's efforts to make the entire production process, from farm to fork, more sustainable. The certification requires a long-term approach and annual monitoring of emission reduction targets. The resulting decarbonisation plan takes on different operational levels.
Remaining emissions (i.e., what could not be reduced) are compensated through Gold Standard projects. Gold Standard is a certification programme that ensures that offset projects make a measurable contribution to sustainable development and local communities.
Reducing emissions in practice
Cows produce both methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O); two greenhouse gases that are many times stronger than the better-known CO2 (28 and 273 times, respectively). Acknowledging the enormous reduction potential in the sector, Danone has been working on ways to do just that: converting cow manure into renewable energy, committing to regenerative farming practices, promoting the use of locally produced protein feed, as well as investing in a strong partnership with local farmers. In four years, this enabled them to reduce CO2 emissions by 20%. They are also looking at sustainable packaging and plastic reduction.
Bovaer © on the menu
Today, Danone is taking it one step further. Through a partnership with ILVO, chemical company DSM and a Danone Belgium dairy farmer, Bovaer© was tested: a nutritional ingredient for cows. That ingredient emerged from a unique global collaboration between industry, public sector and research. A teaspoon of Bovaer© per cow per day, reduces methane emissions from cows by 20-40%. At this point, Danone commits to further implementing and upscaling the project, together with the supplying dairy farmers. In addition, they are sharing their knowledge to inspire others to take up the same approach.
The broader picture
Such efforts are important. They support a decarbonization plan that allows reaching Science Based Targets as well as give a face to concrete climate action. Yet it is important - when it comes to proteins - to have the full conversation.
Via the Green Deal Protein Shift, Flanders is committed to the evolution towards a more plant-based diet. Its aim is to improve the ratio of animal and vegetable protein-rich products in our diet. In other words, the protein shift promotes the production of lower-emission crops which require less growing surface - and so provide more people with healthy food.
The rise of plant-based food is closely related to the current food revolution. That is why, besides reducing emissions from animal protein production, Danone also focuses on this protein shift. They do so through the 'One Planet. One Health.' framework, which promotes a flexitarian diet, and through the engagement of both Danone and the plant-based brand Alpro within the Green Deal Protein Shift.
"The plant-based food category is an excellent example of a paradigm shift, illustrated by the significant growth of the group of flexitarians, i.e. consumers who eat both animal and plant-based foods," says Nathalie Guillaume, General Secretary, Corporate Affairs & Sustainability Director Danone BeLux.
Together, we paint the future
Climate action in the food sector (and by extension in all sectors) is not a black-and-white story, but rather a strong, colourful Hockney painting. One in which each colour is a link of the chain, each one with a unique role to fill, without losing sight of the essentials. With COP27 an important climate momentum, this is an ideal opportunity to further inspire each other, continue to challenge each other - and above all - have the conversation that is needed.
How do we create a food system that thrives within the boundaries of the planet and that provides every inhabitant with a delicious, sustainable and healthy plate full of food?