JBS greenwashing lawsuit ‘wake-up call’ for food firms

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

JBS said it is committed to more sustainable future for agriculture. Credit: Getty / Kelvin Murray
JBS said it is committed to more sustainable future for agriculture. Credit: Getty / Kelvin Murray

Related tags Sustainability

A lawsuit filed against meat processing giant JBS in the US should serve as a “wake up call” for food and drink manufacturers when publishing environmental targets, Dr Emily Pope of Trinity AgTech has said.

The US arm of Brazilian multinational JBS is being sued by the State of New York for allegedly “misleading​” customers about its plans to reduce its impact on the environment.

The manufacturer has pledged to reach net zero carbon by 2040, but New York attorney general Letitia James alleges that JBS USA possesses “no viable plan​” to meet this target and has “repeatedly and persistently made unsubstantiated and misleading environmental marketing claims​”.

The JBS Group has admitted that it made its ‘Net Zero by 2040’ commitment without having calculated the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain,” ​the lawsuit adds.

In response, a JBS spokesperson told Food Manufacture that the firm disagrees with the action filed against it by the New York attorney general and takes its “commitment to a more sustainable future for agriculture very seriously”.

“JBS will continue to partner with farmers, ranchers and our food system partners around the world to help feed a growing population while using fewer resources and reducing agriculture’s environmental impact,” ​the spokesperson added.

“Our belief that American agriculture can help sustainably feed the world is undeterred.”

‘Environmental claims must be backed up’

Meanwhile, Dr Pope, managing director of knowledge and collaboration at Trinity AgTech, believes that the legal challenge “demonstrates the urgent need for tangible evidence and credible plans​” to be put in place before a firm publishes its targets.

This lawsuit serves as a wake-up call for all businesses operating within the food sector; well-intentioned environmental efforts must be backed up by rigorous evaluations​,” she said.

“It’s time all businesses commit to the genuine pursuit of environmental stewardship and invest in credible tools fit for purpose, not least to protect against the severe legal and reputational risks associated with greenwashing​.”

Trinity AgTech, headquartered in the UK and with offices in Spain and Canada, offers precision agriculture software for businesses across the food and farming supply chain.

The era of sustainability claims without substantive backing is behind us​,” Dr Pope added.

This is a positive step forward because working towards net zero, while building resilient food supply chains and securing economic prosperity for farmers and rural communities, is a very serious commitment​.”

In the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has established a Green Claims Code and is able to dish out financial penalties to businesses that have made less than robust claims about their sustainability efforts.

The code's enforcement highlights the risk many businesses face when relying on first-generation carbon calculators that do not meet modern standards, falling foul of regulations designed to prevent greenwashing​,” explained Dr Pope.

In other news, Yoplait wants the narrative around the kids’ yoghurt category in the UK to change​, and hopes to see a greater emphasis placed on the positive health benefits of the product.

Related topics Meat, poultry & seafood Environment

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