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To break barriers to net zero, grocers can turn to a new measurement system

Sunrise with crops

Deloitte has developed an open-source framework to measure, report and verify emissions across the agri-food sector. 

As a leader in agriculture and food processing, Canada is well-positioned to help feed the world’s growing population. But as demand rises, so too will the carbon footprint of Canada’s agriculture sector, which currently creates 8.1% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). While Canada is already ahead in sustainable food production, the pressure is on the entire value chain – from farmers to food processors to grocers – to create a net-zero food system.

“A net-zero food system is intended to balance emissions that are produced through agricultural production with emissions that can be sequestered through sustainable practices,” explains Nathan Steeghs, national climate lead, sustainability & climate, at Deloitte Canada. “Ultimately, it’s about reducing the carbon intensity of the agricultural products we produce and the food we eat.” 

A little girl with pigtail braids walking in a field

There is a sense of urgency, too, as ambitious climate commitments have been set by both the Canadian government and major food-industry players. “Many grocery retailers, for example, have set science-based targets that require them to cut emissions in their supply chain by as early as 2030,” says Steeghs.

But in the race to net-zero, a big hurdle stands in the way: In Canada, there is no uniform measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) approach for GHG reductions and removals. In Deloitte’s view, Canada needs a standardized approach to increase the adoption and measurement of climate-smart practices, as well as to build consumer trust. Taking the lead in this area, Deloitte developed an open-source framework to measure, report and verify emissions. 

As part of the initiative, Deloitte engaged key players across the value chain, including growers, food companies, retailers, government, industry associations and NGOs. That process – and Deloitte’s proposed solutions – are detailed in its new report, Growing a net-zero food system.

“We worked together to define an approach that could be standardized, achievable and scalable,” Steeghs explains. “What we’re driving toward is more trust and transparency and an approach that is grounded in science.”

A pair of hands holding a glass bottle of milk

For retailers, food manufacturers and others, the new system can help accelerate their sustainability goals at a fraction of the cost and effort. “Deloitte has an opportunity to invest once and then share that investment across multiple clients, as opposed to each client having to make their own investments in bespoke solutions,” says Erick Vandeweghe, managing partner of Operate services at Deloitte Canada, which helps organizations design, build and manage their operations end-to-end. 

In implementing ESG and climate-smart practices, organizations not only need new systems for measurement and reporting, but new ways of maintaining compliance with regulations and demonstrating progress to various stakeholders. With Deloitte’s 179 years of history across all functions – from accounting and tax to technology and talent – the company has the experience and expertise to bring all the needed capabilities together. 

“Climate change is a shared issue, and so, there is not a lot of competitive advantage to organizations going their own way,” says Vandeweghe. “Our solutions reduce the burden of investment, as well as the outlays of scarce talent and resources that organizations require to meet their sustainability goals.” 

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