Home Tetra Laval Annual report Tetra Laval Mitigating climate change in the food and beverage industry


Theme: Mitigating climate change in the food and beverage industry

Dan Esty gives an independent view on how the food industry impacts climate change and how it can contribute to a low-carbon future.

Dan Esty is an American environmental lawyer and policymaker who is currently the Hillhouse professor at Yale University. He has worked with climate change as a government official, policymaker, academic, and corporate advisor since the 1980s. Esty is the chair of Tetra Pak’s sustainability advisory panel, which includes five independent external advisors with a range of perspectives and areas of expertise.

Why does the food and beverage industry need to act on climate change?

As a major source of global greenhouse gas emissions, there is significant interest in ramping up climate change action in the food and beverage industry. The focus on new technologies, strategies, and policies that will help move the industry toward net-zero emissions by 2050 was a key theme of the COP28 UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai last year. Tetra Pak launched an integrated approach to drive the transition to more secure, sustainable, and resilient food systems at the conference.

How will a changing climate affect the industry?

The systems that provide us all with the food and beverages we need are both a cause of climate change and have the potential to be a significant arena for climate mitigation and adaption. More extreme weather events can wipe out entire harvests and changes in seasonal rainfall and temperature mean that areas may become too hot/cold or dry/wet for traditionally well-suited crops. Sea level rise and saltwater intrusion may also make some agricultural land unproductive or even unusable. This means that a degree of climate change uncertainty hangs over the food sector that threatens food security for billions of people around the world. We urgently need to both mitigate the industry’s climate change impacts and adapt how we produce, package and transport food in a changing climate.

How does packaging impact climate change?

Packaging is both a critical opportunity and a challenge for the food and beverage industry. It is one of the most important ways to not just ensure food safety but also extend shelf life and reduce food waste, which is responsible for around 8 per cent of all global greenhouse gas emissions.1 On the other hand, packaging materials and processes have direct climate impacts, and packaging waste has emerged as a concern in countries with inadequate recycling infrastructure due to the need to incinerate packaging waste or deposit it in landfills.

How can we reduce the climate footprint of packaging in the food and beverage industry?

The industry has significant opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by incorporating more low-carbon packaging materials and efficient processes. Creating more recyclable packaging and improving collection and recycling systems for used packages are essential to reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions while making better use of resources.

How do you see the future of food production and climate change?

The food and beverage industry stands at a watershed moment in terms of climate change. Food and beverage companies are acutely aware of the physical risks of climate change, as well as the potential changes in expectation and regulatory requirements for the industry. The necessary shift to new production practices and processing methods as well as new delivery and packaging systems create huge potential opportunities for companies such as Tetra Laval.

What is Tetra Laval’s role in mitigating climate change?

Tetra Laval and its industry groups have significant opportunities to help the food and beverage industry towards a net-zero emissions future. The company has a long tradition of innovation and technological breakthroughs that will almost certainly be part of climate mitigation efforts in the industry. Tetra Laval’s leading position also allows it to rally collaboration on climate mitigation initiatives in the industry.

What was the integrated approach Tetra Pak launched at COP28?

The approach was a significant breakthrough in terms of Tetra Pak’s climate leadership that identified four key pathways to accelerate the transition to more secure, sustainable, and resilient food systems. The pathways are: (1) enabling the transition towards more sustainable dairy, (2) innovating for new food sources such as alternative proteins, (3) reducing food loss and waste, and (4) scaling access to safe nutrition through sustainable food packaging.

The approach is supported by the publication of five new white papers that were produced by Tetra Pak in collaboration with EY Parthenon. The white papers detail what needs to be done to drive the development of a more sustainable food system and the specific requirements for each of the pathways.

How can Tetra Laval help drive change throughout the value chain?

As a front-runner in the industry with strong upstream and downstream relationships, Tetra Laval has a key role to play in creating a low-carbon value chain – particularly with its involvement in the dairy industry. But the role Tetra Laval’s industry groups play goes beyond their own value chains by contributing towards the creation of integrated strategies that bring together cross-related industries, companies and sectors. Such strategies are essential to deliver more successful and sweeping change that is required in society.

Tell us more about the change that is required.

What has emerged in recent years is the need for transformative change in a number of climate change intensive sectors – one of which is the food and beverage industry. In this regard there are many companies ready to move towards fundamentally changed business models that address the climate change commitments that have been made by countries all over the world. The need for corporate climate leadership represents a significant opportunity for Tetra Laval as its industry groups are well-positioned to lead the process of change in the food and beverage industry and beyond.

More sustainable food packaging materials can help scale access to safe nutrition.

Innovating for new food sources such as alternative proteins is key to creating more sustainable food systems..

Dan Esty was a speaker on climate solutions at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos in January 2024.