Overview & FAQs: Coolfood’s Alignment with Greenhouse Gas Protocol and Science Based Targets Initiative

The Coolfood member quarterly webinar this fall focused on the alignment between Coolfood, the draft Greenhouse Gas Protocol Land Sector and Removals Guidance (GHGP), and the Science Based Targets Initiative Forest, Land, and Agriculture Guidance (SBTi FLAG). Both the GHG Protocol and SBTi released new guidance documents this fall that focused on land and agriculture for the first time, with SBTi FLAG establishing a new GHG emissions reduction pathway for forests, land and agriculture looking to 2030 and beyond. The webinar provided members with an overview of the updates to the new GHG Protocol, and SBTi FLAG guidance documents, with a focus on the alignment with Coolfood.

Coolfood was established in accordance with the GHG Protocol, building upon their guidance for scope 3 (supply chain) emissions to determine what metrics to use and how to measure them. Coolfood drew inspiration from SBTi in 2019 to set our collective target of a 25% absolute reduction in food-related emissions by 2030, which was based on the reduction pathway of 67% by 2050 for agricultural emissions, merging insights from SBTi’s Corporate Manual and WRI’s World Resources Report: Creating a Sustainable Food Future.

Anne Bordier speaking at Cool Food event
Given its roots in GHG Protocol and SBTi, Coolfood has continued to align with both initiatives, as all three organizations work toward a common goal of quickly reducing GHG emissions from the food and land sector. GHG Protocol is the “what,” with guidance on what to do to account for emissions, and what to do to report them. SBTi FLAG is the “how much,” detailing the necessary level of ambition to reduce emissions in line with the pathway to keep warming below 1.5˚C. Finally, Coolfood is the “how”, providing tools and support tailored to the food service sector, helping food providers calculate and report on food-related emissions, implement behavior change strategies, conduct consumer-facing marketing (including through the Coolfood Meals eco-label), and access cutting-edge insights through quarterly member webinars.

1. What’s new in these new GHGP and SBTi guidance documents?

The draft GHG Protocol Land Sector and Removals Guidance now includes accounting guidance for land management emissions (including agricultural production), land use change and land tracking metrics (including land occupation and carbon opportunity costs), and land-based carbon removals (including agricultural soils and forests).

SBTi FLAG has now established a pathway for the Forest, Land and Agriculture sector to reduce net emissions in line with limiting global temperature rise to 1.5˚C. Companies with SBTi targets must add a FLAG target if their FLAG-related emissions account for at least 20% of their Scope 1-3 emissions. FLAG targets should be set for a 5-10 year period, and companies engaging with SBTi must add a FLAG target by 2023 (with exemptions through 2024 if companies have a previously validated short-term target). SBTi FLAG includes an Excel-based tool to help companies calculate their reduction targets and is aligned with the GHG Protocol’s Land Sector and Removals Guidance.

2. How do the new SBTi FLAG targets relate to Coolfood’s targets (Pledge and Meals)?

Coolfood Pledge and Meals targets were created in line with the World Resources Report: Creating a Sustainable Food Future and based on SBTi’s general Corporate Manual to define a sector-wide reduction target for food-related emissions. The collective absolute reduction target of 25% by 2030 for the Coolfood Pledge was set in conjunction with the needed reduction of 67% by 2050 in order to stay in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement. Coolfood also established a sub-target of a 38% reduction by 2030 for emissions per plate, recognizing that because food service will expand as the population continues to grow, emissions per plate will need to fall even more quickly. The new SBTi FLAG guidance has established an updated emissions reduction pathway of 30-33% by 2030 for the agriculture and land sector, considering the latest climate science. In the coming months, we will be reflecting upon this updated pathway and considering how Coolfood may adapt to these changes.

3. Is Coolfood aligned with the GHG Protocol and SBTi FLAG?

Yes. Coolfood was built on GHG Protocol and SBTi from the beginning, following GHG Protocol and SBTi guidance for establishing the Coolfood targets and metrics. We will also make some small tweaks to the Coolfood calculator based on the latest guidance from SBTi and GHG Protocol in winter 2022-23.

4. Can I use my annual Coolfood calculator GHG results for reporting against my FLAG target?

The current Coolfood Calculator GHG results are mostly in compliance with FLAG guidance and reporting requirements. We will perform a few small updates to make the Coolfood Calculator fully compliant with the latest GHG Protocol and FLAG guidance in winter 2022-23, enabling you to use your Coolfood results to report against FLAG in 2023.

5. My supplier says the way they produce food is better for the climate. How do I get a tailored emission factor?

In order to have a tailored emission factor, we ask that you provide primary data (e.g., farm-level or supplier-specific) that is of equal or higher quality than the default emission factors in the Coolfood Calculator. To be of equal or higher quality, the data must be representative of the agricultural production system and geography sourced from and come from a peer-reviewed academic or other reputable sources. These qualifications are also detailed in Table 3 of the Coolfood Technical Note.

6. I already work with GHGP and SBTi. What value does joining Coolfood add to my organization?

Coolfood is the “HOW” to help your food service organization hit a science-based target through shifting to more climate-friendly food offerings. Coolfood has GHG calculation tools that enable you to calculate and report on your food-related scope 3 emissions for SBTi. In addition, Coolfood offers valuable resources to support your organization as it looks to meet its targets, including planning behavior change strategies (playbook, diagnostic tool, workshops), consumer-facing marketing materials, quarterly member webinars, and the Coolfood Meals eco-label.

7. Does my organization need to set a target through SBTi?

Participation in SBTi is voluntary and SBTi currently only validates targets for private sector companies. However, other organizations (e.g., health care, universities, local governments) can independently set targets to reduce their food related GHG emissions at similar levels of ambition, and joining Coolfood gives you access to a network of more than 60 organizations committed to delicious climate action.

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To find out more about Coolfood, please contact Coolfood@wri.org