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McCain Foods shows progress on sustainable farming in 2022

McCain Foods laid outs its strategy for achieving reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, being more efficient with natural resources and reducing packaging waste. (Courtesy McCain Foods)

McCain Foods, one of the world’s largest frozen potato product manufacturers, announced progress on its climate commitments and more sustainable farming practices in its latest sustainability report.

Based in Florenceville-Bristol, N.B., McCain Foods claims to be behind one-in-four french fries sold in the world. It has 3,500 growers on five continents with over 20,000 employees, according to the report.

Its 2022 sustainability report is the company’s fourth.

McCain Foods’ emissions

In financial year 2022, McCain Foods says it emitted 1,356,256 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) in absolute Scope 1 and 2 emissions.

McCain Foods says 15 per cent of its total emissions are Scope 1 and eight per cent are Scope 2, while the remainder are Scope 3.

It is a 5.8 per cent decrease from 2017, and a three per cent increase from 2021.

McCain Foods was not able to provide exact Scope 3 emissions data because of “a number of challenges due to the difficulty in collecting reliable emissions data from suppliers.”

Though McCain Foods did provide what it considers a percentage breakdown of all emissions related to its activities, including Scope 3.

The company is working on solutions to improve and standardize Scope 3 emissions data collection by becoming a CDP Supply Chain member and plans to complete its downstream Scope 3 emissions inventory within the next 12 months.

How McCain Foods will reach its climate targets

McCain Foods has set 2030 commitments to halve its absolute Scope 1 and 2 CO2 emissions, exit coal use, use 100 per cent renewable electricity and make a 30 per cent reduction in Scope 3 CO2 emissions intensity.

The company says it is on track to meeting those targets. It cites a six per cent reduction in absolute Scope 1 and 2 emissions from 2017 to 2022 and a 17 per cent decrease in emissions intensity. McCain Foods attributes these changes to energy efficiency improvements and an increase in renewable energy use from 14.6 per cent to 18.5 per cent .

To reduce CO2 emissions by 25 per cent from potato farming, storage and freight by 2030, it is exploring different sources of fertilizer and establishing a new global working group to drive more effective carbon reduction strategies and actions.

McCain Foods managed an eight per cent decrease in CO2 emissions per tonne of potatoes from 2017 to 2022 through deployment of new varieties requiring less nitrogen and increased use of renewable energy to power storage.

But it did not decrease its Scope 3 emissions. There was a one per cent increase in Scope 3 CO2 emissions intensity from the 2017 baseline. To address this, McCain Foods will explore a new supplier emissions measurement and tracking tool.

More sustainable farming practices

In 2022, McCain Foods launched a series of initiatives to support healthy farming practices. It released the McCain Regenerative Agriculture Framework, and has trained 360 growers on its principles.

McCain Foods identified local financing approaches and mechanisms, partnered with agricultural banks in several countries and co-created financial products to “help incentivize growers and reduce risk in the transition to regenerative agriculture.”

In June 2022, it launched ‘Farm of the Future Africa’ in Lichtenburg, South Africa as part of its objective to develop three McCain-managed, commercially operated farms across three regions by 2025. It will take its learnings from the farm for soil management, ecosystem biodiversity, water use and inputs efficiency and apply them across its farms in the Southern Hemisphere.

McCain Foods will continue its work on reducing its fertilizer application, which dropped nearly 17 per cent in 2021. It will include testing precision agriculture and decision support systems, establishing a baseline for soil organic matter increase and mapping soil health.

McCain Foods says it has improved water-use efficiency by 11 per cent in water-stressed regions through drip irrigation and the promotion of water stress-tolerant potatoes that made up 21.5 per cent of its varieties in 2022.

It exceeded its 15 per cent water-use efficiency target for seven priority plants, meeting the target in 2022 rather than 2025 with a 17 per cent improvement.

Other accomplishments

  • A one per cent decrease in palm oil from a 2017 baseline for total oil use.
  • Ninety-two per cent of its eggs are "cage-free."
  • Made progress on a 15 per cent reduction in sodium across its potato and appetizer products by 2025, but the company admits this initiative “needs attention.”
  • McCain Foods achieved a 12 per cent reduction in food loss and waste intensity compared to 2020.
  • Ninety-eight per cent of McCain Foods’ paper packaging and 90 per cent of its plastic packaging was designed to be recycled. The company wants 100 per cent of its packaging to be recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025, with a focus on 100 per cent of its paper and plastic packaging to be recycled by 2025.

Read the report here.

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