The world's meat industry must adapt to the challenges posed by climate change and growing demand for plant-based alternatives or face ruin, according to a group of investors managing $20 trillion in assets.
Policymakers and investors are turning up the heat on companies across sectors in the run up to global climate talks in Glasgow in November, demanding they assess the risks and put plans in place to mitigate them.
Incoming United Nations climate envoy Mark Carney is pushing all companies to use a risk-assessment framework devised by the G20-backed Financial Stability Board's Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).
As a leading contributor to global carbon emissions, through deforestation and the methane produced by livestock, the meat sector faced a particularly acute risk, but has yet to act in a meaningful way, the FAIRR Initiative investor group said.
"Investors can see the inescapable truth for the meat sector is that it must adapt to climate change or face ruin in the years ahead," said Jeremy Coller, Founder of FAIRR and chief investment officer at Coller Capital.
"Conversely, there is also an appetising prospect of enormous upside if the world’s meat companies shift their protein mix to align with a climate-friendly path."
Of 43 listed meat companies assessed, only two had publicly disclosed a climate-related scenario analysis, FAIRR said.
The group, which includes Allianz Global Investors and Aberdeen Standard Investments, said it had created an online scenario analysis model, based on the TCFD framework, that investors could use to assess the risk to their portfolios.
'Climate Progressive' Pathway
A 'climate progressive' pathway would see companies grow alternative proteins faster, and shift feed and livestock mix towards less climate-influenced crops and species, while a 'climate regressive' pathway would keep things as they are.
Following the second pathway would lead combined annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation at five of the leading assessed companies to be $8 billion lower by 2050 than if they follow the first pathway, FAIRR said.
Among the risks factored into the model are the potential hit to profits of higher electricity costs due to carbon pricing; higher costs of feed due to poor crop yields; and increased livestock mortality due to heat stress.
In addition, by 2050 alternative proteins such as plant-based burgers will account for at least 16% of the current meat market, FAIRR's model forecasts, rising to 62% depending on factors such as technology adoption rates, consumer trends and the potential imposition of a carbon tax on meat.