Ad Alert

JBS: ‘Net Zero by 2040’

Regulators have a beef with company's climate pledge.

Ad Alert

JBS: ‘Net Zero by 2040’

In March 2021, JBS, the world’s largest producer of beef products whose brands include Swift, Pilgrim’s and Certified Angus Beef, made a big announcement. The company said it was committing to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.

“Climate change is the great challenge of our time and we must act urgently to combat the negative effects of global warming,” Gilberto Tomazoni, JBS’ global chief executive officer, said in a press release that listed some of the “strategies” the company would adopt to meet its net-zero goal, including large investments in emission reduction projects, as well as in research and development.

Last February, almost two years after JBS launched its “Net Zero by 2040” campaign, the National Advertising Division of BBB National Programs took a closer look at the company’s progress. And NAD found that while JBS had made a “significant preliminary investment toward reducing emissions by 2040,” it had not yet started to implement a plan to achieve net zero operational impact by its target date.

NAD recommended that JBS discontinue several of its “net zero” claims, and when the company declined to do so, the claims were sent to the National Advertising Review Board on appeal.

NARB affirmed NAD’s ruling, writing in June 2023 that JBS “does not have a formulated and vetted plan at present” and that “JBS is in the exploratory stage of its effort directed toward the net zero 2040 goal.” In an about-face, JBS agreed to drop the challenged “net zero” claims.

Which brings us to about two weeks ago, when New York Attorney General Letitia James sued JBS for continuing to mislead consumers on its environmental impact through its “Net Zero by 2040” advertising campaign. The lawsuit noted the previous self-regulatory inquiries.

Despite these industry admonishments, [JBS] has continued to make the same or similar claims to consumers, all the while emitting massive amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and continuing supply chain practices with outsized climate impacts, further contributing to climate change.

In addition to “net zero” claims appearing on JBS’ website, such as those in the March 2021 press release announcing the company’s climate pledge, the lawsuit cited “net zero” claims on JBS brand websites, including those belonging to Pilgrim’s and Grass Run Farms, among others.

In 2021, JBS reported total global greenhouse emissions of over 71 million tons, more than the total emissions of the entire country of Ireland that year, according to the complaint, which alleges JBS plans to “substantially increase” its meat production over the coming years.

The lawsuit asks the court to require JBS to cease its “Net Zero by 2040” campaign, conduct a third-party audit of its compliance with New York’s consumer protection statutes and pay disgorgement of all profits and ill-gotten gains, as well as civil penalties.

The bottom line

Agriculture is a major contributor to climate change, accounting for roughly 12 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions, according to federal data. And methane produced by cow belching is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. This may be tough news for some consumers to swallow, especially those who enjoy a tasty burger but also care about the environment. But the answer isn’t greenwashing. reached out to JBS for comment. Check back for updates.

Find more of our coverage on greenwashing here.

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