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First-of-Their-Kind Frameworks Raise Bar on Sustainability Transparency of Meat, Alternative Proteins

2 new reporting frameworks from FAIRR and Good Food Institute enable alternative meat, seafood, eggs and dairy companies to more accurately assess their climate, biodiversity, nutrition and other ESG impacts.

From plant-based meat to macadamia milk, food producers, retailers and manufacturers can now accurately report on the sustainability impact of their alternative protein businesses — thanks to two new reporting frameworks. The frameworks were designed by $68 trillion-backed investor network FAIRR Initiative and the Good Food Institute (GFI) — an international non-profit reimagining meat production, and are backed by investors and industry leaders.

FAIRR and GFI co-developed the new frameworks with input from over 50 companies, investors and NGOs — including Unilever, Eat Just, Newton Investment Management, PIMCO, Blue Horizon and the WWF-UK — as well as environmental, social and governance (ESG) and life cycle assessment (LCA) experts. Following today’s launch, the authors of the frameworks will work with alternative protein brands that want to use the frameworks to report on ESG factors such as carbon emissions, land, water and nutrition impacts.

The way we currently produce meat, eggs and dairy is incredibly resource-intensive — accounting for 77 percent of agricultural land use, nearly 14.5 percent of global GHG emissions and causing more deforestation and using more antibiotics than any other industry — yet providing only one-third of humanity’s global protein supply. These and other climate, nature and food security concerns represent increasingly material financial risks, with heat stress alone predicted to wipe 20 percent off the global value of beef production. With standardized, mandatory climate and nature-related disclosures soon expected to become a requirement in certain regions, the two new frameworks are vital to enable the food industry to assess impacts and establish best practice in the alternative proteins space.

The new frameworks are also expected to catalyze investment by equipping financial institutions with a toolkit of disclosures and metrics to gain transparent and actionable insights into a company’s activities — highlighting the reduced impacts of alternative proteins compared to the multiple risks of conventional meat, eggs, seafood and dairy production.

FAIRR and GFI’s open-source Alternative Proteins ESG Reporting Framework for Specialized Companies and the Alternative Proteins ESG Reporting Framework for Diversified Companies provide investors, governments and consumers with a route to receiving accurate information from each alternative protein business.

“We are thrilled to produce a reporting tool that will allow alternative protein companies to showcase the many ESG advantages of their current business models,” says Sharyn Murray, Investor Engagement Manager at Good Food Institute. “Alternative proteins offer meaningfully lower greenhouse gas emissions as compared to conventional animal protein, as well as considerable food safety and nutritional advantages. As the alternative protein industry continues to partner with the private sector to build responsible and sustainable businesses of the future, these frameworks will enable companies to claim their natural leadership role on ESG. This will lift up and guide all alternative protein companies toward best practices and the use of one common language to reveal the huge planetary rewards the industry offers.”

Alternative proteins — including plant-based, fermentation-enabled (made using microbes — such as Aqua Cultured Foods’ ‘fish,’ Perfect Day’s cow-free milk and the growing array of mycoproteins coming to market), and cultivated meat, seafood, eggs and dairy — are expected to provide a pathway to decarbonizing food production while meeting the global demand for protein: In fact, a report earlier this year from Blue Horizon and Boston Consulting Group asserted that with 25 percent of global GHG emissions caused by the food value chain, a global shift to alternative proteins may be the most capital-efficient and high-impact solution to addressing the climate crisis. Over the past few years, investment in alternative proteins has increased by an average 5-year growth rate of 91 percent through 2021 (according to GFI analysis of PitchBook data); and sales are estimated to rise by up to $1.1 trillion by 2040 to devour up to 60 percent of the total meat market.

Research shows that many plant-based meat products have a fifth to less than a tenth of the environmental impact of meat-based equivalents. Yet until today, there have been no comprehensive standards for companies manufacturing and selling alternative proteins to assess and disclose the kind of rich ESG data that investors and companies, and consumers need to make informed decisions.

“As alternative protein startups grow and mature, and eventually become the food industry giants of tomorrow, this new specialized framework will help to ensure that they are ready for the ESG disclosures that are now demanded of all large companies across private and public markets,” says Rosie Wardle, co-founder and partner at Synthesis Capital. “We welcome new tools in the market such as this framework, which brings much-needed structure and consistency to measuring sustainability impacts. We will be integrating the framework into our existing ESG policies and processes to help us further understand company performance in a more detailed way and monitor impact over time.”

The Specialized Framework is designed for manufacturers and ingredient suppliers whose core focus is alternative proteins — such as meat, dairy or whey protein, or gelatin. It encapsulates the most material risks and opportunities across the full E, S and G spectrum, for example, on sourcing, certification, consumer engagement, soil health, plastic waste, water consumption and nutrition.

“This framework will empower companies to measure and communicate positive impact in ways that make sense and matter — for internal strategy and decision-making, and for consumers,” says Lisa Wetstone, Senior Director of Marketing, Innovation & Growth Strategy at MycoTechnology, Inc. “From small startups to growth-stage startups like MycoTechology to established industry players, there are so many ways to gather and interpret ESG data. This is especially true given the nuances of our industry. We are lacking a common language! Laying the groundwork to standardize this information can be a guide for us all and lift the industry up as a whole.”

The Diversified Framework is designed for incumbent food companies, retailers, manufacturers and animal protein producers with product portfolios that include both conventional and alternative proteins. The Diversified Framework guides reporting on ESG data related to the alternative proteins portion of businesses — for example, on lobbying, water management, circularity and affordability — that complements data that they are likely already reporting via other frameworks. Enabling decision-makers to draw comparisons between their animal and alternative proteins businesses, the Diversified Framework supports companies as they transition their practices to meet a range of climate, biodiversity, social and governance-related goals.

Of the Diversified Framework, Beatriz Hlavnicka, Head of Marketing LATAM at PlantPlus Foods, shared: “This comprehensive framework enables us to compare and address the ESG risks and opportunities of alternative proteins and conventional animal-based proteins, and is guiding our disclosures on topics that matter the most to stakeholders, in line with ESG best practices.”