ESG Climate solutions – a need to change what we eat

Awareness of global food system's significance in the climate battle is on the rise, positively shifting demand to more sustainable protein sources.

Our Research Insights team have over the year presented several ESG reports trying to cover the theme from several angles. This 5th report covers changes to our dietary habits as a necessity as we experience unavoidable megatrends that are affecting our calorie intake, on both global and per capita scales.

ESG: Teach a person to fish

Human consumption of protein is hurting our environment: the food system alone is currently responsible for over 18% of our global CO2e (CO2 equivalent) emissions and is expected to rise. Awareness of the global food system’s significance in the climate battle is on the rise, positively shifting demand towards more sustainable protein sources. Salmon and chicken stand out as more climate-friendly solutions to the world’s ever-growing caloric and protein

ESG: There is a need to change the way we eat

Changes to our dietary habits are a necessity as we experience unavoidable megatrends that are affecting our protein and calorie intake, on both global and per capita scales. Population growth, increased household income and westernisation of emerging markets are the main drivers fuelling changes in consumption patterns and the subsequent increase in demand for calories and protein.

CGIAR’s Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) estimates that our current consumption habits have a dramatic effect on the environment, accounting for over 18% of human-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. When projecting that these trends will continue, CCAFS calculates that agricultural greenhouse gas emissions would rise by 76% by 2050 compared with unchanged 1995 consumption levels. This increase alone is a big step in the wrong direction: the European Commission aims for a total emissions
decrease of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.


ESG: Salmon and chicken could be a relief for our environment

Production efficiency differs significantly based on the animal type and farming methods applied. According to climate research by Elke Stehfest et al, a fully global transition to a low-meat diet would halve the costs of the mitigating actions necessary to achieve the 2050 stabilisation target for atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (450 ppm CO2 equivalent) set forth by the UN.

The inevitable increase in demand for food would need to be fully mitigated by changes in dietary habits and increased production efficiency. A complete transition away from beef would help redirect the emissions trend of the agriculture sector, positively impacting climate change efforts. The salmon industry, however, is scrutinised for other environmental issues, which need to be continuously monitored and improved. In this report, we argue that, on a relative basis, both salmon and chicken production are more environmentally-friendly than the production of other meat proteins (ie beef and pork).


Download and read the full ESG report here


Previous Nordea Research reports on ESG:


ESG – the renewable boom is here

ESG – under the alpha lens

ESG – mass consumption

ESG could be a significant Nordic opportunity

ESG – the economics of a hotter world

ESG – Rested & Ready

ESG – why you cannot afford not to care

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