Most vegan products are great for your health. Wouldn’t it be good to know that they are great for the planet, too?
As the plant-based food movement is ramping up, so are many vegan brands increasing their commitments to sustainability. Determined not to pay lip service to changing the world by what we put on our plates, these vegan brands are leading the way in terms of social equity, environmental protection, and economic growth.
1. Beyond Meat
A brand that believes small choices have big impacts, Beyond’s range of plant-based alternatives to burgers, sausages, and meatballs aim to improve the welfare of people, animals and the planet. Like the Impossible Burger, an independent LCA has shown that a Beyond Burger uses significantly less water, land, energy, and causes fewer GHGs than a beef burger.
Last year, using its platform to educate, the company launched a science-based, digital course on sustainability, offered free of charge to students, teachers, and parents in the US. More recently, Beyond announced a partnership with food giant PepsiCo, to create and market innovative snack and beverage products made from plant-based protein. The collaboration will allow the brand to spread the plant-based word by maximising product, distribution channels, and accessibility.
For the last two decades, Sambazon, which stands for sustaining and managing the Brazilian Amazon, has been turning the world on to Brazil’s best-kept secret: açaí. This purple rainforest palm fruit is one of the healthiest foods, boasting a high fatty acid profile. It has also become one of the biggest protectors of the Amazon rainforest, preserving more than 2 million acres and empowering local communities to thrive as they build and nurture renewable income sources. It’s no surprise that the forest has more value intact than it does chopped down, and Sambazon has been a leader in promoting viability.
3. Impossible Foods
Impossible Foods’ mission is simple: make a burger delicious enough to switch meat-eaters to plant protein. The company believes that diet can achieve more than renewable energy in terms of climate mitigation—decreasing demand for cattle is the fastest way to shrink GHG emissions.
This year, to prove its sustainability credentials, Impossible Foods commissioned a Life Cycle Assessment on its Impossible Burger. The results showed that an Impossible Burger uses 96% less land, generates 89% fewer GHGs, and uses 87% less water than a cow beef burger.
As well as the minimal environmental impact of its products, the Impossible Whopper producers are taking action to ensure social equity, launching the #ImpossibleCommunity program, and donating 83,000 pounds of Impossible Burger to food banks. Impossible has also collaborated on Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp, a multi-city program to advance civil rights, and has teamed up with pioneering restaurateur Pinky Cole of Slutty Vegan and musical impresario Jermaine Dupri to encourage Black voter registration.
4. Follow Your Heart
This pioneering Californian vegan brand was inspired by the ’70s Earth Day movement when 4 friends decided the way to change the world was through delicious food.
Recently taken over by dairy product giant Danone, the award-winning Vegenaise producer remains true to its sustainable roots. The vegan company is dedicated to implementing innovative sustainable technology at its Southern California-based Earth Island factory, the first plant-based manufacturing facility in the US to achieve Platinum Level Zero Waste.
With a sustainability department focused on waste elimination, alternate energy, responsible packaging, and community involvement initiatives, Follow Your Heart has managed to divert over 98% of waste from landfills since 2016, instead of recycling, composting, or reusing. As co-founder Paul Lewin explains, “Our mission is to spread the ‘Follow Your Heart’ message throughout the world. The more we put the message out there, the better the world will be.”
5. So Delicious
So Delicious has been spoiling vegan ice-cream fans for more than 30 years with its creamy non-dairy alternative and extensive range of flavours, from fudge, cherry, and amaretto, to mocha almond, and of course, vanilla! Other dairy-free products include mousse and yogurt alternatives. In spite of the company’s recent purchase by Danone, So Delicious is still using the brand as a force for good.
As an active member of the B Corporation movement, the company pays fair wages to all So Delicious employees and signed the “We Are Still In” petition, which commits to meeting the Paris Agreement targets. Whilst the goal is to make all packaging recycled and recyclable by 2025, currently beverage and creamer packages are made from sustainably sourced cardboard, and shipping boxes from recycled paperboard. Its cocoa is UTZ certified, guaranteeing a better price for farmers, and all products are Certified Vegan, so free from animal products and testing.
6. Nature’s Path Foods
This “fiercely independent” family-owned and operated business works off of one philosophy: “always leave the soil better than you found it.”
It is committed to quality ingredients for its vegetarian and vegan foods with a focus on whole grains and non-GMO ingredients.
Operating out of a near-zero-waste headquarters that includes a rooftop garden, a rainwater harvesting system, and an on-site composting facility, it offers employee education grants, energy-efficiency and wellness activities, sponsors local urban gardening projects, and environmental education programs. It has also supported organic farming and non-GMO efforts.
Despite the backlash over funding from Blackstone, which has been linked to deforestation and human rights issues as well as ties to Donald Trump, it’s important to remember brands are not their funding—especially when they’re disrupting the dairy industry. This is the case for Oatly. It’s rumored to be going public this year, with a valuation that could top $10 —a first for a vegan milk brand. And, beyond that, it puts its sustainability commitments where everyone can see them. According to its chief sustainability officer Ashley Allen, in 2019, the most recent data available, the company made “important strides” in some areas, while others were a bit of a struggle.
“As our sales grew 88%, we posted the climate footprint of 119 of our products and launched new campaigns to advocate for putting climate declarations on food products to show people the impact of what they eat. We expanded our work with farmers in Sweden, and we joined a new partnership with farmers in the US to help them introduce oats into their crop rotations and move toward more sustainable growing practices. We reduced our water use per liter of Oatly by 19% from 2018, but we increased our carbon footprint per liter by 20% as we tackled new production and logistics challenges to meet demand.”
Making it cool to swap dairy for oat milk is its most notable commitment to the planet, though. And at the pace it keeps selling out, it’s not showing any signs of slowing down soon.