There are plenty of personal reasons why someone may choose to pursue a plant-based or flexitarian diet: health reasons, reducing one’s environmental footprint and lessening one’s effect on animal welfare issues tend to be among the most commonly cited. One element many plant-based consumers are most passionate about, however, is the sector’s ability to have a more global impact, particularly in the area of environmental sustainability.
“The companies in Canada that form the plant-based value chain need to maintain a positive environmental sustainability agenda because as a large industry, even small steps will eventually have a big impact on our planet and provide an avenue for many solutions,” Prester Foods Medical Director Dr. Dilys Oladiwura said. “For example, steps to conserve resources, reduce green gas emissions and reduce waste by individual companies would eventually culminate in big gains for our planet in the years and decades to come.”
Prester Foods is one of many Canadian plant-based food companies working to improve the health of each consumers and the environment. From farm right through to retailer, companies across the country are engaged in discussions about how they can lower their environmental impact without reducing the quality of the products they make and sell.
It’s often seen as a goal that’s difficult, but important, to reach, but Canada’s plant-based sector is making significant strides in both areas. New products make their way to grocery store shelves each year, touting their increased nutritional and environmental benefits.
Cited as potentially more difficult to achieve, however, is proving a company is reaching sustainability targets set out by its target markets.
“Sustainability reporting has become a requirement to gain new distribution agreements with major retailers such as Walmart, and it has become a cornerstone to achieving trust with many of their consumers,” Provision Analytics Chief Marketing Officer Kevin Davies said. “In our lifetimes, the impact of climate change is expected to take a direct toll on agriculture in many regions of Canada; mitigating those effects may ultimately become critical for our supply chain and economy.”
Davies explained that ESG reporting—or environmental, social and governance reporting—is becoming the industry standard to help companies track and provide the key metrics their customers are looking for. In short, the market is looking for greater transparency to prove sustainability claims.
Tracking and verifying such data has become key to Provision Analytics’ work and service offerings as demand for ESG reporting rises.
“By implementing Provision’s cloud record-keeping platform, food companies don’t only streamline reporting on their process results, they can also unlock data-driven insight for the variables they can control,” Davies explained. “Waste is a metric that has become increasingly important to the market, as the world now exceeds 1.6 billion tonnes of primary food loss annually. Data reporting for irrigation is also becoming a requirement in many regions where sustainable water management is paramount.”
Through collaborative work, companies across Canada are able to ensure new technology—whether it’s used in-field to assess crops or in facilities at the processing stage—is functional and effective for the full plant-based value chain.
This has shown to be true not only for environmental sustainability, but also for offering improved health benefits to consumers around the world.
“For example, a plant processing organization may have the capability to fractionate a given plant into its constituents such as an oil, a protein isolate and fibre,” she said. “Rather than allowing wastage, collaborative work will ensure that every part of that plant is used to make a value-added product that supports the health of the society we serve … This mindset is not only positive but beneficial to the society and rewarding for those who are able to successfully implement these changes to make our world a better place.”
By focusing on tracking and improving their sustainability efforts, Canada’s plant-based food, feed and ingredient companies are having a positive global effect—benefiting the health of our planet, the health of our environment and the health of consumers.