The climate is a hot topic these days as it directly affects our everyday life, as well as the future of all of us. This issue of the future of the planet preoccupies everyone. It also concerns nutrition, which is inseparable from the climate. Climate and nutrition are interconnected!
Indeed, our food choices have an influence on climate change, the consequences of which are changing the way we consume and produce food. All stakeholders – dietary supplement laboratories, food manufacturers, collective catering companies, etc. – are concerned with the implementation of concrete actions on climate and nutrition to tackle the climate emergency.
The interconnection is also reflected in the construction of tomorrow’s product offering, which must be designed with the environment and nutrition in mind.
Climate and nutrition: the need for awareness
- Nutrition influences the climate
- Today, climate change is a matter for us all. The UN definition of climate change is “long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns”. These variations are due in particular to emissions of CO2 or methane (greenhouse gases), which come largely from our food system. It is estimated that 24% of the carbon footprint of households in France is from food, with agricultural production in first place and transport in second. The overall carbon footprint of the sector is assessed at over 160 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year.
- With a projected population of 9.7 billion in 2050, one of the challenges of society is to feed everyone sustainably. Pierre Rahbi, a pioneer of agro-ecology, stated that the purpose of agriculture was not to produce, but to feed.
- The issue of managing food resources has therefore to be addressed now, while promoting more sustainable agricultural models.
- Looking at these figures, it cannot be denied that food in general, and therefore nutrition, influences the climate.
- The climate influences nutrition
- Similarly, the climate also influences the way we eat and produce food. With more and more visible climate disasters, consumers are becoming aware that their food choices are a driving force to support the planet. Droughts, water shortages and the decline in biodiversity are just a small part of the consequences of climate change. These episodes lead to reduced yields and increased losses during harvests. With these temperature variations, the nutritional quality of nutrients is affected and production zones are becoming unsuitable.
The “One Health” concept comes into its own here: human health, the planet’s health and animal health are closely linked.
On the road to sustainable nutrition
Sustainable nutrition is one of the biggest present-day challenges to reduce our carbon footprint and combat climate change.
Levers for action include:
- Encouraging agro-ecological practices
Natural, conservation, regenerative, organic, biodynamic and sustainable agriculture, agroforestry and permaculture: many agricultural models are based on the principles of agro-ecology. Farming practices are based on soil regeneration, crop rotation, incorporating legumes to fix nitrogen in the soil, limiting tillage and mechanisation.
For example, Biodynamic Coffee is coffee from regenerative agriculture.
- Giving priority to local produce
Transport represents 31% of carbon emissions from the food chain. Reducing the carbon footprint of produce can result in responsible and sustainable production, as well as transport that emits very little CO2. For example, Grain de Sail transports its chocolate and coffee-based products by sailboat. With the increasing trend in our society towards reshoring, many companies are opting to offer local products, made in France. This is the case for Lesieur, which is developing a 100% French flax stream for its ISIO4 range for 2024. The “Aux fruits d’ici” range by Danone only contains ingredients from French regions. In addition to reducing the carbon footprint from transport, delivery lead times for ingredients are shorter for the company. However, the production of some crops requires a certain climate, resulting in a lower production volume.
Transport is definitely one way of decarbonising the food on our plates, but it is far from being the main one. Reshoring above all means better control of supply chains, support for local players, and better understanding for consumers of what they eat, but it also has limitations:
- Available farmland
- The climate required for certain crops and livestock and therefore, by extension, a lower production volume
- People’s livelihoods in the face of a potential stoppage of certain crops
- Limiting waste
In France, food waste represents 10 million tonnes of products per year. Fighting waste is another lever through which we can preserve our planet. Some apps, such as Phénix or Too Good To Go, are combating this phenomenon. Too Good To Go, present in around 15 countries in Europe, states that it saved over 52 million meals in Europe in 2021. Collective catering also has a role to play through limiting self-service and improving stock management. Solutions are appearing, such as:
- The possibility of reserving your meal in order to facilitate supply management
- Reducing “help yourself” and increasing service by staff
- Tableware and serving utensils better suited to portion size
- Not seasoning starters so as to reuse leftovers in another way.
- Selecting certain types of packaging
The upcycling trend is booming. With an annual growth rate of 122% between 2016 and 2021, many companies are starting up in waste recovery and reuse. For example, Circul Egg transforms eggshell waste into ingredients for feed, nutraceuticals and cosmetics.
Consumers are increasingly basing their choices on the type of packaging used. New alternatives are appearing, such as compostable and reusable packaging, and deposit systems. Players in the food and nutraceutical industries are being encouraged to choose responsible packaging. Nat&Form, for example, is considered a pioneer in eco-responsible packaging for dietary supplements in France. The group sells pill organisers made from cardboard or sugarcane.
Raising awareness to involve people in the issues of climate and nutrition
In response to the climate emergency, companies, manufacturers and retailers are taking responsibility. “Small” companies with a pro-environment mindset are multiplying. Large groups, bolstered by their impact, are doing the same. In 2019, the PACTE Act introduced the notion of “société à mission”. This means that a company publicly states its raison d’être (purpose), along with one or more social and environmental objectives it intends to pursue in the course of its business. In 2020, Danone became the first listed company to adopt this status and make a public commitment with “One Planet. One Health”. In 2022, the already highly active Bel group announced its goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2025. To achieve this, the group has implemented its own analysis tool, “Bel Low Carbon”.
The Les 2 Vaches brand is focusing on communication to minimise food waste.
We are also seeing the emergence of other types of players who are making these subjects more widespread, such as BonPote:
- An independent media outlet set up by Thomas Wagner, a whistle-blower on climate change issues.
- Contributed to the authoring of the book “Tout comprendre ou presque sur le climat”
- It has 122k subscribers on LinkedIn, 140k on Instagram, 56k on Twitter and 55k on Facebook.
Ratings such as PlanetScore and Eco-Score also play a role in raising consumers’ awareness of the environmental impact of products.
The consumer is a key link in the chain
Consumers, in greater numbers, have an essential role to play, shaping demand and creating the virtuous cycle of adaptation. We strongly believe that education is essential to bring about profound changes in our societies. Although the “state of climate emergency” is upon us, and we cannot rely solely on future generations, it goes without saying that we cannot avoid this phase. In the future, food and climate education will be inseparable; they are interconnected.
But it’s a long road, and it will take several generations to get there. Let’s take the example of pulses: this food category, although consumed historically, was only included in the PNNS (National Health & Nutrition Programme in France) recommendations in its latest edition in 2020. Integrating new reflexes and new foods into consumer habits is time-consuming, together with making a product category more popular.
The role of health professionals is also key in changing these habits. However, they generally lack training, for example on the subject of plant-based food in diets. We believe that it is essential to teach them that it is indeed possible to be in good health and be vegetarian. In the future, the notion of sustainability should also be included in the training curriculum of dieticians, for example.
Finally, a subject that practically never goes away is the price of responsible products.
“Food is bound to be more expensive in the future, to pay for a more virtuous model. It will provide better pay for farmers, as well as better nutritional quality. This in turn brings up a social debate: we cannot ignore the widening gap between poverty and more wealth people. Today, consuming responsibly is undeniably elitist. In the future, for nutritional and climate reasons, food aid will play a key role. There is already talk of a form of “Food Social Security” to enable people not just to eat, but to eat well. The French Red Cross recently carried out nutrition audits on food packages given to families in need. In the future, the audit and actions must also concern the climate. Finally, beyond price, food preservation and cultivation methods are other issues to consider.”
Juliette Gougis, Director of the Food Division, Nutrikéo
 ADEME: The energy and carbon footprint of food in France. 2019
 United Nations. World population prospects. 2019
 CNRS. Organic farming to feed Europe in 2050. 2021.
 ADEME. The energy and carbon footprint of food in France. 2019.
 Ministères Ecologie Energie Territoires. Food waste. 2023.
 Snacking. 52 million meals saved in one year thanks to Too Good to Go. July 2022
 INRAE. Agro-ecology is a source of solutions. 2022.
— An article written by NUTRIKEO —