Contact: Rosemary Ostfeld, Judge Business School
Mentor: Simon Pulman-Jones
Changes in diet have the potential to mitigate climate change, and improve human health. Choosing a largely plant-based diet has the potential to cut food-related global greenhouse gas emissions by up to 70%, save up to 8 million lives by 2050, and up to 1.5 trillion dollars from “avoided climate-related damages” (Springmann et al., 2016). A low-meat diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, is also strongly associated with prevention of non-communicable diseases (Hu, 2016).
Despite the health and the environmental benefits of transitioning to a largely plant-based or Mediterranean diet, consumer awareness of the links between diet, health, and climate change is very low. A global survey including US and UK respondents found that although greenhouse gas emissions from meat / dairy production and the transport sector are approximately equal (roughly 14.5% of total global emissions each), 64% of respondents perceive the transport sector to be a major contributor, while only 29% perceive meat / dairy production to be a major contributor (Chatham House, 2014). The same study found that when respondents were aware of a sector’s contribution to climate change, they were more likely to indicate a willingness to change their behaviour. This lack of awareness makes the likelihood of behavioral change very low, requiring a need for improved consumer messaging.
A joint research project between the University of Cambridge and the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Public Health is conducting research to develop consumer-messaging strategies on the links between diet choice and environmental sustainability. A prototype smartphone application is an intended output to help consumers make more sustainable choices.
The question for the i-Team is to speak to relevant industry representatives to determine which parts of the food industry value chain (from producers to retailers) might be able to provide data for use in the apps, and also which might want to use the apps themselves to better inform their own choices. The i-Team will also look at which aspects of the apps are most useful in the short term, for example working with charities that promote healthy eating (eg Veganuary), or providing an easy guide for consumers to substitute meat and dairy in particular recipes.