Global coalition aims to transform protein system by 2040

Leading international businesses and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have formed The Protein Challenge 2040, the world’s first protein system coalition.

Protein production is placing an increasingly heavy strain on land and sea resources, in Ireland as in the rest of the world, and is associated with significant social, environmental and economic impact.

The Protein Challenge 2040 coalition is founded by leading NGOs including World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), US discount retailers Target and British supermarket chain Waitrose.

Other founders are UK dairy nutrition firm Volac, Swiss taste and flavour experts Firmenich, as well as food manufacturers Quorn and The Hershey Company, the largest chocolate manufacturer in North America.

It is the first partnership that brings together representatives from animal, plant and alternative protein industries to understand the protein system’s challenges, identify a common way forward and come up with new solutions together.

Central to the grouping’s challenge is answering the question: How can we feed nine billion people enough protein in a way that is healthy, affordable and good for the environment?

The coalition has pinpointed six areas for innovation, which the group says it will take immediate action on. These are:

  1. Increasing the proportion of plant-based protein consumption with consumers
  2. Scaling up a sustainable feed innovation to meet the demand for animal protein
  3. Closing the protein nutrient loop (for example, reducing waste rich in protein by finding new ways to feed it back into the production cycle)
  4. Developing indigenous plants as protein sources for local communities
  5. Scaling up sustainable aquaculture for food and animal feed
  6. Restoring soil health

Unlocking Sustainable Nutrition

The coalition has identified a number of key challenges and opportunities around the future of protein, which, if tackled could have a transformative effect. These are:

  • The ongoing, polarized debate between animal and plant-based diets, and a wider misunderstanding of sustainable nutrition, where healthy consumption and sustainable production of food are rarely considered together.
  • The need for more pre-competitive collaboration in the global protein debate, both across governments, businesses and civil society and across individual protein industries.
  • The need for public education around how much protein one needs for a healthy diet, and where that protein should come from.

The coalition is facilitated by independent sustainability non-profit Forum for the Future. Founded in 1996, the Forum works globally with business, government and others to solve complex sustainability challenges.

“Past debate around the protein system have been extremely polarising, but to make effective progress we need to move beyond that and work together,” said Stephanie Draper, Deputy CEO of Forum for the Future.

“At Forum we believe that collaborative action is essential in order to address complex issues that no one entity – whether a consumer group, NGO, business or government – can tackle alone. We’re delighted that leaders across the different protein industries are ready and willing to come to a consensus, and are excited to help steer them forward through this unique and growing partnership.”

Call To Arms

Forum for the Future is calling on more stakeholders across the protein system to bring their resources and expertise to take action together on the six aforementioned areas.

Initially, it will focus on the first three: increasing plant-based protein consumption, developing sustainable animal feed and closing the protein nutrient loop.

It says it wants to raise the profile of protein as an integral part of a sustainable food system by 2020 and to change the conversation around protein, from “good” and “bad” sources towards a better balance of sustainable protein.

It also aims to catalyse action and investment in sustainable solutions, and work with stakeholders, business and government to tackle what it calls “key hotspots” across the global protein system.