• The EU has just published a proposal to clamp down on greenwashing in food labels
  • The new directive obliges companies to make supporting evidence available alongside a green label
  • Stockhead reached out to v2food’s CEO, Tim York


The European Commission has this week published new measures designed to crack down on greenwashing in food product labels and advertisements.

The highly anticipated “Green Claims Directive” will force food companies in the EU to be more transparent about the climate impact of their products, and dictate how they communicate their green claims.

The new proposal will finally bring some order in the ‘wild west’ market of green advertising, obliging companies to make supporting evidence available alongside a green claim.

Experts say it’s a huge step forward because green marketing has been proliferating pretty much unchecked over the past few years. The European Commission has found that more than half of green claims are vague, misleading or unfounded.

Blanca Morales, senior coordinator for EU Ecolabel, said the proliferation of greenwashing is hampering the green transition.

“It hinders consumers’ ability to make informed sustainable choices, and makes it harder for the companies that strive to reduce their environmental impacts to differentiate themselves from free riders,” Morales said.

“We need clear EU rules to wipe out greenwashing claims, and we need companies to provide the evidence behind their credentials: no data, no claim.”


Australia a step behind

If this directive is implemented into law by the EU, certification by independent agencies will be regulated going forward, which in turn will allow regulators to fine companies up to 4% of their turnover.

In Australia, no such proposal exists but activists have been saying for years that consumers are paying premiums for organic products because of a lack of national standards.

Australian Organic CEO Niki Ford said Australia is the only developed country in the world not to have any consistent local regulation for organic products.

“You can simply put organic on your packaging in Australia if you have one organic ingredient, or you simply claim a process has been undertaken with no verification — and the ACCC aren’t able to stop this,” she told the ABC.

Ford emphasised that the buck should stop with the government, which she said is stalling efforts to regulate.

“This is not more red tape; this is actually cleaning up the very murky area we have and all the greenwashing that happens in relation to organics.”


Interview with v2food CEO, Tim York

With that in mind, there are many Australian food companies that focus on truly embracing ESG as part their operations.

The country’s biggest plant-based meat company, v2food, says its company’s mission is to make meat delicious and sustainable for generations to come.

Now read: The Ethical Investor: Meatless meat has always had ESG credentials. But is it just a fad?

Stockhead reached out to v2food’s new CEO, Tim York, to get his views on why his company is genuinely trying to impact the environment.


Tim York, v2food

How does plant-based food fit in the larger picture of ESG?

“Addressing the global food system is the neglected pillar of sustainability and climate change – and one we don’t talk about enough,” York told Stockhead.

“The COVID-19 pandemic was a wake-up call to the vulnerability of our food supply systems. Empty supermarket shelves made us think about the impact that other existential crises, including climate change, could have on our ability to eat the food we want.

“The scientists behind the EAT-Lancet report talked about how we would need another planet if we were to feed our growing population in the way we have become accustomed to.

“Globally we are eating more and more meat, and our agricultural land is being used to grow grain and pulses to feed our animals, not to feed us. It is unsustainable nutritionally and environmentally, and we have to do something about it, and quickly.

“To put the problem in perspective, the global food system produces 35% of the global carbon emissions, with over half (57%) of these emissions coming from the production of animal-based foods, including meat, poultry, and dairy products.

“With the world forecasted to reach 10 billion people by 2050, it’s more important than ever for us to find ways to create change and shape a sustainable future.

“Food is one of the easiest ways we can make a change for the better. Plant-based proteins provide a viable solution to reduce total emissions and work towards net carbon zero.

“Australia’s average meat consumption alone hits 129kg per person, per year, creating a global average of over four tonnes of annual carbon emissions, which is more than the emissions created from an additional two cars per person.

“We need to re-evaluate and do it fast. Supplying this increased demand for protein with declining natural resources, in a more volatile climate, is not feasible in the long run.”

What is v2food doing to help fix this environmental problem?

“The planet can’t support billions of meat-eaters. Switching to a plant-based meat option is one of the most powerful, yet simple measures you can take to reduce the impact on our climate,” said York.

“According to UN estimates, we’ll need to grow more food in the next 40 years than we’ve grown in the past 8,000 years combined in order to feed our growing population.

“While the greenhouse gas emissions from Australia’s red meat industry have fallen by 57% since 2005, in 2018 alone, it still contributed 63 million tonnes of CO2e.

“In comparison, plant-based proteins have the lowest carbon footprint of all protein categories.

“For example, producing a kilogram of plant-based v2 product only emits 2.2kg CO2e. To get the same amount of meat from beef, emissions would be nearly 45 times higher, at 99.48kg CO2e.

“In addition, the production of plant proteins requires less water and land than beef production. Producing 100 grams of protein from soybeans requires two square metres of land and 93L of water. Producing the same amount of beef requires 164 square metres of land and 728L of water.

“There is a clear opportunity for plant-based categories to deliver against financial and sustainability metrics.

“In order to meet our climate targets, we need to first and foremost, change the way we view food; a reduction in meat consumption is essential if we are to achieve these targets.”

But some say plant-based meat is a passing trend, do you think it’s here to stay?

“Even before the pandemic, consumers were looking to change their habits. Food Frontier research has shown that half of Australian consumers are actively looking to reduce their meat consumption,” York told Stockhead.

“Six out of 10 Australians have in fact tried or are interested in trying plant-based meat products.

“Plant-based proteins are reaching a position where they can exist as a legitimate source of protein on the average Aussie’s plate.

“A YouGov survey conducted by v2food highlighted changing consumer attitudes, with 87% of Aussies wanting to buy more ethical and sustainable products, and 63% prepared to try plant-based if it tastes good.

“With plant-based alternatives being created in a way that consumers can make quick and easy switches with products, and no change to the way a dish tastes or needs to be cooked, retailers, investors and consumers alike are presented with the ability to lead the way in sustainable choices.

“Animal protein production systems cannot possibly meet demand alone. There is not enough land on this planet.

“That’s where companies like v2food come into the picture. We believe we’re part of a sustainable solution,” said York.