Plant Based Treaty: Putting Food Systems at the Forefront of Tackling Climate Change
Over 1000 businesses across all continents have endorsed the Plant-Based Treaty. In less than two years almost 400 companies in Europe, and over 300 in the US have signed up. These include many household names familiar to the Plant Based World community such as Vivera, Tofurkey, Heura and Bosh!
Launched in August 2021, the treaty is a grassroots campaign to put food systems at the forefront of tackling climate change. Local governments can endorse the treaty in the same way they can declare a climate emergency. It is not legally binding but is a commitment to supporting plant-based initiatives such as carbon labelling, meat-free menus, and creating a pathway for growing plant-based eating.
The treaty is modelled on the Fossil Fuel Treaty which addressed the Paris Agreement’s and subsequent COPs’ failure to include the phasing out of fossil fuels in written agreements. The plant based Treaty team were active at COP 27 in Sharm El Sheikh in November 2022, calling on world leaders to begin a sustainable and just transition this decade to avert climate catastrophe. At the previous COP 26 in Glasgow they published a free guide to vegan food in Glasgow for delegates and visitors.
Nicola Harris, Director of Communications for Plant Based Treaty says she is delighted that so many companies are on board. She explained that the campaign grew from local to international level organically: “We are from the animal save movement and set this up as a standalone campaign. It meant we could leverage our network of activists around the world. That’s how we’ve been able to spread to all continents through our existing network.
We send letters to businesses and go onto the High Street door to door and speak to owners about the plant-based treaty. Many of these now display posters to promote it. With the big companies: Tofurkey, Vivera and Linda McCartney foods, they just endorsed the treaty themselves without any contact from us. We have been getting quite a bit of media coverage and good reach on social media, and word has been getting around. So that has attracted support.”
It is not just vegan businesses that are endorsing the treaty: “McCartney foods is vegetarian, not fully vegan, but there is an acknowledgement that we need to shift in that direction. With endorsements from individuals less than half of signers are vegan. Many are omnivores and sign because they know that things must change and are happy to sign as part of their journey to change their diet.”
Businesses are also crucial as partners and ambassadors for spreading the word. “We really love partnering with businesses and are always looking for new partnerships. We have a partnership with vegan review app Happy Cow, and they’ve helped promote the treaty through their network. We’ve partnered with Veg Fest in the UK, and they’ve helped us with newsletters, and invited us to talk on panels. Then equally we’ve helped promote their events. Ethical Tee Company is another example. They have helped us with getting merchandise printed and their owner has become one of our ambassadors, reaching out to businesses and celebrities.”
A major focus has been getting regional and city governments on board, with 20 towns and cities around the world signing up so far. The biggest US city to sign is Los Angeles, where the city council unanimously passed a resolution to endorse the treaty in October 2022. In India 15 cities have signed up. In January 2023 Edinburgh became the first European capital city to join the campaign.
City endorsement has great potential to engage businesses in the movement even further. As cities make plans for implementing the treaty the expertise of plant-based businesses will be needed to enable the transition.
Nicola Harris explains: “Edinburgh City Council is now looking at implementation and how to transition their catering services, to make plant-based food more accessible in council buildings, universities, schools, care homes and at public events. Edinburgh has more than 120 schools so just changing that sector will make a big impact. They want their catering companies to provide more plant-based options on a budget and we’ve been talking to them about offering training for caterers, so it is an opportunity for plant-based entrepreneurs with that knowledge to get involved.”
There are plenty of good reasons why all plant-based businesses should support the treaty. It is a way of demonstrating strong values and doing something practical about the climate emergency. Nicola Harris adds: “By banding together we’ve got much more power and influence. We see that with animal agriculture, that they have lobbies and they’re very powerful, because they work together. If plant-based businesses can team up and have a louder voice, it’s going to help influence things in Parliament. For any plant-based businesses not already on board please get in touch and arrange a meeting and find out how you can support us.”