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The Plant Based Universities Campaign – Why Businesses Should Get Involved

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The Plant Based Universities campaign was launched in 2021 with the objective of transitioning university catering to a fully plant-based menu. Several active campaigns in UK universities, including Cambridge, Stirling and University College London, have all been highly successful.

In the academic year 2021-2022, it was recorded that there were 2.2 million university students across more than 160 universities in the UK alone. According to The Eating Better Alliance, environmental issues are one of the most significant challenges we face today. Two-thirds of teenagers in the UK would agree with this claim, according to the Alliance, and a significant number of them have gone plant-based as a result. University students, then, are the prime target for capitalizing on this issue.

This makes the potential for growth in this food market sector huge, which would naturally benefit plant-based food businesses and suppliers significantly because of the large number of new potential customers. So, it is in their best interest to back to the campaign.

How  Does The Plant Based Universities Campaign Work?

Plant Based Universities campaign groups host outreach stalls in universities to educate students about climate issues, animal rights and health. They lobby their universities to change and put the vote out to the students of their institutions demanding a shift to plant-based menus.

In addition to this, they offer a summer camp for those interested in representing the campaign in their own university. In a democratic process, this vote is put to students to see if they want their university to make the switch to plant-based catering. Although, naturally, this motion is met with some resistance, in many cases most students have voted for this positive change.

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Here are some of the key successes of the campaign to date in the UK:

  • Beef and Lamb have been removed from menus at The University of Cambridge, along with the Darwin Ball being a completely plant-based event in May this year.
  • There is now a plant-based café in Kings College London.
  • The Student Union at Stirling University passed a motion to become 100% plant-based by 2025.
  • The University of Birmingham voted in favor of a complete transition to plant-based catering. It will start with 60% plant-based menus, increasing by 10% each academic year until they are completely animal free.
  • Plant-based milks are offered as the default option across all campus outlets at the University College London.

Campaign Progress

Plant Based Universities state on their website that: “we have also recently seen the Academy Awards and Berkeley City Council adopt policies to have fully plant-based establishments in response to climate breakdown. If we can make universities adopt fully plant-based menus, it can drive a culture shift and set an example to the government and other institutions on how to genuinely act on the climate, ecological, and cost of living crises.”

This cultural shift is precisely what is needed for the plant-based market to receive accelerated growth. One study suggests that, 38% of young people in the 18-24-year-old age group are very concerned about environmental issues, specifically those related to the animal agricultural industry. By comparison, only 20% of over 55s worry about this issue at all. Naturally, it is only logical to target those already with concerns in such a campaign.

Indeed, more and more young people making the shift to a plant-based diet, which is precisely the demographic the campaign targets because they are the ones most receptive to making the switch, so sales of plant-based products will naturally increase. This is an increase that can be capitalized on and improved if the campaign continues to succeed.

How Businesses Can Support The Plant Based Universities Campaign?

This is a campaign that plant-based businesses should actively promote and champion because the possibility of growth in the food sector is huge. But how can they do so? Businesses can publicly offer support and share posts on social media. They can also offer products samples to university catering teams to show how fantastic they are. Donations would also be welcome to allow the campaign to grow. All in all, businesses need to back the efforts of the students because they could benefit greatly if a university chose them as a supplier. Statistically speaking, the amount of revenue this would generate is rather large.

Plant Based Universities also state that “universities have significant cultural capital, and their actions have a great influence over the broader society’s ethical views and sustainable practices.” Resultingly, this cultural capital would have significant ramifications for society at large. This is not just about the students at the university, but it is also about affecting greater change. Universities can set a positive example for the rest of society to follow, which would grow this market even further.

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Iain Green, director at Animal Aid, commented that “Animal agriculture is one of the most destructive industries; not only does it cause immense animal suffering, it is also a leading driver of the climate crisis. As such, it is vital that universities and other influential institutions are at the forefront of addressing this.”

Indeed, the success of this campaign could lead to a huge shift in society’s viewpoints and would accelerate the growth of the plant-based food market substantially. So let us all get behind it and do what we can to back the Plant Based Universities campaign.


Sean Barrs
Sean is an activist and academic. He is researching his English Literature PhD thesis on the politics of diet. He is also an ultra-runner with a keen interest in everything plant-based. In the past, he has written for numerous publications including Plant Based News and The Vegan Review.