A new report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) suggests that investing in plant-based meat alternatives has a greater impact on climate change than other emissions-reducing technologies.
The report found that each dollar spent on growing and up-scaling the technology behind meat and dairy alternatives resulted in three times more climate-warming gas reductions compared to investment in green cement, seven times more than green building investments, and 11 times more than zero-emission vehicles.
The big impact of green proteins comes from the difference in emissions produced when growing conventional meat and dairy versus their plant-based alternatives, according to the report. For example, producing an equivalent amount of beef results in six to 30 times more emissions than producing tofu.
Alternative protein investment is growing rapidly, with spending jumping from $1 billion in 2019 to $5 billion in 2021. While green protein alternatives currently make up 2% of meat, dairy, and egg products sold, current growth trends indicate that they will make up 11% of the market by 2035, resulting in reduced emissions nearly equivalent to those produced by the entire output of global aviation. BCG claims alternative proteins could gain additional market share even faster with sufficient investment in backing technology, resulting in improved products, production at scale, and regulatory changes easing sales and marketing efforts.
The benefits are clear when considering that meat and dairy production uses 83% of farmland, causes 60% of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, but only provides 18% of calories and 37% of protein intake. A 2021 BCG report predicted that Europe and North America will see meat consumption begin to fall in 2025, with A.T. Kearney predicting in 2019 that most of the meat products people will eat in 2040 will not come from slaughtered animals.
“There’s been a lot of investments into electric vehicles, wind turbines, and solar panels, which is all great and helpful to reduce emissions, but we have not seen comparable investment yet [in alternative proteins], even though it’s rising rapidly,” said Malte Clausen, a partner at BCG. “If you really care about impact as an investor, this is an area that you definitely need to understand.”