(Impact Report 2020)
A Letter from Pat Brown
Dec. 4, 2020
Let’s turn back the clock on climate change -- and halt biodiversity collapse
To the outside world, Impossible Foods is a food company -- but at its heart is an audacious yet realistic strategy to turn back the clock on climate change and stop the global collapse of biodiversity.
If we could wave a magic wand and instantly make the animal-based food industry disappear, two game-changing, natural pathways for greenhouse gas reduction would turn on:
1. Methane decay: 45% of anthropogenic (ie, due to human activities) atmospheric methane comes from livestock operations. The cumulative livestock-derived atmospheric methane has a climate impact equivalent to roughly 10.4 times that of total global greenhouse gas emissions in 2020. Unlike carbon dioxide, atmospheric methane spontaneously decays, with a half-life of about 9 years. So if we turned off livestock methane emissions today, half of the livestock-derived methane in the atmosphere today would decay within 9 years, effectively negating 5.2 years worth of ongoing GHG emissions. And in the 20 years after flipping the off-switch on livestock, methane decay would negate 8.2 years-worth of total ongoing GHG emissions.
2. Biomass recovery: Photosynthesis is the original carbon-capture technology, optimized over 3 billion years of evolution, using solar energy to convert atmospheric CO2 into plant biomass. Because animal agriculture currently exploits more than 45% of Earth’s ice-free land area, grazing livestock and feed-crop harvesting suppress potential accumulation of biomass. (That opportunity cost has been estimated by several independent studies.) The potential biomass recovery on land currently exploited for animal agriculture would capture about 800 trillion tons of CO2 as plant biomass and soil carbon, equivalent to about 16 years of total GHG emissions at current rates. Think of this as burning the Amazon rainforest -- in reverse.
The combined effect of these two mechanisms (and other smaller factors) would result in a net reduction in atmospheric GHGs over the next 20 years, even if we did nothing to reduce all other emissions.
If only we had that magic wand, we could literally turn back the clock on climate change!
The use of animals for food is also, overwhelmingly, the primary driver of a catastrophic global collapse in biodiversity, through destruction and degradation of biodiverse ecosystems by livestock operations, and overfishing. Thus, the same magic wand could halt and reverse the biodiversity collapse.
Our planet needs that magic wand.
So Impossible Foods is inventing it -- a new technology platform for transforming plants into delicious, nutritious, affordable meat, fish and dairy foods, replacing the old animal-based technology in the global food system.
To succeed in our mission, it’s not enough for the foods we create to be more sustainable (that’s easy). We only succeed if we make meat, fish and dairy lovers happier, by doing a better job of delivering everything that matters to consumers – deliciousness, nutritional value, convenience and affordability (the hard but doable part). And we need to scale up, to make better choices easily available to every current consumer of meat, fish or dairy foods, around the world. We accelerated on both fronts in 2020.
The devastating health and economic impact of COVID-19 shaped 2020 for Impossible Foods as it did for the whole world. As this report describes, we prioritized the health and welfare of our colleagues and communities, adjusted our business plan to adapt to the impact of the global pandemic, and blasted ahead on our essential mission.
Thanks for reading, and I look forward to your feedback.
Chairman, CEO and Founder