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Impossible Foods’ 2020 Operations and Environmental Impact

(Impact Report 2020)

Scaling and learning

Throughout 2020, we increased production and achieved record economies of scale, which we passed on to customers with an average 15% wholesale price cut in March(opens in a new tab) -- the first of many to come. We accelerated a long-term project to achieve zero waste and modernized our waste infrastructure. We scaled up production of heme -- our “magic ingredient”(opens in a new tab)  -- to keep our supply chain strong. 2020 was the most transformative year since the 2016 launch of commercial operations.

Adapting as we scale: Case study #1 

Heme water

We’ve been tracking water use in heme production since we started heme manufacturing. While the water footprint of the heme protein in our product is nowhere near as high as the water footprint of using cattle to produce meat, it accounts for a disproportionate percent of the total water required to produce our food. Thus we track water use closely and see big opportunities to reduce our water footprint:

  • We’re currently in the piloting stage of our reverse osmosis system designed to recapture, clean, and re-use processing water. This is exploratory technology, and we’ll keep monitoring the system to determine whether we can operationalize it.

  • We created an all-new Biomanufacturing team, which takes Impossible Foods’ “basic science” innovations in genetics, fermentation and industrial engineering (among other disciplines) and generates economies of scale for mainstream, mass-market product manufacturing.

  • Led by Vice President of Biomanufacturing Smita Shankar, the team worked with our growing sustainability group to introduce water use as a key performance metric for our heme production in 2021. What can be measured can be managed: With water use as a metric similar to net production targets, we’re elevating the visibility and importance of water stewardship. 

  • With the expansion of the Biomanufacturing team, we increased our focus on sustainability and are building a program to identify new opportunities for water conservation through fermentation, protein isolation and downstream processes.  

  • Adapting as we scale: Case study #2

    Zero Waste

    Our goal is to achieve the US Green Business Council Zero Waste (USGBC) certification(opens in a new tab), which requires 90% or greater landfill diversion rate. 2020 introduced unexpected challenges such as the waste flows of personal protective equipment (PPE), but we are on track for 2021-2022 USGBC certification thanks to our close work with external vendors and a reorganized, more cross-functional waste management team.

    This year, our waste management experts set up a scrap metal bin and purchased new, leak-proof compost bins, which allowed us to reduce the frequency of pick-ups to the regulatory minimum for easier disposal and better tracking. We will soon separate wood waste from our landfill bin and get a barrel crusher to further minimize landfill waste and the number of recycling pickups. Zero waste requires infinite attention to detail. 

    Maximizing sustainability in Oakland


    Water use in manufacturing gets more efficient as production increases. The math is simple: Our water footprint comes from the water requirements of our recipe, and (similar to ground beef from a cow) Impossible Burger’s first ingredient by weight is water. We also use water to clean manufacturing sites. To make more product, we need more water. The good news: We get greater economies of scale thanks to Clean-in-Place and other water reclamation products we launched in 2019.  

    Food waste

    We began collecting food waste data in November 2019, then launched a program to decrease food waste both on a per pound and total basis. We installed railings on our conveyor belts to minimize ingredient and bulk meat loss during manufacturing. We hosted a series of training classes for manufacturing employees to emphasize that minimizing waste is good for the planet and for our bottom line. We’ve achieved a marked decrease in food waste throughout the year. 

    GHG emissions 

    By far our greatest contribution to climate action is providing consumers a simple, every-day tool to reduce their carbon footprint (by the equivalent of 90 airline-passenger miles per pound of cow-beef replaced). But we’re always looking for additional ways to minimize our environmental footprint. Impossible Foods is part of a Community Choice Agreement that allows us to buy 85% GHG-free energy from renewables and hydroelectric sources for our Oakland production plant, as well as our Redwood City headquarters.


    We launched Impossible Burger patties at grocery stores this summer, optimizing packaging for product safety and sustainability. We assessed recycled and recyclable materials, and considered materiality (ratio of plastic weight to product weight on a mass balance basis) and how to dispose of the packaging at the end of its life. We decided on a rigid tray and recycled, recyclable plastic (rPET), which minimizes the total amount of that plastic used overall.

    Impossible Foods has a procurement policy of 100% Sustainable Forest Initiative or Forest Stewardship Initiative cardboard and paperboard sourcing for packaging -- a benefit that consumers will never see: corrugated boxes that house the product on its way to grocery stores. Each Impossible Burger patty uses 96% less land, 87% less water, and generates 89% less emissions than a burger made from cows -- all while maintaining extra juiciness, convenient handling and an easy cooking experience. 

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