(Impact Report 2020)
A year ago, Impossible Foods won the United Nations Momentum for Change Award for Planetary Health. We accepted the prize at an environmental conference in Spain, where Greta Thunberg and other climate crusaders warned of the existential threats of global warming and biodiversity collapse.
People were connecting the dots: the biggest threats facing humanity are rooted in a foundational problem -- our reliance on animals as a food production technology. The public began to realize how making food sustainably could help solve our climate and extinction crises.
After Madrid, we began reading about a mysterious pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan, China. Could we contain the contagion? Or would this “novel coronavirus” become just the latest epidemic and just the latest driver of our public health crisis, itself intertwined with our broken relationship with wild and domesticated animals?
One year ago, we couldn’t envision how the twin threats of the environmental crisis and COVID-19 would rattle our world. Now we know -- and the results are tragic. It’s time to change.
We at Impossible Foods are leading the change.
From cluster to crescendo
We kicked off 2020 in Las Vegas for CES, the world’s largest technology show. 80,000 early adopters got a sneak peek at autonomous cars, drones, smart kitchens and other wizardry. Nearly half the participants tried Impossible™ Pork Made from Plants and Impossible™ Sausage Made from Plants, our first all-new products since the 2016 launch of Impossible™ Burger. Tasters loved it.
From Vegas, we returned to one of America’s first COVID clusters -- Silicon Valley. By March 6, we sent San Francisco Bay Area employees home in advance of the nation’s most aggressive shelter-in-place order. As an essential business, Impossible Foods prepared to return to work quickly. We imposed strict social distancing measures at the plant in Oakland, Calif., and in the lab and test kitchen in Redwood City. Our sales team braced for a profound shift in consumer habits as restaurants closed or switched to drive-through and carry-out. Our competition -- the livestock industry -- buckled: America’s slaughterhouses became COVID hotspots, provoking meat shortages in America for the first time since World War II. Meat demand surged.
Grocery chains began reaching out: How quickly could we stock Impossible Burger on their shelves? At the start of the pandemic, our flagship product was available in fewer than 150 grocery stores nationwide. Within six months, Impossible Burger was available in nearly 15,000 stores. Impossible Burger became ubiquitous -- at Albertsons, Safeway, Smith’s, Kroger, Walmart, Trader Joe’s, Target and thousands of other grocery stores from coast to coast. We expanded international operations in Canada and Asia. By the fall, Impossible Burger was displacing animal-derived meat at an astonishing clip.
It was the most aggressive commercial push in Impossible Foods’ history.
The mission that motivates
The use of animals to turn plants into meat, fish and dairy foods is the most destructive technology on Earth and the biggest threat to humanity -- a colossal contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, generating four times more GHGs than Exxon, Shell, BP and Chevron combined. Eliminating animal agriculture would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions even faster than if we erased every car, truck, bus, ship, airplane and rocketship on Earth.
More than 45% of our planet’s land surface is devoted to grazing or growing feed crops for livestock, whose relentless expansion is obvious in the fires and rapid deforestation of the Amazon and other ecosystems. Pasture and the vast area needed for livestock feed crops support far less plant biomass than healthy ecosystems that preceded livestock. In fact, the historical loss of biomass from the land currently devoted to livestock is the carbon equivalent of about 15 years of fossil fuel emissions.
Animal agriculture’s immense scale has brought about and is rapidly accelerating the Sixth Extinction -- a crisis that has deleted two-thirds of wildlife biomass in the past 50 years. By weight, 60% of our planet’s mammals are livestock (vs 36% humans and 4% wildlife). Scientists and environmentalists issued a proclamation to end our reliance on animals in the food chain -- a course-correction before the extinction crisis extinguishes homo sapiens, too.
This report is our proclamation — a chance to share the lessons learned in 2020 and how we’ll apply them over the next decades. It’s an opportunity to spread optimism and amplify the chorus of people demanding changes to the way we treat our planet and its inhabitants. It’s an occasion to show how we can eliminate existential threats and revive our planet.