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Report2020Open access

Environmental impact of plant-based foods – data collection for the development of a consumer guide for plant-based foods

Karlsson Potter, Hanna; Lundmark, Lina; Röös, Elin


The current food system puts enormous pressures on natural ecosystems. To mitigate these pressures, three overarching strategies are necessary – improvements in production, reductions in food waste and food losses, and dietary change (Willett et al., 2019; Röös et al., 2017). The focus has long been on reductions in meat and dairy in Westernized diets, as animal products have substantially higher climate impacts than most plant-based foods (Moberg et al., 2020). However, there is increasing interest in the sustainability of plant-based foods, reaching beyond the climate impact. For example, concerns have been raised about water and pesticide use in fruit, nut, and vegetable production, high energy use in ready-made food production, and high emissions from products transported over long distances. To provide guidance on such issues, WWF Sweden initiated development of a new consumer guide for plant-based products in a project called ‘World-class Veggie’ (‘Vego i världsklass’). The Vego-guide will complement their current consumer guides on meat (Spendrup et al., 2019; Röös et al., 2014) and fish. This report was prepared for WWF Sweden, to provide scientific background information for its consumer guide on plant-based products targeting Swedish consumers. The remainder of the report is structured as follows: Chapter 2 describes the methodology used for collecting data for the Vego-guide. Chapter 3 presents the results obtained for individual plant-based products and Chapter 4 presents more general results. A short concluding discussion is provided in Chapter 5. A comprehensive set of appendices (Appendix A1-A8), providing examples of data from all underlying studies for all individual products and specific details on the methodology used in the studies, is provided at the end of the report. Motives and reasoning behind selection of environmental impact categories, the establishment of limits and criteria for the different environmental impact categories, and a description of the underlying work in development of the consumer guide are presented in a separate scientific paper (Karlsson Potter & Röös, manuscript).


vegetarian food; LCA, environmental footprint; land use; climate impact; biodiversity impact; water use

Published in

Rapport (Institutionen för energi och teknik, SLU)
2020, number: 112eISBN: 978-91-576-9789-9
Publisher: Department of Energy and Technology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences