WWF is committed to helping deliver a food system which protects and conserves nature while ensuring there is enough nutritious food for all current and future generations. Achieving this goal, requires systemic transformation of how we produce and consume food. Adopting healthy and sustainable diets is a central component.
How we produce and consume food is not good for people or the planet. The over-consumption of foods with high-environmental impacts, and under-consumption of lower-impact, healthier foods, contributes significantly to degradation of nature. Drivers linked to the food system have caused 70 per cent of biodiversity loss on land and 50% in freshwater. The food system contributes about 25 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.
What we are eating is also unhealthy. Nearly 2 billion people are overweight or obese, while 690 million people are chronically undernourished. Poor diets are the leading cause of non-communicable diseases.
A growing population and rising incomes and urbanization driving a global transition toward less healthy and sustainable diets, human and environmental health could suffer further.
For nature and people, it is necessary to shift consumption to healthier and more sustainable diets. Governments, businesses, and civil society organizations increasingly understand that human health and environmental sustainability are inextricably linked. WWF is committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure everyone has access to affordable, healthy and sustainable food.
There is, however, no one-size fits all solution. There is a rich diversity of diets around the world, influenced by cultural identity, geography, and livelihood, as well as the changing nutritional needs of individuals at different life stages WWF does not, therefore, promote a single type of diet but instead embraces and celebrates dietary flexibility, within a set of guiding principles.
WWF discourages over-consumption of any food, to prevent negative impacts on biodiversity, the environment and human health. In particular, a large body of evidence has shown that reducing over-consumption of animal-sourced foods, by increasing the relative consumption of plant-based foods, is good for people and planet. The highest priority for doing so is in social groups and countries that currently have high per capita consumption rates of animal-source foods, relative to global averages.
WWF also promotes food choices that support the protection, conservation and restoration of nature, and sustainable use of natural resources. A diversity of production systems will be needed to feed nearly 10 billion people healthy diets within planetary boundaries.
Animal-source foods are often an important source of vital nutrients and can be produced sustainably, in well managed production systems. Such systems, for instance on natural grasslands, can contribute to resilient landscapes and preserve the ecosystem functions upon which food production depends. Over-consumption of animal-source foods must be reduced, but these foods do not need to be eliminated to achieve healthy and sustainable diets.
Any dietary changes, including reduced consumption of animal-source foods should not come at the expense of human health, even if they confer environmental benefits.
The transition to healthy and sustainable diets will provide opportunities and benefits for some, while in other cases there may be challenges that disproportionately affect vulnerable groups. While the environmental and health benefits of transitioning towards healthy and sustainable diets are well documented, the consequences for food producers, processors, and other workers are less known.
WWF will support equitable access to affordable healthy and sustainable food for all, and to ease, incentivize, and support the transition for those who are most adversely affected. As part of its work, WWF provides scientific analysis of the localised impacts on human and environmental health of shifting diets
© Martin Harvey / WWF
© Ian McConnell / WWF Australia