Story 2 of 4 - Oct 1, 2022 - Redwood City, CA, United States

Impossible Foods: the power of community

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Climate Action Environmental Conservation

Contributor

Peter McGuinness

CEO | Impossible Foods

Our mission has always been about helping the earth by offering delicious food that's better for people and the planet—and we recognize that there's strength in numbers.

 

After my visit to the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, I was fortunate to be in NYC with my team last week for some great Climate Week activities. So many highlights, but one of the most exciting for Impossible Foods was signing onto The Climate Pledge, making us one of 54 new signatories and one of very few food sector companies committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.

The Climate Pledge was co-founded by Amazon and Global Optimism in 2019, and it now includes 375 companies across 53 industries and 34 countries, all united by the same commitment. In a world where climate solutions often seem academic, lofty, and unattainable, we all believe this promise will have tangible impact and is worth keeping. It’s an objective that can and should be fulfilled.

But Impossible Foods didn’t sign the Climate Pledge simply to highlight our own commitment. While our mission has always been about helping the earth by offering delicious food that's better for people and the planet—we recognize that there's strength in numbers. We’re always better together, as a coalition of the willing.

And that's core to what we do, whether it's joining forces with a diverse and global group of companies who are collectively raising the bar to help our planet, or simply getting more people to serve, sell, and consume our products all over the world.

Small Steps, Taken Together

At the Amazon Leadership Summit, I had the pleasure of meeting Kara Hartnett Hurst, Amazon’s Vice President of Worldwide Sustainability—she’s a powerhouse, doing amazing work, and was integral to making a lot of this happen. In bringing together leaders from all different types of organizations to talk about how we can work together, the Summit shone a light on the many ways that we can collectively drive more sustainable practices throughout supply chains and the entire company, regardless of which industry we’re in. 

One such leader I had the opportunity to speak with was renowned chef and restaurateur Tanya Holland, who joined me on stage at the event. Tanya has built a decades-long career as a beacon of modern soul food and Black cuisine. She is well known for her 14-year run as the owner, chef and face of Oakland's renowned Brown Sugar Kitchen, and perhaps less known for her contributions to the Impossible Foods Cookbook, which includes two of her delicious recipes. This month she launched California Soul, her latest cookbook. 

At Impossible, I spend a lot of time on long term plans, strategy, and the future but in my conversation with Tanya, she reminded me of the importance of thinking about the details. For many consumers, the big picture is just a bit too big. The questions are too big, the problems are too big and the crisis is too daunting. Tanya takes a different approach, and it really spoke to me. 

Tanya built her career and businesses on making delicious food, but within that, she kept an eye on not only how her creations tasted, but the details of how the food was sourced, prepared, served, and composted. As the owner and head chef of an extremely successful restaurant, Tanya took the time to know her vendors personally and to be sure they followed sustainable practices. 

“It’s these details that add up,” Tanya said to me on stage. “Small actions make big impacts because the world is huge. If you can encourage people to make a small difference, you can inspire major change and keep moving the needle little by little.”

At a larger scale, that's exactly what the Climate Pledge is designed to do. Individual commitments, when multiplied by the collective, become a movement.

Sustainable Mission, Sustainable Business

At Impossible, climate action is fundamental to our business model—so our mission and business are inextricably linked. The more products we sell, the bigger climate impact there is. And in signing the Climate Pledge, we're making sure our operations are sustainable too. 

That said, it’s a tricky balance—invest for the future and execute today. In business, we all need to take a longer view but not at the expense of performance now, if we want to have a truly sustainable business tomorrow. 

A Climate Solution on the Plate 

My single biggest takeaway from my time in NYC is that we at Impossible Foods not only rely on—but benefit from—an entire ecosystem of chefs, producers, distributors, restaurants, grocery stores, operators, entrepreneurs, creatives, and communicators who make our delicious products come to life for the consumers that will ultimately make a difference.

During Climate Week, our ecosystem came to life in full force. From the Climate Pledge Summit to the Global Citizen Festival, our awesome, climate-friendly Impossible dishes were served at events throughout NYC. And with one of the most vibrant, celebrated and influential restaurant industries in the world, we were thrilled to partner with The Climate Group to spotlight some of the innovative menus featuring Impossible.

I can’t count the number dishes that got me excited, but I’ll shout out a few of my favorites: the Sweet + Spicy Impossible™ Nuggies at David Chang’s chicken joint FUKU; the Smoked Impossible™ Beef Cuts from Pure Grit, a newly launched vegan BBQ joint; the Impossible™ Slider at the Global Citizen Festival, and the mouthwatering One Night Stand Impossible™ Burger at Pinky Cole’s iconic Slutty Vegan, which just opened its latest location in Brooklyn.

I spent the week in awe of the joy these chefs and many others have brought to life through food. Knowing that each and every meal sold is contributing to the wider climate vision is exactly what makes our food system solution so powerful. 

This brings me back to the core reason we joined The Climate Pledge. I’ve known all along that Impossible Foods has such a powerful climate tool in our hands: the delicious and sustainable food we make. But the part I’d really like to work on now is our role as leaders in this vast food ecosystem that we all treasure and rely on. Our vision will never change—we want to transform this food system to enable scalable, impactful solutions for biodiversity and the climate. But we’re not alone. And it’s our responsibility to join the coalition, to listen to others, to be part of the change, and to demonstrate that we too can take small, collective actions to enable the future we believe in.

Peter McGuinness is the Chief Executive Officer at Impossible Foods, a mission-focused company whose goal is to transform the global food system to reduce its impact on climate change, by making the world’s most delicious, nutritious, and sustainable chicken, pork and beef products from plants—all with a much smaller environmental footprint than meat from animals.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn for McGuinness’s newsletter Good Business | Growing businesses by doing good: Leadership, purpose, corporate citizenship & staying connected to what matters now. For more details on Impossible Foods’ dedication to sustainability visit impossiblefoods.com/sustainable-food.

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