Behavioral science helping slash GHG emissions from food

New York (September 24, 2019) – Alongside the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit, IKEA, BASF, City of Milan (Italy), City of Ghent (Belgium), Harvard University, University of Pittsburgh, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Seattle Children's Hospital, and the World Bank today announced they are joining the Cool Food Pledge, a budding movement to reduce the climate impacts of food. Cool Food commits signatories to collectively slash food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030, in line with limiting global warming to 1.5° Celsius. Together, signatories serve over 800 million meals annually.

The initiative is at the cutting edge of climate action. Simple nudges can change people’s behavior in big ways. Through the Cool Food Pledge, restaurants, hospitals, hotels, universities and cities are tapping the latest behavioral science to help consumers choose foods with lower carbon footprints when dining with them. Strategies range from changing menu layouts, to using appetizing language, to offering more plant-focused meals.

“A lot of what we’re learning is that changing people’s behavior to eat more sustainably is not hard stuff and it can lead to big impacts. For example, putting less-resource intensive plant-based dishes in a ‘vegetarian’ menu section reduces ordering of those dishes by 56%. Simply putting plant-based menu items in the same list as meat-heavy dishes can increase the chance a diner will choose that option,” said Daniel Vennard, Director, World Resources Institute, which serves as secretariat of the Cool Food Pledge. “This is the next frontier in the climate arena. It’s ground-breaking stuff.”

“At IKEA we have the ambition to become climate positive by 2030 and with hundreds of millions of visitors that enjoy the IKEA Food offer each year we know we have  a great responsibility as well as an opportunity to inspire people to a more sustainable consumption. Joining the Cool Food Pledge is a way to hold ourselves accountable to hitting important climate targets, while also learning from the latest science and experts about what works to help our consumers live more sustainable lives. That starts with what they eat,” said Michael La Cour, Managing Director, IKEA Food Services AB.

Food is rapidly rising on the global climate agenda as companies and nations recognize the essential role it holds in meeting global targets, along with efforts to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Agriculture and changes in land use account for nearly a quarter of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Producing animal-based foods alone accounts for two-thirds of agricultural GHG emissions, and global demand for meat is on the rise. According to WRI research, the average American could cut their diet-related environmental impacts by nearly half just by eating less animal-based foods and more plants. The organization recommends those in high-meat consuming countries like the United States limit beef consumption to 1.5 burgers worth a week, as part of a global effort to meet the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Signatories to the Cool Food Pledge include: IKEA, BASF, City of Milan, City of Ghent, University of Pittsburgh, the World Bank, Harvard University, Hilton, Morgan Stanley, Genentech, Max Burgers, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Seattle Children's Hospital, Monde Nissin, University of Maryland, Boston Medical Center, Butterworth Hospital, UCSF Health, UCSD Health, UCLA Health, UC Davis Health, Overlook Medical Center, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Hackensack Meridian Health, Virginia Mason Medical Center, University of Wisconsin Health, and Farmers Restaurant Group.

The Cool Food Pledge was first announced at the Global Climate Action Summit in fall 2018. Preliminary data indicate that if current pledge signatories collectively hit the 25% reduction target by 2030, they will avoid more than 800,000 tons CO

2e of food-related GHG emissions annually, which is equivalent to taking more than 170,000 cars off the road.

“The world cannot prevent the worst impacts of climate change without changing how people eat. Right now, we’re helping make 800+ million meals climate-friendly. In time, we aim to reach 10 billion meals. Putting more climate-friendly foods on the menu is on trend with consumer demand for more sustainable food options, and it’s the right thing to do to ensure a healthy planet for generations to come,” said Vennard.

The Cool Food Pledge is an initiative of World Resources Institute, UN Environment, Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, Health Care Without Harm, Practice Greenhealth, Climate Focus, EAT, and the Sustainable Restaurant Association. The Cool Food Pledge is pleased to have Sodexo as a supporter, promoting Cool Food’s activities with the dining facilities it serves.


  • Pledge: Signatories commit to a collective target of reducing diet-related GHG emissions associated with the food they serve by 25% by 2030 relative to 2015—a level of ambition in line with keeping global warming below 1.5⁰C. The Cool Food team advises signatories on how to gather the necessary data and monitor progress.
  • Plan: The Cool Food team helps signatories and their catering companies develop plans for serving more climate-friendly food while meeting other dining-related targets (e.g. number of diners, financial performance, nutrition). The Cool Food Pledge also connects signatories or their catering companies with a network of organizations producing innovative products, solutions and training to achieve more sustainable diets. Cool Food signatories are able to share their experiences and learn from others.
  • Promote: The Cool Food team provides inspiring messaging that signatories can use to support existing sustainability campaigns. The collective performance of companies against the GHG target will be published annually.


Frank Stauder, Vice President BASF SE and Managing Director BASF Gastronomie GmbH

“Sustainability is a key part of the BASF corporate strategy. We aim to contribute to a world, that provides a viable future with enhanced quality of live for everyone.  We at BASF Gastronomie are responsible for more than 10,000 meals per day. We want to make a difference not only by serving delicious and healthy food for our employees but also by considering the implications on the environment. We are very proud to be part of the Cool Food Pledge and to actively support the target of reducing food-related GHG emissions.”

Dan Simons, Co-Owner, Farmers Restaurant Group

“It’s important for all businesses to take responsibility for the impact they have on their community. I’m thrilled about our efforts to shrink the footprint of our supply chain, and ensure that we calculate the full cost of our purchasing decisions and that they’re aligned with the mission of the pledge. Considering the planet as one of our stakeholders is as motivating to me as it is to our employees and our guests.”

Caroline Meledo, Director Corporate Responsibility and Human Rights at Hilton

“Tackling climate change requires innovation and collaboration way beyond business as usual. The Cool Food Pledge provides scientific insight and the scale of a global movement to do just that. At Hilton, we see this Pledge as a critical step forward in our ambitious journey to redefine sustainable travel.”

Gina C. Sadowski, Director, Culinary and Retail | Nutrition at Seattle Children's Hospital

“My team is excited about the Cool Food Pledge and believe it’s the right work to concentrate on. We’re aiming to shift the focus from meat being the ‘main event’ on the plate towards being a component of a dish.”

Dr. Aurora Sharrard, Director of Sustainability at The University of Pittsburgh

“As a leader in sustainable dining, serving 30,000 meals a day, The University of Pittsburgh is proud to join with organizations worldwide in offering delicious food that is healthy and better for the planet. The Cool Food Pledge reinforces our sustainability goals, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent and serving more local, plant-based and organic foods.”