Taking the Cool Food Pledge to Fight Climate Change

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH
Cool Food
Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy name: Cool Food Pledge

Overview: The Cool Food Pledge is an initiative of the World Resources Institute and helps dining facilities (e.g. restaurants, hospitals, corporate cafeterias, hotels, universities) offer more delicious food while fighting climate change.

Location: Worldwide

Population: 7.8 billion

Food policy category: Sustainability; Diet and Nutrition

Program goals: To reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2030.

How it works: Members take part in the three phases of this program. They first pledge to “provide delicious food that is better for the planet” and collectively commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with the food they serve by 25 percent by 2030. They learn how to gather the necessary food purchase data, which they report confidentially each year. The Cool Food team uses a greenhouse gas calculator to estimate food-related emissions and track members’ progress over time.

The Cool Food Pledge team then provides guidance to members and connects them to other resources that will help them determine how to serve more climate-friendly, plant-rich food while maintaining their desired profit, nutrition and clientele. There are tools and resources on the Cool Food website, including a Behavioral Playbook that details 23 strategies to support diners in choosing more sustainable food options. The Cool Food Calculator is also available on their website along with a guidance document.

The final phase of the initiative is to promote sustainability among employees, diners, and other pledge members via creative messaging, and to promote members’ leadership within the growing food and sustainability movement through the press and social media. 

The Cool Food Pledge is an initiative of the World Resources Institute, the UN Environment Program, the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, Health Care Without Harm, Practice Greenhealth, Climate Focus, EAT, and The Sustainable Restaurant Association. The food services company Sodexo is a supporter.

Progress to date: Since the Pledge was announced in September 2018, it has attracted 30 members worldwide, who collectively serve more than 800 million meals annually.

Why it is important: Food production is responsible for 26 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock, in particular, account for 14 percent of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, with beef contributing to 41 percent of livestock-related emissions. Reducing consumption of animal-based foods within dining facilities, where millions of people purchase food every day, may play a substantial role in limiting climate change while also encouraging healthy eating habits.

Rising temperatures and increased frequencies of natural disasters due to climate change are making it more difficult to produce crops and support livestock for human consumption. If more people around the world reduced their meat consumption or followed a “low carbon diet,” the greenhouse gas emissions from food production would diminish and hopefully contribute to a reverse in climate change trends.

Program/Policy initiated: The Cool Food Pledge was first announced in September 2018.

Point of contact:
Gerard Pozzi, Research Assistant
World Resources Institute

Similar practices:  Restaurants partnering with Zero Foodprint agree to provide one percent of their revenue to fund grants for farmers who are working on healthy soil projects or “carbon farming.” Healthy soil absorbs more carbon from the atmosphere and converts it to plant material or organic matter, thereby moving towards carbon neutrality.

A global Climate Pledge is available for individuals who want to make a personal commitment to fighting climate change. The World Wildlife Fund has a similar Pledge to Cut Your Carbon Footprint.

Evaluation: Evaluation has not yet been completed.

Learn more:


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