How can we transform protein to sustainably feed 9 billion people?


A new global coalition fronted by Forum for the Future attempts to address the world’s rapidly increasing population by changing the way our food industries work.

How can we feed nine billion people enough protein in a way that is healthy, affordable and good for the environment?

This is the question that the world’s first collaborative protein thinktank, The Protein Challenge 2040, will attempt to answer. The project will see leading international businesses and NGOs tackling the immense strain that protein production and consumption currently places on the Earth’s resources.

Organisations WWF and GAIN join supermarkets Waitrose and Target in an initiative facilitated by sustainability non-profit Forum for the Future. Food companies Hershey and Quorn, amongst others, are also joining the critical push to solve the planet’s food crisis. It’s the world’s first partnership that draws experts together from various disciplinary fields to identify a worldwide solution to these challenges.

For many years, regimented protein production has inflicted well-documented damage on environments and socioeconomic regimes. This includes deforestation, water contamination, and many other factors affecting climate change. Furthermore, the consumption of protein is entirely unbalanced – 2 billion people on Earth suffer malnutrition, which facilitates innumerable health risks in poorer parts of the world. The average diet in the developed world, on the other hand, includes more meat than is often necessary.

“Protein is essential for human health, but the current state of how it’s produced and consumed is just not sustainable in the long term.” says Andy Richardson, Head of Corporate Affairs at Volac. “The Protein Challenge 2040 is a unique and exciting opportunity for stakeholders across the protein system to address its challenges together and scale up interventions, best practice and innovation.”

Thorough research in food, nutrition, technology, and human health around the world have allowed the collective to map key areas in need of action. They are the following:

Areas for immediate action

1. Increasing the proportion of plant-based protein consumption with consumers

2. Scaling up sustainable feed innovation to meet demand for animal protein

3. Closing the protein nutrient loop (Tackling the loss and waste of protein across the system)

4. Developing indigenous plants as protein sources for local communities.

5. Scaling up sustainable aquaculture for food and animal feed.

6. Restoring soil health.

On the programme, CEO of Forum for the Future, Stephanie Draper, commented:

“We’re delighted that leaders across the different protein industries are ready and willing to come to a consensus, and are excited to help steer them forward through this unique and growing partnership.”

The Protein Challenge 2040 is currently seeking additional partners and resources to tackle these issues.