Plant-forward is the future: How food businesses can make the most of the opportunity 

Embrace the power of plant-forward diets for a sustainable future.


25 April, 2024


WBCSD insights



Michiel Bakker, VP, Workplace Strategy, Innovation and Sustainability, Google, and Co-Chair of the Agriculture & Food Pathway Board, WBCSD 

We’re at a critical point in shaping the future of our food systems. Status quo agricultural production and food consumption patterns contribute to excessive carbon emissions, land degradation and unhealthy populations worldwide. Leaders across business, government, and civil society are syncing up efforts to get our food system on the right track, and one of the most powerful levers to achieve this in many contexts will be a shift to plant-forward diets.  

Plant-forward diets incorporate a high share and diversity of plant-derived ingredients. They include offerings that can combine or blend plant-based ingredients with smaller shares of animal-based ingredients, such old-fashioned oatmeal made with milk and topped with fruit and nuts. These diets are nutrient-rich and better for the environment than those heavily reliant on animal proteins. In fact, Project Drawdown has recently identified plant-forward diets as the climate solution with the highest potential in the food and agriculture sector.  

My experience overseeing food service across Google’s global offices has reaffirmed my conviction that plant-forward foods must be central to diets of the future. This shift is good for individuals and good for business: we have seen enormous value in working with our food service partners and chefs to create offerings that are delicious and appealing to Googlers from different food cultures worldwide. Google serves close to 300,000 meals a day for more than 175,000 employees, and we are confident that our plant-forward food approach allows our workforce to be more productive and perform better, supporting a culture to bring teams together and attract and retain talent. The restaurant and food service industry has a huge opportunity and significant influence in our collective plant-forward future, especially given that the average American consumer spends 56% of their food dollars outside of the home.   

A new publication from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and Deloitte, ‘The plant-forward opportunity: A business playbook to meet consumer demand within planetary boundaries, focuses on how agrifood companies further up the value chain – especially food manufacturers – can leverage the momentum around plant-forward foods to generate tangible business benefits including revenue growth, ESG leadership, cost reduction, and risk mitigation. It underscores strategies to prioritize plant-forward ingredients in existing and new products through reformulating, revamping, replicating, and reimagining portfolios, which requires commitment and investment from companies’ cross-functional stakeholders.  

The ‘business playbook’ concludes that the transformation to plant-forward diets requires collective action, including coordinated business efforts to set industry ambition; innovate to create new and appealing plant-forward options for consumers; and advocate across governments, business leaders, and consumers. Google has prioritized collective action in its own workplace strategy, for example our partnership with the Culinary Institute of America to develop a plant-forward teaching curriculum for our chef network and beyond.  

In my new role as Co-Chair of the Agriculture & Food Pathway Board at WBCSD, I urge us all to consider and participate in this collective action that will enable a plant-forward, sustainable and healthy food system. If you are interested in learning about how to join in, please contact Melanie Levine at