New York, 7 October 2016 – The UNDP Equator Initiative hosted a Brown Bag Lunch highlighting the work of Green Monday, an innovative new initiative tackling climate change and global food insecurity through public advocacy, impact investing, corporate consulting, and specialized retail.
The event featured David Yeung, Co-Founder of Green Monday and Hong Kong’s 'Ten Outstanding Young People in China 2015' awardee, Alyssa Berggren, International Development Manager for Green Monday, Nik Sekhran, Director of Sustainable Development for the UNDP Bureau for Programme and Policy Support, and was moderated by Charles McNeill, UNDP Senior Policy Advisor on Forests and Climate.
UNDP works to promote integrated approaches to environmental conservation and poverty reduction at the global, regional, national, and local levels. Pillars of UNDP’s work include the development and implementation of programs that promote food security (goal 2), water security (goal 6), and climate change mitigation (goal 13) to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Dietary change provides a simple yet powerful means to reduce our environmental footprint at the individual, organizational, national, and global levels, with dramatic impacts on SDGs 2, 6, and 13, among others.
For example, the livestock industry emits more greenhouse gas than all our cars, trucks, trains, and planes combined, accounting for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Likewise, the water required to produce 300 grams of steak (4650 litres) could provide an individual with their daily water intake for six years. Vegetarianism, studies have shown, is also 30 times more efficient in terms of land consumption. “The easiest and more impactful green action everyone can take,” says Green Monday, “is a change in our diet choice.”
Named to 'China’s 500 Most Innovative Companies 2014', Green Monday has emerged as an innovative social entrepreneurship model that mobilizes people, raises awareness about the impact of dietary change on environmental conservation and climate change mitigation, and generates profit through an innovative series of businesses and investments. The company uses food as an entry point to empower every person to be a global change maker for sustainable common good.
Green Monday’s model answers a question at the heart of social change: how can we shift the behavior of a group collectively? They offer three options for individuals and businesses to shift towards greener food choices: (1) Routine based, (2) Portion based, and (3) Impact based. The routine-based option promotes the idea of ‘Green Mondays’ where individuals, restaurants, or companies serve only plant-based meals for at least one day a week. Portion-based changes advocate for shifting the ratio of meat-based options to plant based options (e.g., from 80% meat to 50% meat). Impact-based options allow consumers to create change by reducing foods such as lamb and beef that have dramatic environmental costs.
The power behind Green Monday’s approach is that the model is built upon an open and inclusive ideology that positions every individual, company, university, or municipal government to make quantifiable, positive impacts on the environment. Even the most dedicated carnivore or, as Yeung has showed, the most carnivorous restaurant chain (McDonalds) can start to go green – even if just for one meal a week, or by providing a single vegetarian option on the menu.
By appealing to all consumers, Green Monday has demonstrated a powerful ability to create large-scale impacts. Since their inception in 2012, Green Monday has partnered with public and private sector partners around the world, major US Universities, Hong Kong school programs reaching 600,000 students, and over 1000 restaurant partners. In Hong Kong alone, they have supported 1.6 million people to go ‘Green Monday’.
For businesses more interested in their bottom line than environmental sustainability, Yeung has the data to demonstrate the business savvy behind the Green Monday approach: A Hong Kong coffee chain, for example, saw their business increase by 20 percent with the introduction of Green Monday. A popular noodle chain in Hong Kong with over 60 outlets that introduced a vegetarian broth option now receives 20 percent of their total profits from vegetarian noodle dishes alone. Going ‘Green Monday’ introduces a whole new consumer base for restaurants. Green, plant-based food options, Yeung argues, is the most compelling emerging food trend.
As UNDP works to promote integrated approaches to conservation and development, the social entrepreneurship and engaged activism of Green Monday provides a powerful reminder of the role business and innovation can play in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, including climate goals. Diverse partnerships across the United Nations, private sector, government, and civil society can play a strong role in upscaling innovative approaches that translate individual action to global impacts.