Consumer Education is an Underutilised Lever in the Fight Against Climate Change

A number of recent articles in the Financial Times have discussed how the food industry is responding to being in the cross-hairs of the climate change debate.  This morning's piece "Veganism Goes Haute Cuisine" talks about veganism's increasing appeal, as evidenced by the recent awarding of Michelin Star to Chef Claire Valee's ONA restaurant, as well as by the unprecedented interest that Veganuary has generated this year.

The most thought-provoking statement in the article, for me, came at the end - when it suggested that capitalism can be a force for good via its ability to channel consumer preference to industry participant behaviour - i.e. the more veganism goes mainstream, the more incentive food industry participants will have to "follow the consumer".

Indeed the persistent existence of our collective "capitalist instinct" suggests to me that consumer preference may be the most powerful, and somehow underutilised force in affecting change.  If that is the case - then why are we not seeing more government participation in consumer education around topics such as "climate-friendly" nutritional habits and diets?  The data on this already exists - consumer education campaigns on the benefits of quitting smoking have helped dramatically reduce the incidence of smoking in many economies.  Consumer education campaigns on mindful drinking may have had a similar impact.    Investment in the education of consumers on the nature and shape of a climate and bio-diversity friendly diet may bring awareness and behaviour change from the edges of consumer-land to the mainstream - and indeed may serve a greater motivator for business than a fear of regulatory change, the pressure of institutional investors,  or indeed the desire of some visionary leaders to do the right thing.   At a minimum, it may serve as an important accelerant and amplifier of trends we already observe.