Making the link: environmental sustainability and dietary guidelines

Impact: Public policy Impacts

Description of impact

Prior to research carried out by the Rowett Institute, dietary guidance focused almost exclusively on nutritional value. With food production being a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE), Professor Jennie Macdiarmid recognised that new methods were required to combine nutritional information with data on environmental sustainability. Working with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF-UK) to combine a mathematical modelling approach with dietary requirements for health, she explored how adapting dietary intake could reduce the impact of greenhouse gas emissions and developed a realistic, cost-effective meal plan.

The research underpins the WWF’s policy tool: the ‘Livewell Plate’. This tool has been used to inform dietary guidelines in the European Union (EU) and internationally, leading to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s diet-related recommendations on how to link healthy diets with environmental impacts. The research has also encouraged global retailers IKEA and Sodexo to launch sustainable meat-free dietary alternatives.


Although climate change is widely accepted to be a factor in sustainability of diet, there has been limited awareness and understanding of how change can be integrated at public, policy or industry level in order to influence dietary habits. Macdiarmid’s research with and beyond WWF-UK has provided a platform to start essential dialogue, not least by giving practical examples that can enable ‘hands-on’ engagement by end users. The work has been used to inform dietary guidance both in the UK and abroad. It has increased comprehension of sustainable food choice by informing debate and changed industry practices by ‘de-risking’ non-meat options and encouraging producers to differentiate the product offer.
Impact statusImpact Completed (Open)
Impact date20102021
Category of impactPublic policy Impacts
Stage of ImpactEngagement


  • Environmental