produced at SunOpta’s plants in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 2020


Million Pounds

of food byproducts sold for further processing to reduce landfill waste


Million Dollars

in 2020 revenue

The Path to Drawdown: Plant-based Diet

The meat-centric diet in Western societies is responsible for one-fifth of global emissions. Land clearing, fertilizer use, and methane from burping cattle combined take an enormous toll on the environment and the climate. 

Shifting to a diet rich in plants is a demand-side solution that reduces emissions and tends to be healthier. If the world adopted a vegan diet, business-as-usual emissions could be reduced by as much as 70%. A vegetarian diet could reduce those emissions by 63%. On top of this, adopting a plant-based diet could help save $1 trillion in annual health-care costs and lost productivity.

Global dietary preferences based on meat, fish and dairy products are deeply ingrained in Western cultures, and they will likely be taken up by lower-income countries as they develop. Bringing about dietary change requires plant-based options that are widely available, visible, and enticing, including high-quality meat substitutes.

Project Drawdown estimates that, if 75% of the global population adopts a plant-rich diet by 2050, it could reduce GHG emissions by up to 91.72 gigatons: 68.32 gigatons from diverted agricultural production, 23.16 gigatons from avoided land conversion, and 0.24 gigatons from sequestration from ecosystem protection.


SunOpta Inc. (stock ticker: STKL) manufactures and sells plant-based and fruit-based food and beverage products to retail customers, foodservice distributors, branded food companies, and food manufacturers worldwide. SunOpta Inc. was founded in 1973 and is headquartered in Mississauga, Canada.

STKL’s Role in Drawdown

The company operates through two segments (p. 5), Plant-Based Foods and Beverages, and Fruit-Based Foods and Beverages. 

The Plant-Based Foods and Beverages segment provides plant-based beverages, and liquid and dry ingredients that utilizes almond, soy, coconut, oat, hemp, and other bases, as well as broths, teas, and nutritional beverages. This segment also packages dry- and oil-roasted in-shell sunflower and sunflower kernels, as well as corn-, soy-, and legume-based roasted snacks; and processes and sells raw sunflower in-shell and kernel for food and feed applications. This segment accounted for 53% of SunOpta’s total revenue in 2020.

The Fruit-Based Foods and Beverages segment offers individually quick frozen (IQF) fruits, such as strawberries, blueberries, mangos, pineapples, blends, and other berries for retail; and IQF and bulk frozen fruits, including purées, fruit cups, and smoothies for foodservice, and custom fruit preparations for industrial use. This segment also provides fruit snacks comprising bars, twists, ropes, and bite-sized products. 47% of SunOpta’s revenue came from the sales in this segment.

STKL: What We Like

SunOpta has a clear growth plan for the near future to expand their plant-based food offerings. They’re aiming to hit $100 million of revenue growth by investing in plant-based beverages. This plan includes:

  • Expanding oat extraction capacity by 4x
  • Expanding processing capabilities in each of their plants
  • Reducing costs of manufacturing
  • Introducing more flexible pricing mechanisms
  • Improving sourcing diversity

On top of this plan to expand their plant-based food production and sales, SunOpta has set several goals (p. 13) for improving the sustainability of their business by the year 2028:

  • Reducing electricity use by 40%
  • Reducing natural gas use by 30%
  • Reduce water consumption by 25%
  • Achieving zero waste in all of their factories and plants

STKL: What We Want to See Improve

Report GHG Emissions

SunOpta’s sustainability report does not include key sustainability metrics. We want them to start tracking and reporting direct and indirect GHG emissions and energy use by type. Particularly important to capture is SunOpta’s scope 3 emissions because they source their raw materials from a large network of suppliers (p. 14), including those in California and Mexico. Only by quantitatively understanding their GHG emissions can investors hold them accountable.

Set Science-Based Emissions Reduction Targets

We commend SunOpta for including sustainability targets (p. 13) like reducing energy use, water use, natural gas and waste. But as far as we can tell, these targets seem somewhat arbitrary. We urge SunOpta to develop sustainability targets that are science-based and in line with staying below 1.5°C of global warming. To hit that goal, a much more explicit focus on reducing GHG emissions would be needed.

Electrify Facilities and Fleet

SunOpta owns and operates a substantial amount of assets (p. F22) in facilities, plants and vehicles. One very effective way to reduce direct emissions would be to transition to renewable sources of energy to power their facilities and to switch to electric vehicles or green hydrogen for their fleet of vehicles. We urge SunOpta’s executives to consider these steps as part of their sustainability efforts.

Other Plant-based diet Stocks in the Climate Index

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