As with any organization that tries to make effective change on a global scale, we often get asked a philosophical question.
“What does Switch4Good stand for?”
While the answer to a question that vague can lead us to long-winded conversations about human behavior, socio-economics, and the nature of existence itself, it’s important to provide underlying principles that drive the choices we’ve made to position ourselves as an agent of effective, transformative work. So here goes.
We believe that we can create a healthier, kinder, and fairer future for all. We believe that helping the world adopt a dairy-free, plant-based diet will get us there. We believe that people who adopt a plant-based diet will unlock the true potential of their performance, no matter the nature of their physical expression. We believe that eliminating our dependence on dairy will reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change. And we believe that, whenever possible, scientific data should inform our work. Here’s what the data says: The cost of dairy is too high. It costs the cows their lives, it can cost us our health, and it’s costing us the planet. The real kicker is this: It’s totally unnecessary.
Our Theory of Change: Dairy as a Catalyst
A sustained and focused effort on shifting cultural perceptions regarding dairy will open doors for the plant-based movement, creating greater opportunities and magnified impact for all organizations working on health initiatives, climate change, and animal welfare. Plainly Stated: Dairy is the first domino to fall in a path to a sustainable, plant-based future.
As bold as the above statement is, this theory is not arrived at without careful consideration. Underpinned by a number of calculated assumptions that are outlined below, Switch4Good is focused on delivering measurable objectives that put us on the path to real societal change.
Upending Traditional Diet Change
“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg
The calculus on what makes for effective intervention is complex. One way to approach the problem is to focus on where the most suffering lies. In the scope of animal agriculture, suffering is most profound in the billions of chickens and fish who are killed each year. But what about the human element? Not all forms of intervention are going to be viewed the same by the public, and no measurable improvements in animal agriculture can be made without the public’s buy-in, as society very literally votes for animal suffering with its wallet. By changing perceptions, we can prime our potential allies to join us in the monumental task before us. Market trends are showing us that non-dairy options are gaining traction among the general public. It is there which we must focus our efforts to achieve a critical mass of support for the movement. And to do that, we need to upend the traditional model of change.
If you ask a former omnivore to describe their journey to a plant-based lifestyle, you’re likely to get a variation of the following progression. Most omnivores first limit their red meat intake, followed by other meats such as chicken and fish. Often, eggs, milk, and cheese are the last remaining animal products to be eliminated from one’s diet before the transition is complete. In fact, it is likely that many people find this last step to be the hardest part of the transition, in part because dairy products like cheese are often used as substitutes in meals where meat was heavily featured. There is also a disconnect between people and food—while it’s clear that eating meat leads to killing animals, it’s less obvious that animal products also contribute to an immense amount of suffering and death.
Switch4Good is turning this model of progressive diet change on its head. By meeting omnivores with dairy-free messaging, we can provide a new path to a plant-based diet. Once the most tractable plant-based options become part of a transitioning omnivore’s everyday life, those people will be much more likely to be receptive to, and even seek out, plant-based options that eliminate other forms of animal products.
On Measuring Diet Change: Like other behavior-based social movements, it can be difficult to identify supporters’ efforts to put new ideas into practice and even more difficult to figure out which of those ideas can be credited to our interventions. Switch4Good is working on developing a multi-pronged approach that combines self-reported data, market trends, and supporter engagement to answer this question. We always welcome thoughts, recommendations, or collaborations to improve the way we collect and analyze data.
As with any movement, garnering widespread support from stakeholders with varied backgrounds and experiences is key to creating societal change. This is why Switch4Good’s theory of change relies on understanding the current plant-based movement and identifying key ways to turn weaknesses into strengths.
Much of the current messaging around plant-based diets is focused on altruistic motivations. Current plant-based supporters are likely to claim reduction in animal suffering or a desire to positively impact climate change as the reason they made the switch.
Switch4Good is focused on reaching a new audience. Most people identify self-interest as a primary motivator for their choices. By leaning into that motivation through education and research that shows that a dairy-free lifestyle can increase performance, reduce illness and injury, and help achieve goals, Switch4Good is locked into a still-untapped market of future dairy-free supporters. Furthermore, Switch4Good is capitalizing on sleek, athlete-forward marketing to deliver a new message to potential plant-based supporters: Dairy-free isn’t just healthy, it’s cool. Much like how the “Got Milk?” campaign found mainstream success through the use of athletes, Switch4Good’s messaging will create a dairy-free persona for a new generation.
Diet Change as Empowerment
Diet change can be about so much more than doing something good for animals, the planet, and your health. Making informed decisions about your body is a form of empowerment. And when a product like dairy—which makes ⅓ of Americans and ⅔ of the globe sick—is promoted as healthy, people are robbed of the ability to make informed choices for themselves. By educating the public about the reality of dairy, providing research that allows everyone to explore the truth for themselves, and directly addressing power structures whose policies put communities of color at a disadvantage, we can make dairy-free more than a healthy choice, we can make it a call for justice.