Sustainable consumption report: Follow-up to the green food project

Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 11:45

The Green Food Project (GFP) reported in July 2012 and one of the recommendations suggested follow-on work to investigate the roles that diet and consumption play in the sustainability of the whole food system. It was agreed that this work should continue with the same approach taken in the Green Food Project, to work collaboratively with a range of stakeholders.

Read the Sustainable Consumption Report here

Three key areas of sustainable consumption were identified:

  • Principles of a healthy and sustainable diet
  • Consumer behaviour
  • Sustainable consumption and growth

Each of these themes was investigated further by working groups, following a workshop in March 2013.

Principles of a healthy and sustainable diet

This theme was chaired by Tara Garnett (FCRN) and Maureen Strong (AHDB) and formed the following draft key principles for healthy and sustainable eating:

  1. Eat a varied balanced diet to maintain a healthy body weight.
  2. Eat more plant based foods, including at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day.
  3. Value your food. Ask about where it comes from and how it is produced. Don’t waste it.
  4. Moderate your meat consumption, and enjoy more peas, beans, nuts, and other sources of protein.
  5. Choose fish sourced from sustainable stocks. Seasonality and capture methods are important here too.
  6. Include milk and dairy products in your diet or seek out plant based alternatives, including those that are fortified with additional vitamins and minerals.
  7. Drink tap water
  8. Eat fewer foods high in fat, sugar and salt

Consumer behaviour

The group, chaired by Dan Crossley (Food Ethics Council) and Andrew Parry (WRAP), explored potential interventions through three lenses:

  1. a food practice (‘cooking from scratch’)
  2. a meal occasion (breakfast)
  3. a meal type (curry)

This helped focus the development of the vision, a set of ‘guiding principles’ and recommendations for future action. In parallel, Defra commissioned work (by Best Foot Forward) to review evidence on consumer food related behaviours that impact on sustainability.

The group concluded that there is a need for effective leadership in, and ownership of, sustainable food consumption and production activity and for a robust governance framework. Government should play a key role in providing a clear steer, helping coordinate resources and activity, and agreeing methods to prioritise activity and monitor progress. There should be an agreed approach for setting goals, assessing progress, and communicating this, demonstrating success through action.

Sustainable consumption and growth

The Group, chaired by Andrew Kuyk (FDF) set out to examine the opportunities for growth in the agri-food sector from changes in what people buy and eat and from adding value through more efficient use of resources and from innovation in products and processes across the value chain.

A number of clear themes emerged:

  • the underlying issues are complex and inter-related
  • they require collective and collaborative action
  • market forces alone will not deliver the necessary scale or pace of change (partly because of commercial tensions within supply chains and the provisions of Competition Law)
  • similar arguments apply to research and innovation where the financial returns to individual funders may not support a business case for investment but there are wider benefits for the sector and society as a whole.

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