Towards systemic change in our food systems
In The News
21 Oct 2019
How can we shift the habits, production, metrics and governance of our food systems towards sustainability? On 10 October, a group of experts within the food value chain came together to explore these questions during a side event on Systemic change in our food systems at the C40 World Mayors Summit.
Green public procurement of food provides the opportunity to drive local and regional food economies towards more sustainable paths. But despite general support for green procurement strategies at a governance level, measuring the climate impact of multiple raw materials for a meal is not straightforward.
Without methodological consensus to help educate procurement officers, kitchens and consumers to make informed choices and LCAs on product groups encompassing sustainable production methods, it is hard to transform the food system at the scale that is needed to reach the targets laid out in the 2015 Paris Agreement and the climate change objectives for 2030.
“C40 just announced that eating a sustainable diet and avoiding food waste could cut greenhouse gas emissions from the food we eat by more than 60%” said Henrik Søndergaard, EIT Climate-KIC, one of the workshop organisers.
“During the C40 Mayors Summit, several cities signed up that they will use their procurement powers to change what kind of food cities buy, and introduce policies that make healthy, delicious and low-carbon food affordable and accessible for all. They’ll also reduce food loss and wasted food – and this workshop is an element in finding good and smart approaches to assist this work onwards”.
Henrik Søndergaard, EIT Climate-KIC.
Recognizing the importance of shifting how we produce, procure and consume food, a new collaboration on shifting urban diets in Copenhagen was announced in the wake of the C40 World Mayors Summit. In the EIT Climate-KIC funded project, the City of Copenhagen, EAT and Copenhagen House of Food together with partners aim to demonstrate how science-based targets for food systems can be operationalised in the city context.
Working on shared solutions
The workshop took its starting point in these complex questions with inspiration from research experts and industry leaders within the food value chain. The aim of the day was to explore and understand the barriers and challenges in data collection, distribution and usage and to identify key recommendations moving forward. Participants included representatives from a range of corporate, governance, public and university stakeholders.
“Addressing data availability and data movement deficiencies in our food system requires not only system designers and sustainability academia but also a great deal of industry specific knowledge” said Pernille Nielsen, Copenhagen House of Food, one of the workshop organisers.
“For this reason, we wanted to expand the discussion to wholesalers and their system providers coupling them with LCA professionals and procurement officers to really get into the practical barriers of including climatic and environmental data to current product attributes.”
“And as we know, very interesting things happen when we lure people out of their silos and present them for the multitude of industrial realities with the aim of improving the way we produce and procure food.”
Pernille Nielsen, Copenhagen House of Food.
During the workshop, participants divided into six groups where they deep-dived into discussions on metrics that can help procurers make informed decisions on a daily basis, the need for and the already existing data connecting production to procurement as well as ways to visualize the support tools and systems for employees in public kitchens.
Simplicity and user-friendliness emerged as some of the main characteristics for the desired interfaces and participants highlighted that sustainability information should be displayed in a clear and comparable way. Suggested metrics included origin and seasonality of products, production and transportation methods and the amount of packaging used for products to name a few.
”It was inspiring to hear how the conversation changes and people forget their own agenda for a second, when you ask people to solve a concrete challenge for someone they have just met who is working in a public kitchen. The diverse group constellations also ensured we had very different takes on the same topic coming out of each group.”
said Marie Persson, Nordic Council of Ministers. “I was happy to hear ideas ranging from the political incentives that need to be in place for food caterers to step up their game, to wild ideas such as how to add biologically degradable nano-sensors in all food products to increase supply chain transparency” she continued.
The key recommendations from the workshop were to:
- Consolidate the information in order to simplify it. Implement the KISS model (Keep It Simple Stupid) in order to make it easier to onboard the user and agree on the minimum viable product for the interface
- Allow for a level of creativity, enabling different priorities and preferences to be taken into consideration in the interface
- Construct a system that helps and motivates the users and producers to improve their practices
- Acknowledge that policy has a significant role to play, but that policymakers also need to understand the demand. Government control and regulation provides the framework for success.
“This is a significant opportunity for the private and public sectors to join forces to co-create an easy-to-use tool that can assist the people who are working on the frontlines of food procurement” said Dr. Afton Halloran, Nordic Council of Ministers.
“In order to move forward, we will need to collectively decide on what should be measured, how to aggregate the data and how to design a platform that will make it easier to make decisions that benefit both human and planetary health.”
Dr. Afton Halloran, Nordic Council of Ministers.
For more impressions from the workshop, visit our Flickr Album.
Systemic Change in our food systems Photo Album