Our food systems have huge impacts on people, animals and the planet. Considering this range of positive and negative impacts in the round helps us understand the UK’s performance on food sustainability.
Robust and trustworthy indexes can help to hold the UK government and devolved administrations to account for their actions (or inaction), and monitor their progress towards a UK food system fit for future generations. Comparing the UK’s performance on a global and regional scale gives a snapshot of the UK’s current position and an indication of where the UK needs to be. In short, indexes, done well, have the power to drive change.
“The UK’s performance on food sustainability is disappointing. With the future of food, farming, the environment, animals and our health at stake, there is an urgent need for coherence, not complacency.”
If the UK has aspirations to be a global leader on food sustainability, it must step up to the plate. There are some recent signs of optimism in the UK: the promise of a new food strategy, the desire to shift towards public money for (a range of) public goods and the rise of flexitarianism, to name a few. These must be driven forward and built on, but there are a myriad of changes needed to transform the UK’s current standing.
We believe that indexes have the power to drive real and lasting change in our food systems. In our work on measuring food sustainability, we are encouraging and enabling key food indexes (including the Food Sustainability Index – produced by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition and the Economist Intelligence Unit) to strengthen metrics and approaches used. Ultimately we want to ensure they have an appropriate set of measures across environment, social, health and animal welfare. The overarching context for this is asking ‘what should our food systems be for’ and how should we measure ‘success’.
Through our work, we shine a spotlight on UK performance on food sustainability, what the UK is doing well, areas it is performing badly and lessons the UK can learn from other countries. We use the UK’s performance in major food indexes to hold the UK government and devolved administrations to account, to focus our political advocacy and to provide evidence to progressive businesses and investors to support good practice and effective lobbying.
One of the areas of metrics that we believe needs significantly strengthening in major food indexes is farm animal welfare metrics. Farm animal welfare is often treated as a poor second cousin when compared with other social and environmental issues. Hence we developed a set of farm animal welfare metrics that can be used at a global level. We are working with government, retailers, and indexes to develop their understanding of farm animal welfare metrics as a key indicator of overall sustainability.
In 2016 we invited a number of experts to look at where the UK ranked in in the first Food Sustainability Index (published in December 2016). Our analysis explored where the UK ranked on different indices; whether those indicators were true indicator; and what actions could be taken so the UK can rise up the ranks. The result of those deliberations is ‘Sustainable food systems: How does the UK measure up?’
A year later we produced Fronting up: UK sustainable food systems in the spotlight, an analysis of the UK’s second Food Sustainability Index results in which the UK ranked eighth out of the ten European countries included, only ahead of Russia and Greece.
Our latest work is a snapshot analysis of the UK’s position in the expanded 2018 Food Sustainability Index (featuring 67 countries). ‘Snapshot: UK sustainable food systems in the spotlight’ asks how the UK is really doing on food sustainability.
Indexes like the FSI can provide a snapshot of UK sustainability
Farm animal welfare is a critical indicator of sustainability. It must be stronger.