Knowledge for better food systems

A roundup of recent and upcoming FCRN activities

The last few months have been quite busy for the FCRN –with five events taking place, all looking to bring stakeholders together to explore demand side approaches to creating sustainable food systems. We are glad to share some more details on this work with you all below - do please get in touch if you want to get involved or if you have ideas for collaborations.

In this update:

1. FCRN meeting and report on Metrics for sustainable healthy diets

2. Workshop on food consumption post-Paris 

3. FCRN at Stockholm Nobel Week Dialogue, 9 December

4. FCRN event on the role of arts, design and gastronomy in creating a sustainable food future, 12 December

5. Medact forum London: Healthy Planet – Better World, 9-10 December

6. Why a focus on demand side measures?

Metrics for sustainable healthy diets: why, what, how? A report of a meeting, and ideas about next steps, meeting 10 October
The FCRN and the Food Foundation have jointly produced new report based on a meeting, held November 2016, on the topic of metrics for sustainable healthy diets for the food industry. While a range of sustainability metrics for this industry already exists, none comprehensively measure the progress (or otherwise) that food companies are taking to foster a public shift towards more sustainable and healthy eating patterns (SHEPs). The meeting report considers whether further work on such a set of metrics would be of use.

While governments have a major role to play in stimulating a shift towards sustainable healthy diets, food companies are the gatekeepers of consumption. The food that companies produce and sell, the way they market them, and at what price, are all crucial influences on what people eat. The report therefore considers whether there is a need to benchmark and track how companies, through their food offer, are fostering or hindering a shift towards more sustainable and healthy eating patterns.  In short, do we need a set of indicators to assess companies’ progress and hold them to account?

The report highlights some of the questions that need to be considered when thinking about the role, nature and value of metrics and who their intended target users should be. It provides a detailed overview of one particular potential user: the investment community.  One whole section of the report provides an explanation of how the often poorly-understood investment community operates. It also very briefly scopes out some ideas for a future project, which would explore:

  1. How do we define sustainable and healthy diets?
  2. What metrics already exist and what are their strengths, limitations and omissions?  Are new metrics needed?
  3. Should we target the whole food industry or just an aspect of the food industry? 
  4. Who is the most appropriate target users (i.e. investors versus civil society)?
  5. Who should we collaborate with?

To access the report, please look here. And if you are interested in discussing our plans for taking this work further do please get in touch – contact

Addressing food consumption to deliver on the Paris AgreementOn 8th November the FCRN organised a workshop that brought together civil society organisations (CSOs) to explore the scope for collaborating on demonstrating to policy makers the need to address food consumption if our climate commitments are to be met – and to make the case that such actions could potentially be synergistic with the SDGs.
Questions discussed included:

  • Which CSOs are already working on food in relation to the Paris Agreement?
  • What forms of collaboration might be possible given the differing agendas of the various participants – is there a common message?
  • What could we do next?

We produced a short summary report that we would be happy to share with those interested. Let us know if you would like a copy. The consensus after the event was that there is a great deal of potential to develop further work in this area, which the FCRN would be happy to facilitate. If you have ideas and/or suggestions on funding models to carry out this continued work we’d like to hear from you.

Food Climate Research Network at Stockholm Nobel Week Dialogue, 9 December
The Nobel celebrations are accompanied by a conference entitled the Nobel Week Dialogue, and this year the topic will be The future of food: Your plate - Our planet. FCRN's Dr Tara Garnett is honoured to introduce this year's theme and will be participating in panels together with a range of Nobel prize laureates and other experts.  

The event will bring together around 25 participants (including 7 Nobel Laureates), before a live audience of over 1000 people. The meeting is intended to generate debate, and both the live and online audiences will be invited to get involved in the dialogue by posing questions and making comments.  Join the conversation on twitter using #nobeldialogue and tune it to watch at (9 December from 10:00 CET).

FCRN hosting event with Swedish collaborators: Changing what we eat - with the help of art, design and gastronomy, 12 December

While in Stockholm, the FCRN is also organising an event on December 12th together with a number of Swedish collaborators, titled Changing what we eat - with the help of art, design and gastronomy: Insights from ‘new’ disciplines in envisioning and building a more sustainable food future. The event will focus on the ethics around sustainable food and eating practices and the possibilities of shifting consumption patterns.
Addressing the values, norms and other structures that influence dietary patterns is critical if we are to create a healthier and more sustainable food future and reach the climate goals of the Paris agreement. Together with pioneers and unconventional thinkers from different fields, we hope this event will allow us to explore new ideas on how science, art, design and gastronomy can work together to create innovative solutions, says Tara Garnett, FCRN founder and coordinator.

This event on the 12th December will be a quite small gathering and is already fully booked, but we will be filming and posting a video from the sessions on the FCRN Youtube channel and Facebook. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Marie Persson, FCRN Communications and Network Development Officer (+46730579099) *Image credit Zim & Zou.

Read more here.

FCRN co-organising Medact conference 9th  - 10th December London, Healthy Planet – Better WorldThe FCRN will be represented in a panel during the Medact forum 2016 on the topic Healthy Planet- Better World, which we are also co-organising. The overarching theme of this event is that human health is dependent on a healthy environment and its role is to highlight the importance of the health community in helping to address environmental change and climate change. The FCRN’s Samuel Lee Gammage and Milja Fenger will present in the session on Global Food System Challenges on day 1 (9th December) 11:30 – 12:45.


Why a focus on demand side measures?
The food system contributes around 30% of global GHG emissions. As such any progress towards limiting the global rise in emissions will not be possible unless food plays its part.  An important and essential level of mitigation can be achieved by reducing the GHG intensity of production and distribution - but mounting evidence shows that these production-side measures will not by themselves be sufficient to deliver the deep cuts needed.  The driver of increasing production – food consumption, and in particular rising demand for GHG-intensive food such as meat – also needs urgently to be addressed.

So far however, food in general and consumption in particular have been notably absent in policy discussions on actions needed to deliver on the Paris agreement and the SDGs.  This said, there are signs of growing interest in the concept of sustainable and healthy eating pattern and demand side measures based on this recognition that our diets need to change if we are to address the major problems caused by and affecting the food system, including climate change and environmental damage, and the growing global burden of disease caused by poor diets. We are very interested in continuing working with these issues and would encourage you to get in touch if you want to discuss ways to collaborate or support this work.

You can read more about our work in the following related publications and resources:

FCRN publications:

Plates, pyramids and planet – Developments in national healthy and sustainable dietary guidelines: a state of play assessment

Policies and actions to shift eating patterns: What works?

What is a sustainable healthy diet?
Foodsource: Our online learning resource on food system sustainability

Chapter 1. Overview of food system challenges.

Chapter 4. How can we reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions?

Chapter 9. What are healthy sustainable eating patterns?

Chapter 10: What can be done to shift eating patterns in healthier, more sustainable directions?