Global report: food sustainability index

14th July 2021 | Eativity editors

G20 countries must lead by example ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit this September by further reducing food waste and improving diets and agriculture, according to the authors of the Food Sustainability Index (FSI). The FSI is a global study on nutrition, sustainable agriculture and food waste which collects data from 67 countries to highlight best practices and key areas for improvement in relation to the food paradoxes (obesity and famine; allocation of natural resources to feed humans and livestock; and malnutrition and food waste) and the main UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The FSI, developed by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) with the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN), found “room for improvement” across most nations, with only Canada and Japan scoring in the top quartile for all three pillars.

Australia was still a good performer, scoring well on food loss and policy response to food loss, along with water management, trade impact and environmental biodiversity. However, we scored very poorly on the sustainability of our fisheries, agricultural diversification, population diet and the number of fast food restaurants, and end-user food waste.

France, Italy and the UK also performed well, while the US was among the worst performers for excessive meat consumption and land conversion for agriculture. Indonesia and Saudi Arabia were the worst-performing countries across all metrics.

“G20 members generate 80 percent of the world’s economic output and 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, giving these countries both the opportunity and responsibility to lead the way on food sustainability,” says Martin Koehring, Regional Lead for Sustainability, Climate Change and Natural Resources at the EIU.

While world obesity has tripled since 1975, 155 million people experienced crisis levels of hunger in 2020.

The FSI revealed progress on reducing the 931 million tonnes of food wasted globally every year, but none of the countries had published plans to account for losses or monitor reduction strategies. The authors also highlighted diets in the US, where the average consumer eats almost 250g more meat per day than recommended.

The report cited evidence that compliance with governments’ dietary guidelines would reduce premature deaths by 15 percent and emissions by 13 percent, highlighting the UK’s “Five a Day” campaign, which encourages five serves of fruit and veg a day, for increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables by 10 percent.

According to the FSI, all G20 countries had dietary guidelines but only four included sustainability as a metric of a healthy diet. Although 13 countries had stringent new climate action targets, only Indonesia and Canada included the agricultural sector in their plans.

“Leadership from the G20 can drive the transformational change needed across food systems to deliver all of our global goals from reducing hunger and poverty to tackling climate change,” says Dr Marta Antonelli, head of research at BCFN.