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Supporting policy with scientific evidence

We mobilise people and resources to create, curate, make sense of and use knowledge to inform policymaking across Europe.

Publication | 2021

Catalysing science-based policy action on sustainable consumption and production: the value-chain approach and its application to food, construction and textiles. UNEP-2021

The UNEP report shines light on power concentration and imbalance within food value chains. This analysis is of upmost importance for the designing of relevant and effective food policies.

Through a value chain approach, the report identifies sustainable consumption and production actions informed by science, in three sectors: food, construction, textile.

In relation to the food sector, the report provides an overview of the food value chain and identifies the key hotspots as well as opportunities to address them.

While the majority of natural resource use and environmental impacts takes place at the primary production stage, primary producers have a limited ability to shape food systems and change their production practices. The middle stages of the food value chain – comprising food companies, retail and food services - are structurally powerful and to a large degree shape both what food farmers produce and sell and what food consumers buy and eat.

Key challenges to be addressed:

1. what types of food we produce and consume: addressing the vast differences in resources and environmental impacts to produce different types of food.

2. how much food we produce and consume: reshaping the food environment to reduce food waste

3. how we produce food: shifting primary production practices, including with mid-stream and down-stream actors.

Most policy measures, captured through the official reporting on SDG indicator 12.1.1, address either primary production or individual consumption stages. This leaves a continued gap in measures that address the middle stages of the food value chain. Policy measures include a good mix of regulatory and voluntary measures, while economic and financial measures are limited. Tools and solutions are required to support the implementation of voluntary measures.

Tools and solutions are available across the One Planet network to address the key challenges along the food value chain. While many activities are at primary production or individual consumption stage or are holistic; there is an opportunity to build on ongoing initiatives at the food processing, retail and food services – in particular through the sustainable tourism, sustainable procurement and consumer information programmes.