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Spotlight Story

The Power of Partnerships: Informing Consumers on the Path to Sustainable Food Systems

It is no secret that today’s global food systems are far from sustainable. 1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted each year, while diets high in meat, fat, salt and sugar have adverse effects on both health and the environment. But how can this change when most people are either not aware of the health and environmental impacts of their food, or they don’t know how they can go about reducing this impact?

That question bred an excellent opportunity for two programmes of the 10 Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP) to demonstrate how they collaborate. The Sustainable Food Systems Programme and the Consumer Information Programme came together at the 2017 Trade for Sustainable Development Forum (T4SD), held in Geneva on September 25-27 and hosted by the International Trade Centre (ITC).

The T4SD Forum’s theme was Partnerships for Sustainable Development, a natural fit for the 10YFP as it is a network in action. ITC invited the 10YFP to host a session on the intersection between sustainable food systems and consumer information. After all, how can consumers make sustainable choices about their food consumption if they don’t have the right information? And what will incentivize companies to offer sustainable products if there is no consumer demand?

During this session, the programmes’ member institutions highlighted the key partnerships that need to exist between the private, public and third sectors in order to bridge the gap between consumers and producers in the food sector. 

 

ITC’s Joseph Wozniak gave one example of how the public and private sectors can interact to facilitate sustainable food systems. ITC launched a new online tool during the Forum, the Sustainability Map,which provides information on sustainability standards and initiatives worldwide to help users navigate the abundance of standards that currently exists. As it is today, the Map is geared mainly towards connecting farmers and businesses. However, Mr. Wozniak agreed that the support of the 10YFP could help make Sustainability Map more useful for consumers directly. He sees the 10YFP’s role as helping ITC to understand “how can we, on the value chain side, especially with the Sustainable Food Systems [Programme]… leverage the network that we have on the Sustainability Map to really give more of a voice… to the producers that are engaging in sustainable production and then communicate those achievements and the realities of that journey to consumers….” Ian Fenn of Consumers International (co-lead of the 10YFP Consumer Information Programme) agreed on this potential for partnership, pointing out that consumers can also be confused by the array of standards that exist, and with some work the Standards Map can be used refine this information and present it to consumers in an accessible way. 

 

The Guidelines for Providing Product Sustainability Information, developed by the Consumer Information Programme and introduced at the T4SD Forum, serve as another means to bridge the information gap between producers and consumers. The Guidelines outline how companies can provide quality information to their consumers, empowering consumers to make informed decisions about what they choose to buy. This allows both sides to play their full role in making production and consumption patterns more sustainable. The Guidelines were officially launched at the World Resources Forum 2017 on October 25th, and will be subsequently road tested in partnership with companies from all regions. During this process, case studies will be collected in order to highlight good practices and lessons learned.

Guidelines were officially launched at the World Resources Forum 2017 on October 25th, and will be subsequently road tested in partnership with companies from all regions. During this process, case studies will be collected in order to highlight good practices and lessons learned.

By all accounts, partnerships have always been important for success. As demonstrated at the T4SD Forum, the challenge of achieving sustainability makes joining hands more crucial than ever before.

Watch the ‘Bringing Sustainable Food Systems and Consumer Information Together’ session in its entirety here!

Companies interested in participating in the road testing of the Guidelines for Providing Product Sustainability Information are invited to contact ciscp@un.org.

The Trade for Sustainable Development Forum 2017 ‘Partnerships: Which Model is Yours?’ was hosted by the International Trade Centre in Geneva, Switzerland.

The 10YFP Consumer Information Programme implements and supports projects; undertakes research; identifies and encourages policies; and provides collaboration opportunities for anyone looking to engage and assist consumers in sustainable consumption.

The 10YFP Sustainable Food Systems Programme promotes sustainability all along the food value chain, from farm to fork. The Programme brings together existing initiatives and partnerships working in related areas, highlighting good practices and success stories, and builds synergies as well as cooperation among stakeholders to leverage resources towards mutual objectives.

The International Trade Centre works towards creating ‘trade impact for good’. ITC’s mission is to foster inclusive and sustainable economic development, and contribute to achieving the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development. 

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