We need a better plan for food in the UK

Organisations in UKSSD’s Food System Programme are working together to produce a roadmap for the UK food sector so they can play their part to accelerate progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this blog Jason Perks of UKSSD’s steering group and Senior Director of Sustainability at DNV GL explains why this roadmap is needed.

In 2018 UKSSD published its widely acclaimed report Measuring up: How the UK is performing on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Recognised as the most comprehensive analysis of the SDGs in the UK, Measuring up told us that the UK is only performing well on 24% of the SDG targets with the rest poor or inadequate.

Many of the challenges we face are related to the way we produce and consume goods or services, including disparities in access. This is most apparent in the targets relevant to the food system. Alongside some of the highest levels of household food insecurity in Europe (what you might call food poverty), our use of land and the way we produce, process and waste food is damaging our environment and our health.

We need to do something about it

We wanted Measuring up to spur the UK Government and organisations to act, but it’s also UKSSD’s role to make that happen. Over the course of 2019 we met with our partners who work in the food system. Together we explored the ways the UK’s food sector could help accelerate action on the SDGs.

We all agreed the SDGs give us a focus for action and a level of ambition we should be striving for. But to get there we need a plan.

At the end of 2019 we launched our Food Systems programme. Designed over a series of workshops our partners will work together to produce a roadmap for the UK food sector. It will identify the positive and negative impacts of the sector, explore barriers that are preventing action and finally, the change we need to unlock the value of the food system and switch on the SDGs in the UK.

We don’t expect it to be perfect, nor do we expect it to cover everything it possibly could – the food system is global and it's vast – and there are already a huge number of initiatives. But the SDGs give us something different. They cover every facet of life and crucially, they’re globally recognised and about all of us working together for a better future. So we expect the roadmap to give UK organisations not just an understanding of the individual actions they can take, but importantly, where we all need to work together.

As Henry Unwin of Nando’s said when we launched our action plan for the SDGs this year:

Whilst I am proud of the bold steps that we are taking to reduce the impact we have on our planet, it’s still not enough. What we are doing within our own four walls will not create systemic change at the scale we need. We must collaborate - with citizens, other restaurants, government, wider business and industry.

Jason Perks is Director, Sustainability at DNV GL and a member of the UKSSD steering group.