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Addressing food systems through consumers – promoting awareness and behavioural change

3rd Global Conference of the Sustainable Food Systems Programme

The 3rd Global Conference of the Sustainable Food Systems Programme provides substantial input to the UN Food Systems Summit scheduled for 2021. The Consumer Information Programme hosted a session on 30th November: Addressing food systems through consumers – promoting awareness and behavioural change. 


  1. Ulf Jaeckel, Head of Division, Sustainable Consumption, Environmental Product Policy, Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Germany
  2. Daniela Acuña, Ministry of Agriculture, Chile 
  3. Ply Pirom, WWF Thailand
  4. Andre Nel, Pick n Pay 
  5. Daniel Vennard, World Resources Institute

Key highlights

  • In Chile, there are not many consumer organisations and most that work there do not focus on food systems. The Ministry of Agriculture has developed initiatives on food waste prevention through awareness-raising campaigns and developing guidance on recommendations for nutrition, preventing food waste at a household level and improving organic recycling at home. 
  • WWF Thailand launched a project to engage as many people as possible in sustainable food systems through sustainable consumption and greener lifestyles in Thailand. The project sought to create a sense of urgency and strengthen the links from producers to consumers for sustainable consumption and production (SCP). 
  • Stores operate as communication channels; Pick n Pay are using on-product communication, posters, in-store radio and television screens to communicate around food and healthy eating.  
  • The World Resources Institute (WRI) launched the 'Cool Food Pledge' to motivate hotels, restaurants, and other food services to commit to moving towards more plant foods. In one year, this has resulted in a reduction of 3% of absolute emissions and 6% emissions per calorie. 
  • Daniel Kahneman’s is a behaviousal scientist and his model on how people make decisions include two systems: System 1 - fast, automatic, emotional and unconscious and System 2 - slow, logical, deliberate and conscious. WRI has been focusing on how to impact consumer behaviors as consumers typically rely on System 1 when shopping. 


  • There are huge opportunities to produce more food in a way that works with nature, not against it. Consumer preferences and demands have a direct influence on business and government decision, leading to more sustainable products, innovations and policies.  
  • Many consumers are still lacking an understanding of how ecosystem degradation is related to their food choices. However, there are ongoing improvements in which technologies and consumer information are playing key roles. 
  • Given that the agricultural sector and the production and consumption of food are among the major contributors to global impacts on the ecosystems, it can potentially be mitigated through the promotion and integration of SCP: Sustainable consumption and production principles into governmental SCPs, business decisions and consumer practices. 
  • Technology can support consumers move towards responsible choices and retailers can integrate these technologies into their businesses.
  • Shifting diets towards being more plant-rich is a huge win for health and the environment. More plant-based diets not only reduce GHG Emissions but help feed the world without more deforestation. Examples to implement this can include.
    • People: Provide back-of-house staff with information about the health and environmental benefits of plant-rich dishes
    • Product: Increase the relative number of plant-rich dishes on offer compared to meat dishes
    • Placement: Increase the amount of self-service display that is dedicated to plant-rich
    • Presentation: Use language on menus to emphasise positive attributes of plant-rich dishes 
    • Promotion: Publicize the environmental benefits of plant-rich dishes using marketing materials e.g. poster or TV screens. 


    Current food systems are unsustainable. Although yields per hectare have increased significantly in many parts of the world in the last few decades, over 680 million people go to bed hungry every day. Habitats, including soils, are increasingly degraded, causing an unprecedented decline in biodiversity, compromising our ability to produce food and increasing the risk of new diseases with pandemic potential. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the food value chain account for up to 37% of the GHG emissions worldwide, and still, approximately one third of all food produced is lost or wasted. Complex and often non-transparent supply chains hinder accountability, which can lead to exploitation and fraud. People in many parts of the world are shifting to high-calorie, low-nutrient unhealthy diets, a major risk for human health: non-communicable diseases like diabetes and obesity are on the rise. 

    Transformation to more sustainable food systems will require profound changes in how we produce, process, retail, consume and dispose of food. It will also require a systems approach that includes all voices in the decision-making process and recognizes the interconnection, trade-offs and synergies across outcomes related to food security, nutrition, and environmental, social and economic sustainability. Join the Sustainable Food Systems Programme 3rd global conference to help catalyze food systems transformation and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

    Dates: 25 November – 3 December 2020
    Register here

    Published on November 30, 2020
    Event start date
    08:00 am
    Event end date
    08:00 am

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