The Food Sustainability Index (FSI), developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) with the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN) Foundation, ranks countries on food system sustainability based off of three pillars: food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture, and nutritional challenges.
“A food system does not sit in isolation, and a large number of stakeholders act together according to dynamics created by specific drivers,” say researchers Francesca Allievi, Marta Antonelli, and Katarzyna Dembska, who worked on the Food Sustainability Index with the BCFN Foundation. This causes increasing complexity at the regional, national, continental, and global level, they explain. Trying to assess the interaction among its parts creates a high level of these creating a high level of uncertainty when trying to assess the interaction among its parts.”
Released in 2016, the FSI aims to encourage policymakers to place food and its production issues as high-priority items in their policy agendas. BCFN has since released two Food Sustainability Reports: “Climate Change and Famine: Issues at the Heart of International Awareness,” which focused on climate change, food security, and food safety; and “Environmental, Food and Migration Sustainability: Three Challenges To Overcome Together,” raising awareness about crucial issues surrounding food and sustainability. Both reports were a joint effort between BCFN and the Milan Center for Food Law and Policy.
According to the FSI, The world population is projected to reach 8.1 billion by 2025. Ninety-five percent of this growth will come from developing countries, many of which are dealing with the double burden of hunger and rising obesity. Meanwhile, climate change is presenting new challenges to the agriculture sector. By highlighting performance of different countries and identifying best practices, the index establishes a comparable benchmark for leaders around the world to reference and measure their progress in establishing a sustainable food system.
The FSI is publicly available. Data can be accessed in the form of a map or a country ranking, and the full dataset can be downloaded. Through this approach, the FSI can serve as a tool for policymakers and experts to take action, students to be educated, and the public to adjust their behavior for the well-being of our health and our planet.
“The objectives of the FSI are not only to highlight the performance of countries, but to establish a comparable benchmark, to offer examples of best practices at the national and city levels, and to measure progress over time,” say the researchers.
The index analyzed the 20 countries in the G20, which maintain the largest economies and contain two-thirds of the global population, as well as five nations from regions otherwise unrepresented, using 58 different indicators to measure sustainability. FSI identified France, Japan, and Canada as the top-scoring countries. The top score earner, France, maintains a holistic policy response to food waste and nutrition issues. For example, French supermarkets are required to donate excess food and tax incentives are in place to discourage unhealthy food consumption.
Fixing Food, a white paper released with the FSI, advises developing countries to use institutional and infrastructure reform to improve sustainable agriculture practices. “Including more transparent land rights, greater access to finance…and stronger infrastructure for storage, transport, and logistic, can promote greater efficiency,” write authors of the report. Policy options to address nutritional challenges include public education campaigns, tax measures on unhealthy foods, and restrictions on junk food advertising to children.
The EIU and BCFN Foundation also developed City Monitor, a city-level database and evaluation tool for urban food systems. City Monitor applies sets of quantitative and qualitative indicators, such as child obesity rates and quality of urban farming initiatives, to assess urban food systems.
Together, City Monitor and the FSI provide city and national-level benchmarking tools to help leaders take action on food production, nutrition, and food waste issues. “Progress will be measured over time by updating of the FSI in the next years through new inputs, feedbacks, and new focus of research,” say the BCFN Foundation researchers.