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Putting solutions on the table A review of successful interventions to support more sustainable food consumption behaviours

Mariana Nicolau; Arlind Xhelili; Lea Leimann; Cristina Fedato

Goals

The transition towards more sustainable food systems in Europe has put a key question on the table: how can we halve the consumption of high impact foods in Europe in the next decades, thereby also cutting by half their negative sustainability impacts? This report aims at con­tributing to this discussion, by analysing and showcasing the latest and most compelling pieces of evidence about behaviourally-informed interventions that support a shift towards more sustainable and healthier diets in real-life contexts.

Target audience

This report is particularly targeted at policymakers and food industry actors. It aims to provide a range of evidence-based approaches to drive more sustainable food purchasing and consumption behaviours in Europe. For this purpose, each behavioural change discussed is accompanied by reflections on opportunities for policy­makers and the food industry to replicate, tailor or scale up the consequences involved.

Key discussion points

Behaviourally-informed strategies seen as an opportunity for sustain­able food consumption strategies – not as the one and only answer.

“‘Softer’ interventions, although they offer an easier solution, can be counterproductive if they diminish the political appetite for stronger policy” . This is not an either/or question; it is about behaviourally-informed policies as a helpful com-plement to more classical policy approaches, with the potential to foster enjoyment, innovation and public acceptance on the way to more sustainable eating behaviours.

Need for robust evaluation and documentation of behaviourally-informed interventions. If it is crucial to inform sustainable food consumption strategies and inter­ventions with behavioural insights, it is equally important to measure and evaluate the results of such interventions. Only by doing so can one understand what works and what probably will not work. From the literature reviewed for this report, it became clear that there is a real need for further documenta­tion, and above all for measurement and evaluation of the results of behaviour-change interventions.

The right moment is now. There is great momentum at the present juncture in history for change in food consumption behaviours. On the one hand, there are urgent sustainability and carbon targets, to which eating behaviours are a major contributor; on the other hand, the latest innovations in the food industry, think tanks and CSOs have opened the horizon on a new world of opportunities for more sustainable food consumption.

Nicolau, M., Xhelili, A., Leimann, L. , Fedato, C. (2021). Putting Solutions on the Table. A review of successful interventions to support more sustainable food consumption behaviours. Wuppertal, Germany. VALUMICS " Understanding Food Value Chains and Network Dynamics", funded by European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme GA No 727243. 52 pages. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.5011817
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