News

17 Dec 2023

New funding for advancing food system sustainability

GEDB researcher Malin Jonell and her team have received a SEK 10 million grant from the Swedish research council Formas for research to advance large food corporation’s sustainability work. The team will review the effectiveness of existing sustainability strategies and develop solutions for overcoming negative implications for small-scale producers. In addition, they will improve data synthesis methods for bundles of environmental impacts.

GEDB researcher Malin Jonell and her team have received a SEK 10 million grant from the Swedish research council Formas for research to advance large food corporation’s sustainability work. The team will review the effectiveness of existing sustainability strategies and develop solutions for overcoming negative implications for small-scale producers. In addition, they will improve data synthesis methods for bundles of environmental impacts.

 Food systems need to transform for humanity to stay within planetary boundaries and achieve socially just and resilient societies. Large food companies are part of the problem, but taking the right actions they could make an enormous impact by connecting to thousands of suppliers and customers and millions of consumers. However, the capacity to realise existing targets and validate them differ greatly, and few companies consider how climate ambitions influences other sustainability dimensions.

“In this project we will engage with two transnational animal feed producers (Cargill and Skretting) and three Swedish food retailers (ICA, COOP and Axfood). Feed processing and food retail have in common that they engage with many suppliers and consumers, thereby influencing how food is produced and from where it is sourced, which consequently determines environmental impacts”, explains project leader Malin Jonell.

To remedy lack of harmonised data on impacts from food items and how different environmental dimensions correlate, the project Climate Action through Product Sustainability in the food system (CAPS), plan to investigate how company ambitions to lower GHG emissions influences other key environmental and impacts (e.g. biodiversity, eutrophication, freshwater use, and ecotoxicity).

Other barriers for achieving sustainability in all dimensions will also be addressed, such as the shortage of incentive structures within the industry to move towards more sustainable practices.

Moreover, there is a strong focus on the equity dimension, and the specific challenges for small-scale producers in supplying sustainability data with a related risk of market exclusion and limited environmental gains.

“While this project centers on large food corporations and their role in driving a climate transformation, we will also consider how product footprint data schemes can negatively impact small and marginalized producers, especially in countries with a high risk of environmental destruction. We hope that our project can help contribute to an equitable and fair food transformation”, says Malin Jonell.

The project team includes fellow GEDB and Beijer Institute researchers Patrik Henriksson and Max Troell, and colleagues from Stockholm Environment Institute, Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

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