Food Sustainability Index 2017: a window on food sustainability

Food Sustainability Index 2017: a window on food sustainability

January 12, 2018

Food Sustainability Index 2017: a window on food sustainability

For the second year running, the Food Sustainability Index tracks the food sustainability profile of many different countries worldwide, and introduces a number of important methodological and structural changes from the first edition.

It is not merely a matter of passing a positive or negative judgment of the countries assessed. The Food Sustainability Index (FSI) developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) with BCFN is instead a quantitative and qualitative tool designed to provide a detailed assessment of a nation's food sustainability. “The second edition of the Index, published in 2017, introduces several important changes in relation to the previous one,” explained Leo Abruzzese, Global Director of Public Policy for the EIU, as he announced all the new features and results of the publication during the 8th International Forum on Food and Nutrition

Facts and figures and changes in the second edition

The study ranks 34 countries, representing 85% of global GDP and approximately two thirds of the global population, which are analyzed according to 35 main indicators and 50 sub-indicators; all this organized around three pillars: nutritional challenges, agriculture and food loss and waste. These are the main facts and figures of the FSI 2017, which provides a window on environmental sustainability and is closely linked to the sustainable development goals of the United Nations. “The Index focuses specifically on goals that are in some way connected with nutritional challenges and national food systems, and in practice is linked to most of the 17 goals,” pointed out Abruzzese. Compared to last year's FSI, the 2017 edition has added 9 new countries and increased the number of indicators analyzed, particularly in the area of nutritional challenges (adding, for instance, consumption levels of salt, sugar and fats) and agriculture (pesticides, biodiversity). 


There have also been changes in the methodologies used to determine the scores of individual nations, now calculated using a scheme in which each indicator is weighted differently. 

Looking at the general results of the study, two broad considerations emerge: firstly, the importance of the involvement of all sectors, both public and private, for the achievement of sustainable development goals and, secondly, the anything but positive performance of rich countries in relation to indicators such as the consumption of sugar (with the United States ranked at the bottom), salt (South Korea is the worst performer) and fats (France has the worst score). And what about the overall ranking? Japan shows the best performance in terms of nutritional challenges, thanks primarily to the healthy lifestyle and diet, which is rich in all the essential nutrients. France ranks at the top in the “food loss and waste” pillar, due mainly to targeted policies adopted by its government in order to reduce waste at all levels, while Italy ranks first in the agriculture pillar for its excellent management of water resources in agriculture. 

A mixed picture for the Mediterranean 

Seven out of the nine countries newly included in the 2017 edition of the FSI are in the Mediterranean area, a region that is at the heart of the debate on food sustainability for a variety of reasons. Firstly, because there has been a shift away from the traditional Mediterranean diet in favor of diets rich in calories and animal fats, and secondly, due to the effects of climate change, which are particularly significant and rapidly evolving in this region. Looking at the Mediterranean basin, it is clear that the countries situated along the Mediterranean rim are not all the same,” said Abruzzese, who went on to add: “This is the reason why we subdivided the area into two regions: the northern region - which includes Italy, France, Portugal and Spain - and the southern and eastern region, which includes the whole of North Africa and reaches up to Jordan.” Broadly speaking, the countries in the northern Mediterranean achieved higher scores in the Index, but there are also cases in which the southern and eastern region performed better. 


The results for 2017 show that when it comes to nutritional challenges, for example, countries in the southern and eastern region still suffer from very high rates of malnutrition and, what's more, the level of obesity is growing throughout the Mediterranean basin. Countries in the southern and eastern region are also not doing a good job in terms of food loss and waste, whereas when it comes to water use in agriculture, the same countries are doing better than their “cousins” in the northern region due to their more efficient management of this precious resource. For the relevant details and complete data, see the dedicated website

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