Food and sustainability

The Food Sustainability Index: find food that’s truly “good”

An index resulting from the international collaboration between BCFN and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) to help policy makers, civil society, the private sector and everyday citizens make informed decisions and spread sustainable ‘best practices’ for food, safeguarding our health and the environment.

For food to be considered “good”, it isn’t enough for it to be full of flavour. “Italian food is among the best in the world when it comes to taste, but we can and must do better when it comes to the food and nutrition system”, said Guido Barilla, President of BCFN. To better understand precisely which countries have the best food systems, the Food Sustainability Index (FSI) was created, officially presented in Milan on 1 December 2016 during BCFN’s 7th International Forum on Food and Nutrition.

Not just a simple ranking
Three main pillars form the basis of the analysis carried out by BCFN and the experts at The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU): sustainable agriculture, nutritional challenges and food waste. Evaluating 58 parameters belonging to these three macro-categories, the experts created the new food sustainability index, drawing up a ranking of the countries in which food meets both health requirements as well as environmental and social standards. “The new index is a diagnostic tool, one for planning and monitoring”, emphasised Barbara Buchner, Executive Director of Climate Finance at Climate Policy Initiative and a BCFN board member. However, “the final ranking, in reality, is a minor part of the project”, explained Adam Green, Senior Editor at EIU, and Lucy Hurst, Director, EIU Consulting, EMEA, who presented the results at the Forum in Milan. “Really, it’s a call to action for all nations which are focusing on sustainability and a way to learn from the more virtuous countries, those at the top of the ranking”.

A summary of the results
At the top of the ranking, the countries with the most sustainable food systems are France, Japan and Canada, which emerged as the three best among the 25 analysed (more specifically, 20 countries representing two-thirds of the world’s population and 85% of the global GDP, plus five countries coming from regions which otherwise wouldn’t be represented: Nigeria, Ethiopia, Colombia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel). The gold medal awarded to the French is linked mainly to national policies on food waste and a rational approach to nutrition, while Japan and Canada took second and third place respectively thanks to their sustainable agriculture policies and the spread of nutritionally balanced diets. At the bottom of the ranking is India which, along with countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, must address the double challenge of malnutrition paired with obesity and must markedly improve its agricultural and food waste policies. The index has proven to be useful also for tracing a few global trends, highlighting, for example, the serious deficiencies in micronutrients in medium to high-income countries, or the rise in obesity in developing nations. Complete details can be found online at

The Index’s future
The priceless work which led to the development of the FSI is only the first step towards demonstrating, on all levels, how important the connection between various food and nutrition aspects are if we truly want to find a dietary system which is sustainable for the world’s population and the environment. Such analysis can go into deeper detail, concentrating on single cities, as has already happened with the launch of a pilot project, also coordinated by BCFN and EIU, called City Monitor. This project is designed to identify the indicators which are most useful in understanding the way a “food system” works on an urban level. In its initial phase, it’s already involved 16 international cities: from London to Milan, then to Johannesburg, Tel Aviv, Mumbai and many more, all added to a ranking according to their food sustainability.


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