Environmental sustainability of food systems

Global Centre for Preventive Health and Nutrition

Our research into ways to improve the healthiness of population diets strongly recognises the importance to promote both human and planetary health. Building on our own health and nutrition expertise, we collaborate broadly with experts in environmental sustainability to identify mechanisms to create healthy, equitable and environmentally sustainable food systems.

Our research, as part of the Lancet Commission on Obesity, highlighted the strong links between unhealthy diets and environmental sustainability. Nearly one-third of the global population is experiencing some form of malnutrition, including under-nutrition, overweight and obesity. At the same time, approximately one third of man-made greenhouse gas emissions result from food systems. Food systems also have other major negative environmental impacts, including land degradation, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and water contamination. Importantly, there are common drivers of both malnutrition and climate change, and prevention efforts need to consider ways to create healthy, equitable and environmentally sustainable food systems. We have a range of cutting-edge research initiatives in this area. These projects contribute to Deakin’s Sustainable Health Network.

  • Benchmarking the healthiness and environmental sustainability of food environments

    As part of our work to boost accountability for action, we have developed tools to monitor and benchmark the healthiness, equity, and environmental sustainability of food environments. Key examples include:

    • a VicHealth-funded project to develop a tool and process for local governments in Australia to self-assess their policies for creating healthy, equitable and environmentally sustainability food systems (the Local Food-EPI tool)
    • the Uni-Food tool that benchmarks the healthiness, equity, and environmental sustainability of food systems in university settings. We have applied the tool in a range of universities globally, and plan to expand use of the tool to other settings as part of INFORMAS.
  • Assessing food company policies and commitments

    Building on our efforts to assess the nutrition-related policies and commitments of food companies, we are developing metrics for assessing the environmental sustainability policies and commitments of major food companies. This work, funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), will be applied in a range of countries as part of INFORMAS. Our research in this area contributes to our broader program of work focused on institutional investors and their role in contributing to improved food systems.