Sunday, October 1, 2023

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation Challenges the Food System: ‘We Know the Problems’


As leading climate experts continue to sound an urgent alarm calling for sustainable food solutions, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has launched an industry challenge aimed at redesigning the food system.

The time has come to fundamentally rethink the way we produce our food and create a system that allows nature to thrive, says the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. To accelerate this transformative change, the circular-focused foundation in collaboration with the Sustainable Food Trust, is initiating the Big Food Redesign Challenge, inviting producers, retailers, start-ups, and suppliers to embrace circular food design.

This collaborative effort fosters a new course for the future of food — one that nourishes both people and the planet. The Big Food Redesign Challenge is a platform where participants will be invited to design innovative food products that adhere to circular design principles.

By doing so, they will contribute to the regeneration of nature while addressing the pressing issue of climate change. The challenge was unveiled last week at the Barbican’s Conservatory in London, bringing together guests from across the food industry to celebrate this landmark initiative.

african woman field
Photo Courtesy Annie Spratt | Unsplash

“We know the problems. The current food system is a key driver of biodiversity loss and accounts for a third of global greenhouse gases,” Dame Ellen MacArthur, Founder and Chair of Trustees, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said in a statement. “By applying the principles of circular design to our food system, we can create food that regenerates nature and tackles some of our most pressing global issues.” 

Throughout the challenge, participants will receive comprehensive support to guide them in their journey. The first designs are expected to emerge towards the end of this year, and successful food product ideas will have the opportunity to enter production and be made available to consumers by 2024.

Players of People’s Postcode Lottery raised £1.25 million for the initiative through the annual Dream Fund, acting as a catalyst for the project. “I am thrilled that this funding has been a catalyst for the project, allowing the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to deliver a project that will reshape food production with the needs of the environment at its core,” Laura Chow, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said in a statement.

Wendy Schmidt, President and Co-founder of the Schmidt Family Foundation, highlighted the significance of the challenge. “The world’s industrial food system wasn’t designed for resilience or sustainability,” Schmidt said. “Instead, we’ve prioritized mechanical efficiency at low cost, often neglecting quality and disregarding externalities. However, the consequences of this approach are significantly contributing to climate destruction while leaving many people without access to nutritious food.”

Dairy Cattle
Cattle raising is linked to deforestation. Courtesy David Dolenc | Unsplash

Tor Harris, Lead of the SMI Agribusiness Taskforce Action Committee, emphasized the significance of the Challenge. “The Big Food Redesign Challenge provides an ideal opportunity to put into practice our aim of accelerating regenerative farming into becoming the predominant agricultural system in the world,” he said. “We encourage all food businesses to participate in the challenge and demonstrate how circular design can bring about positive change.”

Ben Thomas, Senior Environment Manager at the John Lewis Partnership, said its customers are “conscious shoppers” and they trust the platform to offer responsibly sourced produce, “and we can’t wait to hear their thoughts on the new products developed for the Challenge.”

The importance of collaborative efforts is echoed by Michiel Bakker, VP of Workplace Programs at Google, who affirmed Google’s commitment to maximizing the reuse of finite resources. “We support the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Big Food Redesign Challenge and look forward to learning about the innovative solutions it inspires,” Bakker said.

Alexander Gillett, CEO of HowGood, emphasized the global impact of the challenge. “Following the historic Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, the world is poised for big, bold coordinated efforts to evolve our food industry toward a more nature-positive system,” Gillett said. “By providing global food brands and suppliers with free access to HowGood’s sustainable innovation platform, we will harness the power of the competitive spirit to drive impact-first food product development and empower the food industry with radical transparency for a regenerative future.”

Stefania Avanzini, Director, One Planet Business for Biodiversity (OP2B) said the challenge will help to strengthen private sector engagement “to put nature at the heart of food product design”.

“Diversified product formulations and plant-based diets are systemic building blocks to transform our food system — key levers to transform our agricultural model by OP2B Members since our inception in 2019,” she said.

“Creating markets for diversified crops is one of the key barriers to shift from a monoculture to a regenerative multiculture approach, that can contribute to soil health. Taking part in and learning from the Big Food Redesign Challenge will help companies reach their climate and biodiversity targets and build a food system that enables nature to thrive.”  

Related on Ethos:


The Complicated Ethics of Eiderdown, the World’s Most Expensive Feathers

Yes, they're warm, but are eiderdown feathers ethical? What's the difference between eiderdown and other down feathers? The world's most expensive down, explained.

Illycaffè Debuts First Regeneratively Sourced Coffee Amid Climate Change Efforts

Italian coffee giant Illycaffè is celebrating International Coffee Day with sustainable coffee cultivation in its latest product, Arabica Selection Brazil Cerrado Mineiro. This marks the company's first coffee offering that is both regeneratively sourced and Regenagri certified.

Issa Rae and Tazo Partner to Support Independent Coffee Shops and the ‘Communities They Inspire’

In a collaboration aimed at uplifting local communities, actress, producer, and entrepreneur Issa Rae has joined forces with specialty tea brand Tazo.

Parley for the Oceans Gives New Life to Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s L’Arc de Triomphe Wrapped

Two years after it debuted on the Champs-Élysées, Christo and Jeanne-Claude's final artwork, L'Arc de Triomphe Wrapped, is being recycled for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Why We Need Sustainable Reporting On Scope 3 Emissions

Current reporting is falling short on Scope 3 emissions data. But for this significant progress marker in meeting climate goals, we need tools that can drive a sustainable future.