We are the UK Government’s independent adviser on sustainable development. Through advocacy, advice and
appraisal, we help put sustainable development at the heart of Government policy


Worker quality checking apples

Championing sustainability in the food system has been an important element of the SDC’s work right from the start. Our vision for sustainable agriculture, developed in 2001, was a first step in helping Government to put sustainable development at the heart of food and farming policy. We then expanded this vision to develop objectives for a sustainable food chain through our work on the sustainability of sugar supply chains, and appraisal of the Little Red Tractor Scheme. This was carried forward in the work of the Sustainable Consumption Roundtable (2005 – 2006), a joint SDC and National Consumer Council initiative which focused in particular on the consumption end of the chain, including the role of retail and promoting good nutrition and sustainable consumption through healthy school meals.

The notion that oil prices might rise to $100 a barrel seemed remote in 2005 when SDC commissioned research on the effect this would have on UK food prices. However, when this happened in 2007, the resulting food price spikes catalysed the UK government’s and wider stakeholders’ interest in food security and resilience. The SDC argued, in a 2009 position paper Food Security and Sustainability, that food security policy needs to be based on delivering sustainability. In this same vein, our earlier 2008 report Green, healthy and fair called for government leadership in delivering an ambitious, comprehensive and integrated vision for a sustainable food system, as well as the need for on-going research on the synergies and tensions between a diet that is good for health and good for the planet. SDC’s further work to advise Government on priority elements of sustainable diets identified reducing the consumption of meat, dairy, fatty and sugary foods, and reducing food waste as the changes likely to have the most significant impact on making diets more sustainable.

In addition, food procurement has featured heavily in our work on Government operations in Whitehall and in our collaborative programmes with DH/NHS (Good Corporate Citizenship) and DCSF/DE (Sustainable Schools). Our event Breakthroughs for the 21st Century, in 2009, featured some pioneering projects on local food. SDC’s contribution to the Marmot Review (2010) highlighted food as one of the key determinants of health inequalities.

Key Publications

» Looking back, Looking Forward: Sustainability and UK food policy 2000 – 2011

» Setting the Table: Advice to Government on priority elements of sustainable diets

» Food Security and Sustainability: The perfect fit
The SDC argues that a sustainable food security policy is needed if we are to tackle those issues which affect our ability to feed ourselves and future generations sustainably, equitably and healthily.

» SDC response to the Defra discussion paper, Ensuring the UK’s Food Security in a Changing World

» Sustainability Through Food Security - The Campden Lecture 3 June 2009 - Jonathon Porritt

» SDC's response to the Review of Food Standard Agency’s Advice on Fish Consumption

» Sustainability implications for the Little Red Tractor scheme

» Green, healthy and fair - A review of the government's role in supporting sustainable supermarket food


» Supermarkets Thematic Review: Stakeholder Consultation Report

» Vision for a Sustainable Food Chain - Workshop Report