How to regenerate nature through the circular economy?

Study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation demonstrates how large companies in the agri-food chain hold in their hands a major opportunity to foster sustainability.
10 dec 2021

Over 90% of the loss of biodiversity is currently due to the extraction and processing of natural resources. Equally, the ways in which we manufacture and use foodstuffs accounts for 45% of greenhouse gas emissions. A large part of this impact on the environment is furthermore caused by the food industry.

The major industrial brands as well as their extensive chains of distribution hold some influence over the ways in which natural resources are harvested and processed. To provide an example, we would note that in the European Union and in the United Kingdom, 40% of all the agricultural yield is delivered to the ten largest food brands and supermarkets. This sector may therefore transform from being part of the problem to become part of the solution.

The study The big food redesign: Regenerating nature with the circular economy, produced by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation under the auspices of a project in receipt of Gulbenkian Foundation support, demonstrates how a new approach – rethinking the ingredients used and how these undergo transformation, in the decision-making over how the flavours and the products are presented – agro-food and distribution companies may provide more balanced choices both to their producers and to their consumers and the environment.

Conjugating four solutions – diversifying the ingredients, using ingredients with lower impacts, taking advantage of ingredients formerly wasted and ingredients produced in regenerative approaches – the major producers and distributors may make a decisive contribution to reverting the loss of biodiversity and advancing decarbonisation while simultaneously increasing the profits of farmers and boosting the opportunities for growth driven by changes in consumer demand.

As Ellen MacArthur defends, “food companies have an enormous opportunity to make the ‘nature-positive’ food chain a norm.”

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