Agriculture & Food Security

The Circular Economy Action Agenda for Food

News | February 4, 2021

The current global food system is a marvel, feeding the world’s rapidly growing population over the last century. But it will not sustainably feed the world of tomorrow. There is an urgent need to take action to transform the food system into one where the growing, eating, and cycling of nutrients creates healthy, equitable, resilient, and sustainable outcomes for people and the planet.

On February 4, 2021, the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE), Resonance, and a global network of business, government, and civil society leaders launched the Circular Economy Action Agenda. This Action Agenda is a rallying call to accelerate the transition to a circular economy to achieve a better future for people and nature. The Action Agenda is made up of five reports, focused on plastics, textiles, electronics, capital equipment, and food.

The Circular Economy Action Agenda for Food

Resonance led the development of the Circular Economy Action Agenda for Food with a year-long consultative process with leading practitioners across the food system. It is a roadmap for collective action across every sector—businesses, governments, finance institutions, farmers, and civil society and research organizations. It is designed to kickstart the cross-sector collaboration and innovation that will be critical for a sustainable future. Importantly, the agenda calls for actions that we know to be technologically feasible today, with clear demonstrations popping up around the globe. All we need is collective will, funding, leadership, and determination.

Why We Need a Circular Economy for Food

Our current economic system is linear: we extract natural resources, use them, and create huge volumes of waste. The circular economy offers a different vision: A system in which products and materials are kept in use, waste is eliminated or repurposed, and natural systems are regenerated. A circular economy for food will produce foods in ways that regenerate nature, minimize food waste and post-harvest losses, and productively use commonly wasted materials and resources. This is an area of urgent need as well as opportunity. Notes Per Heggenes, CEO of the Ikea Foundation: “Shifting to a regenerative and circular system for food and agriculture is not only key to securing decent livelihoods for small farmers and to mitigating climate change – it’s also a global economic opportunity. We know what we need to do but we now need to accelerate the transition through action at scale and more investment.”

10 Calls-to-Action for Transforming the Food System

The Circular Economy Action Agenda for Food assesses the potential benefits, trade-offs, and unknowns of achieving a circular economy for food across five key impact categories. It then lays out 19 primary barriers that could slow progress toward creating a circular economy for food. With this context in mind, the team has put forward 10 calls-to-action to optimize impact and overcome identified barriers. These calls-to-action outline key areas where the circular economy for food can have the greatest impact in shaping a more sustainable global food system, focusing on areas where bold leaders can take action today. They include:

1. Enabling transitions to planetary health diets

2. Scaling productive and regenerative agriculture practices

3. Increasing the value of nature-regenerative food production to farmers

4. Mapping hotspots of food loss and waste

5. Integrating food loss and waste more broadly into the Sustainable Development Goals agenda

6. Increasing investment in reducing food loss and waste

7. Reframing wasted food and byproducts as valuable resources

8. Facilitating secondary market development and access

9. Enabling sanitary cycles for human waste

10. Increasing information accessibility and data utilization

Cross-Sector Collaboration and Collective Action for the Future of Food

For each call-to-action, we outline steps that key stakeholders—from global food brands to bilateral donors to research organizations—can take to lead in the transition. We are excited to work with PACE, the global development community, and our company partners to forge new partnerships, develop new business models, and take action to shape tomorrow’s food system into one that is healthy, equitable, resilient, and sustainable by design.

Resonance will be working to facilitate new, bold cross-sector partnerships with leading businesses and global development actors, to take action for a sustainable food system. If you work with a company, donor, NGO, or foundation and are interested in engaging in next steps and new collaborations, please reach out to Seth Olson.

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If you are a corporate leader and would like to be a part of a discussion about these and other issues in the presidential transition, contact Resonance Strategic Partnerships Manager, Seth Olson.