In recent years, there has been a growing emphasis on sustainable and healthy food choices as individuals and communities realise the impact of their dietary habits on the environment and personal well-being. I attended a great event about the benefits of shifting to sustainable and healthy food for improved health and promoting ecological balance. Hosted at the British Library at Euston, the event named “The Business of Food: From Farm and Fork” was inspiring as I came across speakers who spoke about their work on things such as regenerative farming and empowering ethical food systems.
What resonated with me was the topic of awareness and education about the food we consume. How much do we know about where our food sources are and how the food is being treated? What is really the cost of eating cheap food? The healthcare expenditure in the UK in 2020 of £257.6 billion speaks for itself. Are we trading these convenient meals in exchange for our long-term health? And what is the solution?
It was discussed how the onus is not just on the organisation but also on the consumer. The more educated the consumer is, the more changes they can bring about. When consumers started talking about how bad plastic is for the environment, it was banned. However, the government and the giant corporations that make our food also have a big responsibility. A study found that UK shoppers shun plastic bags, not the planet, to save money. So it was also the government incentivising the consumer.
For example, consumers seek convenient and cheap food lunches, or “meal deals”, and the work culture in the UK does not include people having long, healthy hot lunches. However, it is also on these corporations to provide healthy, convenient lunch options. For example, Tesco just started including a fruit (banana or apple) as a “snack” under their meal deal. Previously it was primarily crips, chocolate bars or preservative food. So the responsibility goes both ways.
Consumers increasingly seek sustainable, eco-friendly alternatives and hold companies accountable for their environmental impact. But there are limited sustainable products to choose from and limited brands that are transparent about their impact. Further, the brands that are sustainable and transparent are either too expensive to buy, not at par with the quality of the other products, or both. Thus, I believe organisations and the government are equally responsible.
More organisations and governments need to be ethical and educate consumers about products. Organisations must be environmental stewards and meet consumer demands for good quality, reasonable, sustainable, eco-friendly products. They need to drive innovation to embrace sustainability in product development and make sustainability the new normal with 2030 approaching and us being a long way to achieving the 2030 UN SDG goals.
Lastly, as consumers, we need to focus on transformational learning skills such as wellness & self-care, ecological awareness and ethical reasoning to take ownership of our own learning. This would make us more accountable to ourselves and the other stakeholders while we demand better products and services.