What you can do - and ask others to do - to help make our food and farming system fit for the future

What is sustainable food?

On this page, we give links to some practical advice for anyone interested in buying and using more sustainable food. This has formed the basis of our advice to government, caterers, businesses, community groups, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games organisers, and others.

Of course, new evidence is emerging all the time on how best to improve the sustainability of our complex food and farming system, so these principles are a work in progress. To see an introduction to the issues, click here.

For further information about particular issues, click on the chapter headings to the left, or download one of the pdf documents - we have versions tailored to consumers and food businesses.

We also offer basic advice on waste, water and energy in a final chapter entitled 'You've got better food, now…'

Good food principles

Good Food at WorkGood Food at Work

Ask your organisation to sign up to a healthy and sustainable food policy and join the movement for change.

Download Good Food at Work


What does the food you serve at meetings and events, and in the staff canteen, say about your organisation? Every organisation has the power to make choices with a beneficial impact. This could be by improving the catering in your canteen or, for smaller organisations, the food you buy in for events and celebrations. You can also inspire your staff to improve what they eat at lunch, in the tea break or even at home.

Please consider adopting a Good Food at Work policy, committing your organisation to improve the food you buy and serve to staff, visitors, clients and the public, and to help communicate Good Food principles. If you do adopt a Good Food Policy, tell us. Share your story and inspire more organisations to get involved.

Sustain’s working definition, developed in consultation with our membership of expert organisations, is that of "healthy and sustainable food" - in other words, good food - should be produced, processed, bought, sold and eaten in ways that provide social benefits,contribute to thriving local economies that create good jobs and secure livelihoods, and enhance the health and variety of both plants and animals (and the welfare of farmed and wild creatures), protect natural resources such as water and soil, and help to tackle climate change.

Good food

What we mean by good food can be summed up by our seven principles:

1) Aiming to be waste-free

Reducing food waste (and packaging) saves the energy, effort and natural resources used to produce and dispose of it, as well as money.

2) Eating better, and less meat and dairy

Consuming more vegetables and fruit, grains and pulses, and smaller amounts of animal products produced to high-welfare and environmental standards helps reduce health risks and greenhouse gases.

3) Buying local, seasonal and environmentally friendly food

This benefits wildlife and the countryside, minimises the energy used in food production, transport and storage, and helps protect the local economy.

4) Choosing Fairtrade-certified products

This scheme for food and drinks imported from poorer countries ensures a fair deal for disadvantaged producers.

5) Selecting fish only from sustainable sources

Future generations will be able to eat fish and seafood if we act now to protect our rivers and seas and the creatures living there.

6) Getting the balance right

We need to cut down on sugar, salt and fat, and most of us want to avoid questionable ingredients and processes such as genetic modification (GM) and some additives.

7) Growing our own, and buying the rest from a wide range of outlets

Fresh out of the garden or allotment is unbeatable, and a vibrant mix of local markets, small shops and cafés, and other retailers provides choice, variety and good livelihoods.

As citizens we can take action on all these issues and every step in the right direction, no matter how small, is useful. But some vital measures are beyond our control, so businesses and governments need to take action too so that good food choices become the easiest ones to make (For an integrated examination of the role of business and policy makers see Beyond Business as Usual: Towards a sustainable food system, 2013. Food Ethics Council). Sustain has separate guidance tailored for businesses, and also runs campaigns to change policies and practices. Please join in and help create a food and farming system fit for the future.


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Sustainable Food

What you can do - and ask others to do - to help make our food and farming system fit for the future.

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The Green House
244-254 Cambridge Heath Road
London E2 9DA

0203 5596 777

Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

© Sustain 2019
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