The challenge 

Many of the dominant narratives that have led to our current food systems and continue to drive change tend to focus on one priority alone, often at the expense of other needs. Be it yield maximisation, providing “consumer choice”, low prices or delivering short-term return on investment, this drives innovation that often ignores or exacerbates social and environmental challenges.  

Many change efforts tend to focus on incremental improvements, inadvertently delivering shallow changes rather than the deeper transformation that is really needed to respond to how much – and fast – our world is changing.  

Or, they focus on tackling issues in isolated ways rather than solving for multiple challenges – for example, working on supply chain decarbonisation in isolation from protecting biodiversity or improving access to healthy diets. 

Finally, headway on many important questions is hampered by polarised or competing narratives about what’s needed, which can fail to consider different cultures, social norms or contexts while many stakeholders and voices are left out of debates, decisions and action about the future of food. 

The result is that progress on the future of food systems is falling short of the deep and urgent transformation needed in the face of unprecedented and interconnected global pressures – with widespread social injustice in our global food system, diet-related public health, climate, nature, and farmer livelihoods all in crisis.    

Our approach  

We combine our food systems approach and our “just and regenerative” framing with our deep expertise in futures, diagnosis, system change, strategy development, mindful facilitation, and work with change-makers – one-to-one and through multi-stakeholder collaborations – to help reshape debates and action regarding: 

  • What the goals of our food system should be,
  • What good outcomes look like, and
  • What types of change and innovation are really needed for the future.  

To support more impactful approaches, we use concepts such as sustainable nutrition (delivering healthy and nutritious diets, affordable and available for all, while restoring nature and ensuring decent livelihoods for food-producing communities) and One Health (integrating approaches to optimise human, animal and environmental health).  

We support our partners to explore their role and opportunities in delivering sustainable nutrition, to rethink their purpose, and to re-assess what interventions and innovations to focus on, in light of what the world really needs from the food system. 

Who we work with 

We collaborate with actors across the food system including business, civil society, government, farming communities and investors, and along the value chain (from agriculture to brands, retail and foodservice). 

We help our partners to explore key food challenges and opportunities in more effective and joined-up ways, getting beyond siloed, single-issue approaches by asking the right questions. We work with our partners to shift mindsets within and beyond their organisations, and reframe what future-fit strategies and solutions need to look like. 

Examples of our work 

The future of protein

Our multi-stakeholder collaboration on the future of protein convened change-makers over several years, to explore routes to sustainable, nutritious, affordable protein for all to 2040 – generating cutting-edge insight and collaborative action on key questions includes animal feed, culinary skills, school meals, next steps for plant-based innovation.

Protein Challenge Southeast Asia 

Our work on protein continues through Protein Challenge Southeast Asia initiative launched in 2021, a multi-year inquiry that works with stakeholders across the food system in Southeast Asia, with the ‘protein visionaries’ who will set a more ambitious approach towards sustainable protein in the region. The programme was one of eight finalists for the 2023 Food Planet Prize, the world’s largest environmental prize.

Futures thinking

On the Futures Centre we share insights from the Protein Challenge and our wider work on food including: what does innovation look like that’s for what the world needs? What do diversity, resilience, net zero look like, done well, with good outcomes for food and sustainable nutrition? 

Direct partnerships

We’ve worked one-to-one with leading food businesses and government agencies to help them shape their ambitions and actions to deliver sustainable nutrition. For example, we worked with a top global retailer to develop a change-making purpose that puts healthy, sustainable living at the heart of why the business exists, including enabling good diets

What our partners say

“The Protein Challenge Southeast Asia is a crucial project that looks at one of the most critical regions that serve as a breadbasket for cities of the future. The initiative interrogates the deeper relationships between stakeholders, financial institutions, and the dynamics that capital markets often do not have time to contemplate.” 

— Jolene Lum, Head, Business Development, Nurasa 

Get in touch

Interested in working with us to reframe food narratives in your organisation, sector or wider industry? Get in touch with Geraldine Gilbert, Forum’s Food Systems Transition Lead (UK/Europe).

Contact Geraldine