Sustainable food solutions that cut across climate, biodiversity, and human wellbeing

Our food systems are not working for people or planet. Food systems are leading drivers of climate change, biodiversity loss, and poor human wellbeing. Current trajectories in food consumption and production will exacerbate these negative impacts, ultimately preventing attainment of global targets on climate, biodiversity, and wellbeing, even if all other sources of negative impacts were to be immediately halted.

Our programme will target this pressing challenge, working to find sustainable food solutions that cut across climate, biodiversity, and human wellbeing. We will investigate leverage points at multiple levels – foods, corporations, cities, landscapes, and national and international systems – working with stakeholders that span food producers, consumers, business, policy, and finance. 


Alternative proteins research

Our work supports the switch from meat and dairy to alternative sources of protein, so reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the food system. Increasing consumer awareness and the rising demand for meat and dairy alternatives supports growth of the alternative proteins sector, which is underpinned by innovation in plant-based and cell-based technologies.

Our work

We face many barriers to identifying sustainable food solutions include:

  • Data: We lack public, consistent and usable datasets on the food system, capital allocation, business strategies, and environmental and animal welfare consequences.
  • Evidence: We lack core evidence about which policies, regulation, indices, labels, nudges, and systemic interventions can move the needle.
  • Solutions: Food systems are complex and varied. We need to find the leverage points, and the public and private investments that can most effectively scale up new and sustainable food systems.

Engaging with partners and the global south 

In addition to interdisciplinary research, SFS will build academic and public knowledge of food.

First, SFS will work towards supporting the next generation of talented researchers through developing a sustainable food masters course, and supervising masters and DPhil students. 

Second, SFS will develop collaborations with researchers leading on food across ecosystems, focusing on the global south. Evidence has shown that climate science research is concentrated in the global north: less than 1% of the top 100 most cited papers from 2016 to 2020 had researchers from the entire continent of Africa - home to 16% of the world’s population (Carbon Brief, 2021).

Third, SFS will consistently engage with producers, consumers, retailers,  public and people from excluded backgrounds. This includes having a diverse advisory board, combined with a focus on relationships and engagement by the lead researchers.

Complementing the wider Oxford community 

This interdisciplinary food solutions initiative will complement and amplify existing Oxford research streams, cementing Oxford’s position as a global centre for food-related research. Key groups involved include the Oxford Martin School, the NDPH, the Zoology Department, the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, the Environmental Change Institute, the School of Geography and Environment more broadly, among others.


Financial impact of extreme weather on farms, sustainable pork labelling, upland sheep farming vs conservation.

BBC Farming Today interviewed Dr Harriet Bartlett about research she led into different types of pig farming, which concludes the current pork labelling schemes do not help to identify the best pig farms for the climate, anti-biotic use, environment and animal welfare overall. "Our results really show that instead of [labelling systems] focusing on the production method or farm type, it would be much better to focus on outcomes that people care about, so actual outcomes for animal welfare and the environment," said Dr Bartlett.