EU Code of Conduct Encourages Sustainable Practices in Food Industry

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH
Code of Conduct

Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy name: EU Code of Conduct on Responsible Food Business and Marketing Practices

Overview: In July of 2021, the European Union launched a Code of Conduct to encourage healthy and sustainable practices among food manufacturers and retailers. 

Location: European Union

Population: 447.8 million (2020 data)

Food policy category: Climate change, sustainable agriculture, food services, nutrition, food security

Program goals: To create a more sustainable food environment and make it easier to make healthy choices.  

How it works: The Code of Conduct is one of the first deliverables of the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy, which aims to improve the sustainability of the EU’s food system. 

The main goals of the Code of Conduct are to promote and encourage healthy and sustainable consumption and to improve sustainability within companies. Companies and organizations can sign the Code and voluntarily commit to various objectives that are within their own capacities. When individual companies sign, they agree to make at least one ambitious, tangible, and measurable commitment and to provide an annual report of their progress.

The Code details the following seven aspirational objectives, each of which is associated with aspirational targets and indicative actions:

  1. Healthy, balanced and sustainable diets for all European consumers to a) reverse malnutrition and diet-related noncommunicable diseases and b) reduce the environmental footprint of food consumption by 2030. 
  2. Prevention and reduction of food loss and waste
  3. A climate neutral food chain in Europe by 2050
  4. An optimized circular and resource-efficient food chain in Europe
  5. Sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all
  6. Sustainable value creation in the European food supply chain through partnership
  7. Sustainable sourcing in food supply chains 

Companies can decide if they want to follow the objectives outlined in the Code or propose their own sustainability commitments. 

Progress to date: The development of the Code of Conduct began in December of 2020, with a formal stakeholder event to launch the development process on January 26, 2021. The Code was launched on July 5, when 65 companies and organizations signed the agreement. 

Why it is important: The processes that create sustainable food systems provide food and nutrition security for current and future generations. As of 2020, there were approximately 890 million people experiencing hunger worldwide, and one-third of the world’s population did not have access to adequate food.  

Climate change is exacerbating issues of food security as increasing temperatures and natural disasters damage crops and feed for livestock, thereby reducing the quantity and quality of the world’s food supply. At the same time, food production, processing, and packaging are responsible for one-third of the world’s man-made greenhouse gas emissions. This fact highlights the need for sustainable food systems that produce fewer emissions while maintaining a sufficient food supply. 

The Code of Conduct reflects the goals of the 2020 Farm to Fork Strategy and the European Green Deal, which include reducing climate change, improving food security and nutrition, and promoting affordability of food while maintaining economic viability and competition in the food industry.

Program/Policy initiated: The Code of Conduct went into effect on July 5, 2021. 

Point of contact: 
Stefan de Keersmaecker
Phone: +32 2 298 46 80

Darragh Cassidy
Phone: +32 2 298 39 78

Similar practices: The EU’s Code of Conduct appears to be the first of its kind. 

Evaluation: Formal evaluation has not yet been conducted. 

Learn more:


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