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Food Flagship Initiative

London is one of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s three Strategic Partner Cities, working to accelerate the transition to a circular economy, which includes creating a more circular urban food system.

“The pandemic has shown how fragile our food system can be even in a city like London. This initiative will work with businesses across the food value chain to help increase the resilience of our food system, reduce waste and climate impacts and contribute to London’s green recovery from COVID-19.”

Shirley Rodrigues

Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy

Creating a more circular urban food system

The way our food is produced has a damaging impact on soils, biodiversity, water quality, and is contributing to the climate crisis. Food accounts for almost 10% of London’s consumption-based greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, in large part because of the kinds of food we eat, how that food is produced, and the amount of it that is wasted. 1.5 – 1.75 million tonnes of food are wasted every year in London. Only a small proportion of food surplus and food waste is redistributed, reprocessed or recycled, with precious nutrients being lost instead of being cycled back into fields to grow more food.

The COVID-19 health crisis has highlighted the fragility of our food system and its vulnerability to shocks and disruptions. With an increasing number of Londoners experiencing food insecurity and diet-related ill health, it has exposed ongoing socio-economic and health challenges.

With London’s population projected to reach 10.8 million by 2041, it is vital to change the way food is produced and consumed in the city.


The Food Flagship Initiative is a major three-year venture to demonstrate how a circular economy for food can be achieved in London. Building on work already being undertaken by the Mayor of London, London’s boroughs, and ReLondon, the initiative will design and deliver interventions and evidence-based policies to reduce consumption-based emissions from food and bring together a consortium of public and private stakeholders to implement pioneering circular food system solutions. The aim is to lead a transformational shift towards a healthy and sustainable food system, underpinned by circular economy principles.

Transitioning to a circular economy for food in London will not only help to tackle the climate crisis, but also represents an opportunity to restore biodiversity, regenerate soil, reduce water use and pollution, and improve human health. It could also bring a myriad of other economic and social benefits, including community wellbeing, social cohesion, supply chain resilience, skills development, and new jobs.

The Food Flagship Initiative has identified three principal pillars of a circular economy for food in London.
Working in collaboration with actors across London’s food value chain – from peri-urban farmers and innovators, to food brands, retailers, hospitality and public sector institutions – the FFI seeks to develop innovative and ambitious circular food projects that:

  • Source more food grown using agroecological practices and locally
  • Increase the prevalence of healthy and sustainable food items and menus
  • Eliminate food waste wherever possible, and recycle any unavoidable food waste back into productive uses

To realise a circular economy for food – and the economic, environmental and health benefits associated with it – unprecedented action is needed across the food system. The Food Flagship Initiative is looking to recognise and showcase bold and ambitious demonstration projects that pioneer circular food system solutions across the three pillars of action.

Whether you’re a university sourcing local and organic food on campus, a London borough taking action to reduce the environmental impact of school meals, a supermarket undertaking a household food waste reduction campaign, or a bio-economy innovator cycling food waste into nutrient-rich fertiliser, we want to hear from you!

Selected demonstration projects will be promoted through Food Flagship Initiative partners’ networks and will be able to use an official pioneer project status stamp. They will receive strategic support from ReLondon and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation as well as targeted introductions to potential partners.  

Find out more about becoming a Food Flagship Initiative demonstration project. To apply to be a demonstration project, please fill in our application form.

View some of our current Circular Food Pioneer Projects.


“We need collaborative approaches to solve complex food system challenges such as food waste and the climate emergency. By joining this bold initiative, you can take action to accelerate London’s transition to a circular economy for food.”

Dr Liz Goodwin OBE

Senior Fellow and Director, Food Loss and Waste at World Resources Institute, and Chair of ReLondon Board

Sign up to and support these pledges and standards, which all align to the Food Flagship Initiative’s three pillars of a circular economy for food:

  • Sign up to the World Resource Institute’s Cool Food Pledge and commit to a target of reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the food you provide by 25% by 2030. 
  • Work towards the Soil Association’s Food for Life Served Here Standards.
  • Increase the share of food you source that has been grown by LEAF Marque certified businesses.
  • If you’re a UK food industry actor, sign up to WRAP’s UK Food Waste Reduction Roadmap and commit to reducing food waste by 50% by 2030. 
  • If you’re a local authority, sign the Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration and commit to tackle the climate crisis through integrated food policies and strategies. 

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