As Europe 2020 strategy suggests the EU’s economic strategy stresses the need for smart sustainable and inclusive growth.

A convergence of factors makes the food system one of the most important global issues. The dominant trend in the food system is an increasing unbundling between the land and the products, as well as the extension of the food chain: the increasing distance between places of production and places of its consumption breaks the links with nature and culture. However food represents our cultural identity. Food reminds us every day that we are part of Nature.

In 2017 Diesis conducted a study on “How social enterprises contribute to sustainable food systems”  to gain a better understanding of the state of play of social economy actors already involved in creating a more sustainable food system, given the long European tradition of cooperatives in agriculture.

A large number of social economy enterprises appears to invest in the food sector, representing an alternative business model to build more participative, sustainable and local food systems.

Social economy enterprises, thanks to their formal and informal networks, are also able to be closer to the community and influence it, starting the change of consumer habits and making people part of this change.

Five key elements emerged from the analyzed case studies as keywords for the transition towards more sustainable food: inclusion, equity, responsibility, respect and opportunity.

Social enterprises play a major role in promoting integration among the community. There are a lot of initiatives that use food as a tool for integration creating a double value – for the environment and the society. The co-operative model has always been about sharing the value of production and the responsibilities, where producers and consumers want to cooperate together. But also based on respect for the environment and the community as well as tradition and territory.

Moreover, social economy enterprises turn out to be a solution for creating new jobs, both for young people and/or for workers’ individual retraining, operating in a way that generates creative solutions, where the crisis is turned into an opportunity.

New or emerging economic activities create or renewed occupations and related qualifications and skills profiles. Structural changes create a need to realign sectors that will decline as a result of the greening of the economy and retrain workers accordingly. However green skills are not just technical but also include other abilities like sustainable management and consumption practices.

Cedefop defines green skills as “the knowledge, abilities, values and attitudes needed to live in, develop and support a sustainable and resource-efficient society”.

To make this happen it is important to provide the knowledge and the skills to manage and implement a smart and sustainable growth. Workers must acquire skills and be trained to work in a more sustainable way to make real the shift towards a green economy. Citizens have to understand the importance of what they are eating and the impact they daily choices as consumers have on their healthiness as well as the entire society.

Our education systems need to prepare students/professionals with the skills required by alternative emerging markets.

This is the main objective of the Erasmus+ project “Training for Sustainable Food System Development (T4F)”, promoted by DIESIS Coop (T4F- Project ).

T4F aims to respond to this issue through a training addressed to professional of the food sector and its new generation of workers, in order to develop their “green skills” and drive the green growth.

Anastasia Costantini, researcher

Alessia Sebillo, Diesis’ project manager

For more information about the research and the project please contact out team: