The Institute for Sustainable Futures works with government, business and the wider community to improve the sustainability of our food systems and design effective policies and programs.
Collaborate with us
We understand local government, we know food, and we have the technical, social research and community engagement skills to provide your organisation with the specific assistance you require.
Our excellent reputation across Australia and internationally is for innovative, solution-focused interdisciplinary consultancy projects. The key to our approach is integration and alignment across strategic, tactical and operational activities.
→ Read our Food Systems brochure
Services we offer
We can assess the economic, environmental and social sustainability of food systems and food and diet initiatives to inform policy and action. We use a variety of tools and frameworks to guide evaluation, including integrated resource planning and sustainability indicators. We have expertise in resource and food flows analysis, including Australian and global food production, consumption and disposal/reuse systems.
Policy/program design and evaluation
We have extensive experience in the evaluation of a variety of environmental, energy, water and greenhouse policy initiatives and design of alternative policies to promote sustainability. We provide advice to all levels of government. Our comprehensive knowledge of food policy and practice, combined with our social research skills, ensures that our recommendations are well targeted and effective.
We undertake research, writing, public speaking and media work in relation to communication of food, diet and sustainability issues. Our work on Network 10s ‘National Carbon Test’ television program raised public awareness of water and energy issues related to food waste. Our researchers have appeared on television programs such as ABC's Catalyst and national news media and online publications.
Engagement and learning
We have an extensive track record in the development of educational programs, tools and guidelines that provide our clients and their stakeholders with the capacity to create their own change towards sustainable futures. Our work in this area encompasses community awareness raising and education, public consultation to enhance community involvement, professional development programs and change management programs for private and public sector organisations.
Key projects and experience
Community engagement on sustainable food and diets
Love food, hate waste education and events
ISF has created a ‘food waste avoidance’ program of education and events. The project includes delivering food waste avoidance units at TAFE and hosting two public events to raise awareness and encourage concrete food waste behavioural change in active participants and audience members.
Food waste recycling service, Leichhardt Council
ISF developed a Community Engagement and Participation Plan for Leichhardt’s food waste recycling bin offered to residents of apartment buildings. Development of the plan required a literature review of other programs and engagement of stakeholders of both the Leichhardt service and other jurisdictions.
Edible GreenWalls, Powerhouse Museum
Organised an edible food wall installation and series of events at the Powerhouse Museum. The installation aimed to demonstrate the potential future of city food production, while the talks gave practical tips and inspiring insights into ways that people can grow edible food in small urban spaces.
Sustainable Food workshop, Penrith Council
ISF designed and facilitated a sustainable food workshop for council staff. Themes included food security, impacts of diet, and examples of best practice local government food initiatives.
Eating the Earth: How should we eat to ensure a sustainable future?
This UTS Speaks public forum aimed to put our daily dinner table and supermarket choices under the spotlight. It questioned the kind of human diet our planet can sustain and how we could reduce demand on global resources, while maintaining a balanced diet and ethical food industry.
Reducing food related waste
Love food, hate waste education and events
ISF created a ‘food waste avoidance’ program of education and events, including food waste avoidance units at TAFE and UTS Business School, plus two public events to raise awareness and encourage concrete food waste behavioural change in active participants and audience members.
Reusable food containers study, City of Sydney Environmental Grant
ISF investigated the feasibility of implementing a reusable container scheme in the CBD of Sydney to replace disposable take away food containers. ISF explored three scenarios, looking at operational cost, environmental performance, customer acceptance, food outlet acceptance, ease of implementation, and health and safety compliance..
Reducing Commercial and Industrial Food Waste: A Literature Review and Options, NSW Department of Environment Climate Change and Water
ISF undertook a comprehensive review of existing Food Waste reduction policies and programs within Australia and internationally, with a specific focus on the commercial and industrial sectors. This review formed the basis for an analysis of existing Australian food waste policies particularly at a state level, identifying possible long-term data collation strategies such as online databases.
National food waste data assessment, Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
ISF collated and reviewed over 1200 food waste studies, ranging from regional waste management reports to national studies. This provided a clear picture of what data is available on this issue, highlighting that data on food waste generation and the fate of that waste is fragmented and scarce.
Household organic waste collection trials, Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils
ISF provided advice and assistance to SSROC and two Sydney Councils (Kogarah and Woollahra) in relation to trials of household organics (food waste) collections. ISF assisted with the development and subsequent focus-testing of the information and education materials to be used with participating households during the trial, and evaluated the trials at their conclusion.
Food production, urban horticulture and community gardening
Sydney’s Food Futures: Mapping Sydney’s potential foodsheds, LGNSW Building Resilience to Climate Change scheme
The resilience of Sydney’s foodbowl is threatened. In a geographically constrained basin, competing priorities for land are compounded by a growing population, planning laws that favour development over agriculture, and a changing climate. In partnership with the Sydney Peri-Urban Network, the ISF mapped Sydney’s current and future food production, and explored with stakeholders the feasibility and desirability of future scenarios and trade-offs to create an evidence base that supports improved decision making.
Assessing the adaptive capacity of farmers in the Murray catchment to manage natural resources, Murray Catchment Management Authority
In collaboration with Murray CMA staff, ISF conducted and analysed the results of a series of participatory capacity assessment workshops in eight social-ecological systems (SES) throughout the Murray Catchment. A diverse range of NR managers were represented in the workshops, including large cropping and grazing enterprises, small-scale farming enterprises and life-style blocks, NRM volunteers (such as bush regenerators and Landcare members) and a local Aboriginal community.
Securing a sustainable phosphorus future for Australia for CSIRO Sustainable Agriculture Flagship
As part of a collaborative project for CSIRO’s National Research Flagships Program’s Flagship Collaboration Fund, ISF’ examined the implications of global phosphorus scarcity for the Australian food system. This involved policy analysis, plus a flows analysis of the Australian food production and consumption system, from mining and application of mineral fertilizers, through to food consumption and excretion. The analysis also quantified food and organic losses from the Australian food system and their fate (landfill, non-arable land, recovery, etc).
Down the Garden Path: Social Inclusion and Community Gardening in Southeast Australian Cities
An ISF researcher completed a Masters thesis on community gardens in housing complexes and areas with large amounts of public housing.
Our food sustainability research team
Professor Stuart White
Sustainability systems and options
Stuart is Director of ISF. With over twenty years experience in sustainability research, he specialises in achieving sustainability outcomes at least cost for a range of government, industry and community clients across Australia and internationally. This includes both the design of programs for improving resource use efficiency and evaluation of their impact.
Brent is a Research Director, who leads ISF’s Natural Resources and Ecosystems research area. His background is in agricultural science with broad experience in agricultural systems and eco-physiology of crops and pastures. His current research interests include resilience, vulnerability and adaptive capacity of communities, and he is the leader of the NSW Climate Adaptation Research Hub Adaptive Communities Node.
Dr Dana Cordell
Food security and phosphorus
Dana is a Research Principal, focusing on food production and security. She co-founded the Global Phosphorus Research Initiative (GPRI) as an outcome of her doctoral research on the 'Sustainability implications of global phosphorus scarcity for food security' and continues to play a leading role in phosphorus research globally.
Food security and development
Melita specialises in food security and water, sanitation and hygiene in international development and in Australia. She is an experienced practitioner and advisor in sustainable food and water management, with over 15 years experience. Melita managed international and Australian youth engagement programs at Oxfam Australia, and advised on food security issues, including food waste reduction initiatives.
Sustainable food choices
Jenni is a Research Consultant with a number of years’ experience engaging people around the topic of sustainable food choices. As part of a small advocacy group she regularly gives talks and workshops on the environmental impacts of our daily food choices. She is currently pursuing research on how to help people translate their ethics and values into sustainable food choices on the grocery floor.
Louise is a Research Consultant with strong interpersonal skills and a background in stakeholder and community engagement. Her research focusses on the impact that food production has on animal welfare and human health. She has an interest ways to foster greater uptake of urban food production.
Food systems and permaculture
Fiona is a Senior Research Consultant with a passion for building communities through permaculture, urban agriculture, community gardening and local food systems. She has experience in sustainable urban development, corporate sustainability, carbon mitigation and alternative energy in Australia and overseas.
Sustainable food choices
Judith is a post-graduate researcher examining the role of the media in contributing to successful environmental campaigns. Focusing on organizational media strategies to encourage people to adopt a more sustainable diet, she draws upon her background as newspaper editor and feature writer with The Australian, The Sun-Herald and The Sydney Morning Herald and Channel Nine television producer and researcher.