WWF: Applying Systems Thinking to the European Food System

Using systems thinking to transform society

In this project for WWF, Metabolic applied systems thinking to identify leverage points for addressing challenges facing the European food system. The result is a guidebook highlighting how to apply systems thinking principles to complex sustainability challenges.

  • Client: WWF Netherlands and WWF Spain
  • Date: October 2018
The challenge

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has a mission to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and create a future where people live in harmony with nature. However, the drivers behind these problems are very complex issues involving a multitude of interrelated factors at play. To achieve their objectives, WWF has realized that they must take a systems thinking perspective, tackling leverage points and addressing not only immediate drivers, but also the root causes.

The challenge
Our approach

Building on previous work Metabolic carried out in collaboration with the WWF, we explored the concept of leverage by working through the example of the European food system and discussing how this system can be transitioned to a more sustainable state using systems thinking. The main goal was to show where the functioning of a system can be altered in a structural manner (where there is leverage within the system),  through a process of identifying leverage and thinking systemically about creating effective strategies and roadmaps for change.

Our approach
The outcome

We created a systems thinking guidebook, which uses the case of the food system – itself the largest driver of biodiversity loss – to explain how to identify leverage points for action and harness the system’s structures and behaviours to create change. In this guidebook, we considered different production and processing methods as well social issues around livelihoods and ownership, to recommend areas where to prioritize work and a framework to score and rank interventions according to their leverage.

The outcome
Want to learn more?

“With the methods presented in this report, organizations and thought leaders can gain an understanding of how to formulate strategies and roadmaps using applied systems thinking.

Lead Circular Raw Materials Systems


For more information about this project, please get in touch.