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Let's be honest, Episode 17: Cultural Values

Let’s be honest is a Food Circle project with the aim to open up the conversation about the challenges when being or becoming a member of the SC (Sustainability Club). This series will shine a light on the different approaches to making life more sustainable, as well as the step-backs and difficulties that arise. Being more kind and understanding, instead of critical, will hopefully help to encourage us to try, instead of giving up when facing a step-back or failure. This is made possible thanks to Sapient, the mother company of Food Circle, which every year offers internships to students from all around the world creating a uniquely multicultural environment. Let’s celebrate the achievements and give room for honesty and struggles!


What are we talking about today?

We all know that different cultures have different values. I'm sure, like me, you have had the experience of "culture shock" when visiting a new country or living as an expat. It can be amusing, charming and novel when we suddenly see something "out of place" or simply different to what we're used to. The thought of "hey, they do that different here" might pass through you mind.

I'm going to explore what are the values that Europeans have in common, and also, to celebrate those countries that have sustainability at the heart of their culture. As well as this I will be sharing my research of the similarities and differences within Europe, exploring where they come from, and how I can encourage a cultural value of sustainability in my own country!

Where do cultural values come from?

Values clearly differ from country to country and this can be seen broadly in the governments that they elect, essentially, the policies that they vote for and the common political identity. This is the group philosophy, or the direction that the country are interested in moving in.

However, there's not an easy way to explain where cultural values come from, its an incredibly complex and detailed process with a lot of related factors. Many countries have a long rich history which makes answering this question quite difficult.

But in short here are some of the key factors:

  • Historical events

  • Geography

  • Religion

  • Economic situation

  • Geopolitics

So what are the cultural values of European nations?

According to Eurobarometer 278 survey, these are the defining values of Europe:

  • Peace

  • Respect for nature and the environment

  • Social equality and solidarity

  • Tolerance and openness to others

  • Freedom of opinion

And when it comes to moving forward, according to another Eurobarometer study (2019)

"There is widespread approval of the three different types of measures; with more than nine in ten EU citizens agreeing":

  1. More measures to promote and encourage recycling

  2. More measures to promote and encourage energy efficiency

  3. More measures to promote and encourage the development of a clean and modern economy

So which countries value sustainability?

Looking at those who are performing well, will give us an indication of who are taking action and presumably are showing that they value sustainability through their actions.

According to Economist Impact, here are the highest European performers in the FS Index (2021)

  1. Sweden

  2. Finland

  3. Austria

  4. Denmark

  5. Netherlands

"The FSI examines how food systems are performing across three pillars: food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture, and nutritional challenges". By reducing the food loss, and waste and supporting sustainable agriculture, I think that these five countries are doing enough to show that sustainability is a cultural value of theirs.

Further reading:

Here are some other positive projects that I wanted to mention. This is because they are evidence of the EU working towards sustainability within the entire economic group.

European Green Deal

Farm to Fork initiative

EU Code of Conduct on Responsible Food Business

It's evidence of Europe working towards one of its largest defining values: Respect for nature and the environment. Seriously, go read more about them, it's quite inspiring. :)

Written by: Henry Mitchell


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