Our approach to food production and consumption affects the environment, health, and prosperity of communities and nations.

Private and public sector leaders are increasingly looking for interventions to meaningfully address climate change and other global challenges and acknowledging the critical role of food systems as both a contributor and solution. By making more informed choices now, we have the power to improve outcomes for people and nature.

True Cost Accounting (TCA) encourages decision-makers to adopt a systems perspective, offering an innovative approach that illuminates how to make choices that mitigate externalized costs and enhance beneficial outcomes for all.

The resources below have been developed to help government and corporate leaders explore the nuanced relationship between food systems and global challenges. These tools and materials can be used to inform decisions that must balance tradeoffs and budgets while enhancing value to society and the environment.

TCA General Resources

Editors: Barbara Gemmill-Herren, Lauren E. Baker, and Paula A. Daniels

True Cost Accounting for Food features research and case studies from around the world to demonstrate the value of TCA to address the pervasive imbalance in existing food systems. (open access)

Expert analysis and opinion on the field of TCA, including an overview of tools and methodologies, opinion on opportunities to mainstream TCA into the arenas of finance and policy, critiques of approaches to date, and insights into areas for further development such as assessment of food system impacts on labor and equity.

TCA Tools and Frameworks

United Nations Environment Programme

Overview of TEEBAgriFood, the foundational approach for systematic food system evaluations.

Impact Institute

Analysis of 35 frameworks, methodologies, and tools available for public and private-sector decision-makers to conduct food systems assessments. Commissioned by the TCA Accelerator.

TCA Implementation Guidance

Global Alliance for the Future of Food

A guide to support applications of the TEEBAgriFood framework.

Capitals Coalition

Guidelines developed to support businesses in implementing the TEEBAgriFood Evaluation Framework, offering a practical way to understand and act upon their impact and dependency on natural, human, social, and produced capital.

TMG Think Tank for Sustainability and Soil and More

A methodology based on the four capitals approach of the TEEBAgriFood framework for plant-based products.

Capitals Coalition

An online course introducing business representatives to True Cost Accounting via the capitals approach, teaching how to integrate natural, social, and human capitals into decision-making.

TCA Analysis and Case Studies

Global Food Security Program

An assessment of how TCA can help overcome siloed thinking and support collaborative efforts to reduce food loss and waste throughout the whole UK food system.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and TMG Think Tank for Sustainability

An analysis of the true costs of sustainable and healthy food to develop a concept on how TCA can be argued to policymakers, starting from the vantage point of sustainable diets.

Rockefeller Foundation

A U.S. focused report outlining the true cost of food, including the ‘hidden’ impacts on human health, the environment, biodiversity, livelihoods, proving that they are at least 3x higher than what consumers already pay.

Center for Good Food Purchasing and the Rockefeller Foundation

A TCA assessment of school-meals programs, indicating that while they cost $18.7 billion USD/year to run, they provide nearly $40 billion USD in human health and economic benefits.

Sustainable Food Trust

Using TCA, this report finds that UK citizens pay twice as much for food as they realize. More TCA-focused resources from the SFT can be found here.

Global Alliance for the Future of Food and TMG Think Tank for Sustainability

An overview of six food systems initiatives that used TCA to understand the breadth and depth of their positive impacts.

Externalized Costs: Making the Case for TCA

Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU)

A report that indicates the dominant industrial food system incurs ‘hidden’ costs estimated at almost $12 trillion per year, and presents a reform agenda – centered around ten critical transitions.

World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and FReSH

An assessment of the methodological and data gaps that need to be filled to make TCA more robust, consistent and user-friendly.