RESILIENCE is a word you have probably seen pop up across a wide range of newspaper articles on government policy, climate ambition or the latest sustainable business models.

It’s a phrase used more and more frequently in an ever-increasingly unstable world, rocked by pandemics, war, recession and climate change.

But just like phrases such as “well-being” and “inclusivity” it’s important to focus on the core substance of this word “resilience” and not just the repeated rhetoric.

Because it’s never been more important to manage risk and protect our citizens from the volatility of world events and climate disaster, to encourage nations to rise to new challenges, recover and thrive despite external shocks.

One part of the world which is well known for its strong foundations of resilience is the Nordic region, an area of great interest in my work at parliament and my role as chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Arctic and Nordic Councils.

READ MORE: Independent Scotland must develop food self-sufficiency, says expert

The Nordic region is famed for its relatively low levels of poverty and social inequality, its long history of partnership and collaboration across regions, sectors, rural and city populations, its capacity to innovate and adapt to shocks and changes, and its robust public sector which responds quickly when it comes to addressing future vulnerabilities.

Interestingly their experience of the Covid pandemic has pushed them to act on weaknesses relating to their food systems and the issue of food loss and waste with new legislation, regulations and innovations that makes the most of their famed co-operation and can-do attitude.

Watching the recent Nordic Council’s Food Waste Strategy Summit online, “resilience” was a common theme as a priority for all Nordic countries in their mission to become the most sustainable and integrated region in the world but also, importantly, as a response to the invasion of Ukraine.

This terrible and unjust war is happening close to home for the Nordic nations and the myriad implications of sharing a border with Russia not just in terms of security has heightened interest in managing serious risks at home that stem from beyond their region.

Becoming more resilient in terms of food production and the management of food waste is a growing concern for this region, with 3.6 million tonnes of food wasted or lost every year in the Nordic countries.

The council is keen to foster closer co-operation to tackle the resultant impact on the environment, on the economy and on working together to reduce related greenhouse gas emissions.

READ MORE: How the Tories created Food Bank Britain

The summit featured speakers from a wide cross-section of government, NGOs, businesses, and agencies including food activist, Selina Juul who discussed her highly successful “Stop Wasting Food” campaign in Denmark.

This campaign has been so successful that the Danish government has credited Selina with single-handedly helping the country to reduce its food waste.

The National: Selina JuulSelina Juul (Image: Selina Juul)

She is hugely enthusiastic and passionate about this cause, persuading Denmark’s top low-cost supermarket, Rema 1000, to bin their bulk three-for-two offers on food in order to reduce waste, a strategy which has been hugely popular with consumers and now adopted by other supermarkets who were at first sceptical about its economic potential.

Selina also highlighted the campaign’s engagement with the public on so-called “ugly” vegetables

The ones that maybe don’t look so aesthetically pleasing but actually taste just the same, another food issue which has really captured the public imagination as shoppers stock up on bendy cucumbers and strangely shaped courgettes, embracing a new brand of “ugly” ketchup which only uses wonky shaped tomatoes in its ingredients.

Getting consumers on board has been a big part of this food waste campaign’s success.

A survey from Epinion for Stop Wasting Food showed that 55% of shoppers preferred to buy food with a label that showed that the product contributed to reducing food waste, rather than buying a similar product without.

READ MORE: Karen Adam: Scotland has fertile soil for innovation... let’s act

This indicates that shoppers are keen to be part of creating a more resilient food system as part of our collective fight against climate change.

I’m guessing that this is something that would go down well with Scottish consumers too and highlights how often it takes a grassroots organisation with imagination and vision to create positive change.

This is something the Nordics do to great success – bottom-up collaborations and lateral approaches to intractable issues.

In addition to Denmark’s success, Finland is regarded as modelling best practice on data collection on food waste. The Finns had the highest food security in the world in 2022 according to the Global Food Insecurity Index (GFII).

The GFII report highlighted the importance of success in Finland where “resilient food systems” are “more able to generate innovative solutions to avoid shocks,” and where “innovation promotes new forms of organisation and transformation including moving to circular agrifood systems and promoting diversity as an engine for resilience.”

Norway is working on a similar food waste ban, with a recognition that one size will not fit all across the Nordic regions and the importance of consensus on bespoke solutions.

READ MORE: Finland officially joins Nato as 31st member state

Finally, a recurring theme of the summit was making food waste “socially unacceptable” rather like we did with the campaign to stamp out smoking in public places.

The recognition that governments and decisions on legislation and policy regulation need to work hand in hand with key stakeholders and the public is another example of the Nordics leading the way on collaboration and innovation as key to success in tackling food waste and food security.

Resilience in word and deed is at the heart of this ethos with a healthy dose of Nordic pragmatism to boot.

There is much in Scotland that we can learn from this approach.