Foundation Earth’s eco-labels trial poised to shake up supply chains and push for planetary health transparency
Nestlé, Sainsbury’s, the Co-op and Costa Coffee are among the partners of the traffic light style label pilot
28 Jun 2021 --- Foundation Earth is launching a pilot program to test consumer response to a science-backed front-of-pack environmental scoring system. The eco-label trial is backed by the UK government and major brands and is designed to help consumers assess the overall environmental impacts of the products they buy while accelerating industry’s journey toward net-zero emissions.
Just as consumers have become familiar with front-of-pack traffic light style nutrition labeling, which can help guide them toward healthier food choices, eco-labels could enable environmentally conscious food choices.
The trial will begin in the UK this autumn and will use a method developed in collaboration with the University of Oxford and Mondra, a data-driven insights platform that supports food system players to meet their carbon neutrality goals and drive planet-positive profits.
Food & planetary health
Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Professor Chris Elliott, chairman of the Foundation Earth scientific committee, explains the critical relationship between food systems and planetary health.
“We cannot keep producing food in the way that we are without having a major detrimental impact on our planetary health. Over recent years an ugly war has broken out between those who believe all things linked to producing meat are what’s killing our planet. Others deny this claim and argue that vested interests behind the surge in plant-based alternatives are peddling an agenda for commercial gain while also doing severe damage to the planet themselves,” he says.
“The argument is, in reality, incredibly complex – and the polarized debate between meat and plant seldom, if ever, takes account of these complexities.”
“There, therefore, has to be a robust, evidence-based, yet easily understood system to inform all of us about how sustainable or not our food is, enabling us all to make purchasing decisions based upon these facts. Thus the concept of Foundation Earth was born. A new non-profit, independent organization that will develop a science-based, front-of-pack environmental scoring system that will enable consumers to make more informed choices – and also producers to innovate more sustainably,” he continues.
Measuring GHG, water usage & biodiversity
The method assesses a food product’s environmental impact by reviewing farming, processing, packaging and transport practices. The impacts are weighted 49 percent to carbon and 17 percent each for water usage, water pollution and biodiversity loss.
The pilot method assesses the environmental impact on the four key criteria; carbon, water usage, water pollution and biodiversity.
All that information then goes into an eco-impact label.
More than 100 products from 15 different brands will take part in the pilot program from the autumn, with more coming on stream after that. The brands include Costa Coffee, Finnebrogue Artisan, Mighty Pea, Mash Direct, White’s Oats and Meatless Farm.
“In the simplest terms, we gather information about the product, conduct a ‘Life Cycle Assessment’ to put numbers to the impacts and finally award the score you see on our front of pack labels,” says Foundation Earth.
“Along with our partner Nestlé, we’re trailing and testing Europe’s two leading systems for measuring the environmental impact of food. The objective is to build an optimum and fully automated system for full Europe-wide roll out in 2022, bringing together the best of the ‘Oxford’ and ‘EIT Food’ methods,” they say.
Company & brand collaborations
To date, Foundation Earth has received widespread support from leading food producers, retailers, scientists and politicians, who all share an interest in building a more sustainable food industry.
Among them are Nestlé and UK brands, including Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, the Co-op and Costa Coffee.
The pilot sees key players from food science, food production and retailing come together to work on planetary health goals linked to food production. It is partly funded by the European Commission’s food innovation initiative EIT Food.
Agile brands have been taking into consideration the sustainability credentials of their products for some time now. However, transparency trends are ramping up as global consumers scrutinize the food they buy, demanding to know the details of its journey to their plate. This underscores the need for more environmentally friendly supply chains and a transparent approach to consumer messaging.
It’s also in line with Innova Market Insights Top Ten Trend 2021, Transparency Triumphs.
Driving sustainable change in planetary health
The idea of the non-profit Foundation Earth is to drive consumer change and help shoppers make more sustainable buying choices while also helping food producers to innovate more sustainably.
The pilot program will allow the Foundation and its partners to assess how the method performs and how consumers respond to the labels.
The pilot and an intensive nine-month research and development program supported by Nestlé will combine the Mondra method, inspired by research from Oxford University, with a system devised by an EU-funded consortium of Belgium’s Leuven University and Spanish research agency AZTI. This will create one optimum method for a full rollout in 2022.
Meanwhile, this is not the only eco-label initiative out there.
Climate Neutral is also piloting an eco-label that certifies a product’s carbon neutrality. It will ensure that companies and brands are held accountable for their carbon emissions – helping products stand out from competitors on the shelf.
The food and beverage industry has previously rallied around other consumer-facing labels – such as USDA Organic, Non-GMO and Fair Trade – and recognizes the benefits of a certified label in setting brands apart on shelf space and mobilizing corporate change.
By Gaynor Selby
To contact our editorial team please email us at email@example.com
Subscribe now to receive the latest news directly into your inbox.