Ground-breaking food and drink eco-labelling scheme to be piloted in September

Picture of Madelyn Postman

Madelyn Postman

A food and drink eco-labelling scheme has been put together by Foundation Earth, a newly-formed non-profit organisation backed by UK and European governments, global food giant Nestlé and British brands including Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, the Co-op and Costa Coffee. It is based on a system developed Mondra, a company which helps food system players measure, improve and celebrate their environmental performance. The aim is for the scheme to be rolled out in Europe in 2022.

We met this news with delight, since we had collaborated with Mondra at the start of this year for an online event, Sustainability labelling and consumer empowerment. Anticipating the labelling come to life on UK shelves and then in Europe is a mark of real progress, for consumers to clearly see the environmental impact of food and then to make an educated choice about their purchases. It’s not unusual for example to see the same type of broccoli from Peru or Kenya in the same exact packaging, perhaps with a British organic version from Cambridgeshire right next to it, with no indication of the different environmental impacts.

How transparent will it be for the consumer?

The traffic light system on food and drinks packaging will allow people to make more environmentally friendly choices.

A pilot in the autumn will see a range of food and drink carrying front-of-packaging ‘eco scores’ for the first time, ranking the environmental impact of each item and allowing customers to easily assess whether they are buying goods that have a low environmental footprint from suppliers focused on sustainability.

The labels are expected to shake up the supply chains of the food and drinks industry and encourage producers to be more innovative in helping reduce their environmental impact. Products will be graded into tiers marked A to G and colour-coded, as explained in this article by Positive News.

The demand is real

This Guardian article illustrates how important labelling is to people, and backs up Mondra’s own research which shows that there is a demand from customers to see more labelling, and that when there is consumer demand, the market reacts. The research states that 47% of people wanted labelling showing the environmental impact in terms such as amount of CO2 emitted in production, and 42% were looking for information measuring impact in understandable terms such as litres of water used, or distance travelled.

The tide is turning

It’s heartening to see this initiative picked up at a government and big-business level, which is often where new approaches need to happen in order to have the most impact. So keep your eyes open for the eco-labels on food, and aim to buy highly-ranked food items. The next category addressed may be electronics and appliances, reflecting France’s compulsory ‘durability and repairability’ rating shown on products and in advertising, launched at the beginning of this year.

Do get in touch if you would like to find out more about improving your own company’s sustainability approach.

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