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28 Jun 2021

Food sustainability: new eco label planned

The scheme, supported by Nestle, also has big brand partners such as the Co-op, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury's
Woman shopping in supermarket

A pilot scheme to assess the environmental impact of food is planned for launch in autumn 2021, with a new eco label to appear on the front of packaging.

It aims to help consumers compare food products for sustainability and push manufacturers to look for more environmentally friendly ways to produce food.

Product scores are based on factors such as carbon emissions and water usage during production.

The scheme is being run by Foundation Earth, a new organisation developed with sustainable food consultancy Mondra.

To learn about existing eco labels visit our decoding labels guide

Get our tips on ways to shop more ethically

How will the eco label be assessed?

The score you see on the packaging will be based on the complete life cycle of that specific product, rather than secondary data using averages.

This means products can be compared against each other within the same category and across different categories.

The four key criteria are water usage, water pollution, biodiversity loss and carbon emissions. All stages of the product's lifecycle are assessed - farming, processing, packaging and transport.

The weighting is as follows:

  • Carbon emissions - 49%
  • Water usage - 17%
  • Water pollution - 17%
  • Biodiversity loss - 17%

Products will be given an overall rating which can range from A+ down to G, along with a traffic light system, so purchasing decisions can be made quickly.

The scoring system has been devised by Mondra alongside EIT Food, which is an EU-funded organisation working on food sustainability and innovation.

If the pilot is successful, full rollout of the eco label is planned for 2022.

Who has signed up?

Big brands such as Nestle, Sainsbury's Marks & Spencer and Co-op have joined the scheme, as has the Costa Coffee chain and veg box subscription service Abel & Cole.

Both the government and the opposition have welcomed the launch of the Foundation Earth pilot.

The Foundation Earth scheme isn't the only one of its kind being trialled in Europe. Lidl has an eco-score label trial running in Germany, and some manufacturers including Oatly - the oat drink company - already have their own environmental assessments on their packaging.

Sue Davies, Which? head of consumer rights and food policy, said: 'This pilot seems like a positive step and we know that consumers have shown support for this type of scheme in our research.

'However, it's important to make sure we don't repeat the mistakes made in the early days of front-of-pack nutrition labelling where several competing schemes emerged, which didn't help consumers in their purchasing decisions.