This article was originally published by Blonk.

To make a fair comparison between the environmental impact of food products, consistent footprinting calculations are necessary. We are working with a range of experts including Blonk and Deutsches Institut für Lebensmitteltechnik (DIL) to develop a harmonised methodology and establish a standard for European food product scoring.

Ecolabelling pilots

Over the last year Foundation Earth has been running pilots with food industry partners to test different ecolabelling methods, identifying what works and where we might fall short:

  1. Farm to Shelf method looking at 4 environmental impacts: water usage, water pollution, biodiversity and carbon – from the farm all the way to the supermarket shelf. A different grading system is developed for each product category (e.g. protein, milks, vegetables etc.), making it possible to compare products within a specific product category.
  2. Farm to Fork method that includes preparation, food waste at consumer level and end-of-life emissions. In this method 16 impact categories are included and aggregated to a single score. In both methods, the impacts are translated into a single score ranging from A+ to G.

Why we need a harmonised LCA methodology for food ecolabelling

Foundation Earth’s main mission is to achieve consensus around a  harmonised LCA methodology – and consequently label – that builds on the European Union’s Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) framework. A lot of choices must be made when setting up an LCA model: environmental indicators prioritisation, use of primary and background data, approach for data gaps, data quality, modelling of packaging materials with recycled content, and returnable packaging – to name a few. Although the PEF framework already gives some guidance on several LCA modelling issues, category rules (PEFCR) have not been developed for all products categories. On top of that, the methodology used for the different PEFCRs can sometimes be conflicting, which leads to an unfair comparison of products.

Building a cooperative process with the food industry

Foundation Earth has brought together a task force to help build that harmonised LCA method for front-of-pack environmental scores on food products, discussing different LCA challenges and opportunities to find a clear pathway forward that will accurately assess the eco impact of our food. Members of the task force include LCA experts from Blonk and Deutsches Institut für Lebensmitteltechnik (DIL), as well as food industry players. By the end of the year a first draft of the LCA methodology will be ready for testing, following approval from Foundation Earth’s Scientific Committee.

Testing and further development

The first beta version of the LCA methodology document will provide a framework for a harmonised footprint calculation for the food industry. As a next step, all methodology chapters need to be developed in more detail. Feedback from Foundation Earth’s food industry partners will be included in further improvements of the LCA methodology.