What is Foundation Earth?
Foundation Earth is an independent, non-profit organisation established to issue front-of-pack environmental scores on food products, enabling consumers to make more sustainable buying choices and providing industry with the data needed to improve the sustainability of their value chains. We bring together expert scientists and leading figures from food production and retailing across the UK and EU who all share a vision of a future food industry that doesn’t destroy the planet.
How do you calculate a product’s ECO IMPACT score?
Firstly, we work with our expert partners to undertake a Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) on the product from Farm to Fork (or Cradle to Grave). Many environmental impacts can be calculated in an LCA, and we have been trialling various methods to develop our single, harmonised method launched in March 2023. Our updated method is in line with the European Commission’s Product Environmental Footprint (PEF), taking into account the following 16 indicators: Climate change, Ozone depletion, Human toxicity (cancer), Human toxicity (non-cancer), Particulate matter, Ionising radiation, Photochemical ozone formation, Acidification, Eutrophication (terrestrial), Eutrophication (freshwater), Ecotoxicity (freshwater), Eutrophication (marine), Land use, Water use, Resource use (minerals, metals), Resource use (fossils). Once we achieve the results of the LCA, we run the final score through our grading calculator, that gives a score between A+ to G.
How was your LCA method developed?
When we launched in Autumn 2021, Foundation Earth started trialling an environmental impact method for food and drink products based on 4 impact areas: carbon, water use, water pollution and biodiversity. We however saw limitations in this method, and set out on a year-long R&D programme to develop a methodology that is aligned with the European Commission’s Product Environmental Footprint (PEF). Our updated method was released in March 2023, and was developed in partnership with leading scientists and LCA experts in the UK and Europe with input from industry taken into consideration.
How do you carry out a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) on a product?
Our LCA experts lead on the environmental impact assessments of the food products we score. First, they work closely with our brands to map the supply chain. Even the simplest product can have a surprisingly complex supply chain and sequence of processors involved. Then it’s time for data collection, looking for the best quality data to calculate all the steps that have been mapped. Here primary data (taken directly from farms and factories) is prioritised, as it is the most accurate. The amount and type of primary data required can be found in our Methodology document. After that, we need to fill in the blanks: only the shortest supply chains allow for 100% primary data. Where primary data is impossible to collect, secondary data is used from approved databases, or high quality LCA research from others. If neither primary or secondary data is available, proxy modelling is applied, which uses similar secondary data that has already been collected to build a model of the item or process. Finally, we take all the information we’ve obtained to calculate the impacts. We run the results through the Foundation Earth grading calculator to produce the ECO IMPACT scores.
What is PEF?
The European Product Environmental Footprint (or PEF), together with the Organisation Environmental Footprint (OEF), are part of a project initiated with the aim of developing a harmonised European methodology for Environmental Footprint Studies.
What stages are calculated as part of the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)?
To help analyse a product’s LCA and its calculated impacts, Foundation Earth LCA results are broken up into 10 or 11 stages (depending on the type of producer):
|Life cycle stage||Activities|
|Life cycle stage Activities||Crop cultivation Cultivation of crops for food, or as input for feed production. Including farm inputs, farm activities, land use change, and land management emissions.|
|Feed production||Transport and processing of crops and other raw materials into feed.|
|Animal production||Farm activities and manure management.|
|Ingredient production||All activities after farm gate until food production. Transport to and between processing facilities, energy consumption, food losses and other emissions at the processing facility (including slaughterhouse).|
|Food production||Transport to food production facility, energy consumption, losses, and other emissions in food production processes (e.g., cutting and marinating).|
|Packaging||Extraction of raw materials, production of packaging and end-of-life of packaging material. Secondary and tertiary packaging is included.|
|Transport and distribution||Transport from food producers to the distribution network. Distribution to the supermarkets via one or more distribution centres. Energy consumption and losses at the distribution centre(s).|
|Retail||Energy consumption and food losses at supermarkets.
|Consumer transport||Transport between the supermarket or other retail outlet and the consumer.
|Use||Use phase of food products, including refrigerating and preparing the food.
|End-of-life||Food waste treatment. (The end-of-life of packaging material is included in the ‘Packaging’ life cycle stage.)|
Where does the assessment stop?
The LCAs undertaken to get a Foundation Earth ECO IMPACT score include all stages across the food supply-chain from cradle (the farm and its inputs including seeds, fertiliser, etc.) to grave, right up to how the discarded packaging is treated and potentially reused.
What is the responsibility of the Scientific Committee?
The Scientific Committee is made up of independent, voluntary members covering a diverse range of disciplines needed to ensure the scientific rigour of the systems used within Foundation Earth. It provides advice and recommendations to assist with further developments, taking into account new research and evidence as it comes to light. For all development and design, Foundation Earth systems go through a collective intelligence process of consultation, debate to pull together broad knowledge, all final decisions are taken at the Scientific Committee.
What is the responsibility of the Industry Advisory Group?
The purpose of the Foundation Earth Industry Advisory Group is to provide advice to the Foundation Earth board on a future environmental labelling system on food products. Members of the Industry Advisory Group bring their knowledge and insight from a practical perspective to help us explore the potential for environmental labelling on food products whilst considering viability in the market. These members bring support and experience to help reach Foundation Earth’s ambition to help build a more sustainable food industry.
Who is supporting Foundation Earth?
Foundation Earth has received widespread support from leading food producers, retailers, scientists and politicians, as well as consumer and citizen groups who all share an interest in building a more sustainable food industry.
How is Foundation Earth financed?
Foundation Earth is a non-profit organisation, financed by our members through yearly membership subscriptions, fees for processing products through our scoring system, as well as through European innovation grants. Membership fees are based on a socially-democratic model calculated according to annual turnover and size.
Where is Foundation Earth based?
Foundation Earth is based in Europe, with its headquarters being split between Spain and the United Kingdom.
Is Foundation Earth a charity?
Foundation Earth is a company limited by guarantee, meaning we are a non-profit.
Whose idea was Foundation Earth?
Foundation Earth was the brainchild of late Northern Irish food entrepreneur Denis Lynn – who tragically died in May 2021 before he could see his ambition realised.
How can my company become involved in Foundation Earth?
Simply fill in the expression of interest form here, and a member of our team will get back to you.