Foundation Earth is non-profit organisation which has been set up to provide clear and credible front-of-pack environmental scores on food products.
By providing consumers with the clear and credible information they need we hope to drive consumer change, helping them to make more sustainable buying choices, while also aiding food producers to innovate in a more sustainable way.
Firstly, we do a Lifecycle Analysis (LCA) on the product from Farm to Retail Ready. When calculating an LCA you can calculate many different impacts. For our UK Pilot we use 4 key impacts: Carbon, Water Usage, Water Pollution & Biodiversity. This will be soon be expanded to include Exotoxicity (a combination of both land and water toxicity to no-human life in a single measure) to ensure we are aligned to the HESTIA standard.
This is a measure of what Greenhouse Gasses (GHGs) that are emitted when creating the product. We add up all the GHGs released from the farm through to and including the supermarket shelf using grams of carbon dioxide equivalent, or g CO2 (eq) using IPCC (2013) characterization factors with climate-carbon feedbacks.
Technically this is a measure of water scarcity. We calculate how much freshwater is used from the field, to during processing and even water used to clean the processing machine. We look at where it is drawn out of the ground, then multiply it by a number based on how scarce freshwater is at that location. This is multiplied by factors defined by the AWARE model developed by WULCA.
Our Water Pollution is specifically Eutrophication. This happens when fertiliser or slurry runs off the fields into lakes & rivers, feeding algae which runs wild, robbing those below the surface of oxygen and sunlight. We look at whatever “eutrophic” substances could be released into the waterways, adding them up using an equivalent measure as there are many types of eutrophic substances.
Biodiversity is a measure of all the plant & animal life in a region. We measure the risk of losing an entire species, generated by the land use change to farm the food. A species lost means reduced biodiversity, which means reduced stability of the national world. We look at the land used to grow the produce, or rear the animals, noting where it is on the planet. This is mapped to ecoregions which say how diverse the region is where the farming is occurring and use the LC-Impact characterization approach to model this.
The LCA is carried out in 4 steps. Firstly we map the supply chain. Even the simplest product can have a surprisingly complex supply chain and sequence of processors involved. We work with our brands and their supply chain every step of the journey.
Secondly we get the data, looking for the best quality data we can get to calculate all the steps we have mapped. Here primary data (taken directly from farms and factories) is king, as it is the most accurate.
Thirdly, we fill in the blanks. Only the shortest supply chains for the simplest products allow for 100% primary data. Where we are unable to obtain Primary Data, we use Secondary data from our own databases, or high quality LCA research from others. If we can’t get primary or secondary data, we use proxy modelling, which uses similar secondary data we already have to build a model of the item or process.
Lastly, we take all the information we’ve obtained to calculate the impacts. We run the data through our calculators and produce the impacts.
To help analyse a product’s LCA and its calculated impacts the LCA results are commonly broken up into 5 stages: Farming (everything that happens up to the field edge), Transport (Every change of location and type of transport required), Processing (from simple washing to 50 ingredient combos), Packaging (every bag, drum or pallet needed anywhere in the chain) and Retail (the impact of making it available for sale).
Our LCA’s include all stages across the food supply-chain from cradle (the farm and its inputs including seeds, fertiliser etc) to the point of consumer sale in retail stores. How a product is used by a consumer, and end-of-life treatment is excluded due to the high level of uncertainty concerning post-consumer sale activity including usage, wastage and packaging recycling.
We only assign environmental impacts directly caused by a product – so choosing to include recycled content in a box is included but choosing a material which might be recycled isn’t. This is because it’s someone else’s decision whether it is recycled or not.
This is done in 4 stages. Firstly we rate the performance of each of the raw ingredients, rating each against its category. Then we rate the performance of the products transport, processing and packaging impacts through the entire supply chain against the Mondra basket. We then combine these performance figures for each of our impacts (Carbon, Water Usage, Water Pollution and Biodiversity) and finally combine our 4 impacts into a single grade.
The scientific committee will ensure the scientific rigour of the systems used within Foundation Earth. It will provide advice and recommendations to the Foundation to assist with the further development and optimisation of a scientifically rigorous and independent front of pack scoring system, taking into account new evidence as it comes to light.
The purpose of the Foundation Earth Industry Advisory Group is to provide advice and opinion to the Foundation Earth board on a future environmental labelling system on food products. Members of the industry advisory group agree to explore the potential for environmental labelling on food products and support Foundation Earth’s ambition to help build a more sustainable food industry.
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 ‘Mondra’ and ‘EIT Food’ methods.
Our pilot launches in Autumn 2021, with front-of-pack scores starting to appear on products from a range of leading food brands.
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.
Foundation Earth is a non-profit organisation, financed by our members through yearly membership subscriptions and fees for processing products through our scoring system.
Foundation Earth is set up with using the best scientific principles, which is why Oxford University’s Joseph Poore has teamed up with Leuven University’s Christophe Matthys and AZTI’s Saioa Ramos to form our Scientific Committee, which is being chaired by Professor Chris Elliott OBE.
They have been tasked with merging the best of the ‘Mondra’ and ‘EIT Foods’ methods for environmental labelling of food and drink products. We have chosen these methods because they are unique globally, in that they both allow two products of the same type to be compared on their individual merits via a complete product life cycle analysis, as opposed to simply using secondary data to estimate the environmental impact of an entire product group. This method of individual assessment using primary data is crucial to encourage sustainable innovation in the international food supply chain.
Foundation Earth is based in Europe, with its headquarters being split between Spain and the United Kingdom.
Foundation Earth is a company limited by guarantee, meaning we are a non-profit.
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.
Simply fill in the expression of interest form here, and a member of our team will get back to you.