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Planet-score : consumer information on environmental impact of food products

A methodological contribution from Sayari regarding LCA and regarding agricultural practices

Consumers are increasingly asking for their food’s environmental impacts. In order to make informed decisions about their products, they need reliable, relevant and understandable information.

The environmental labelling of a product or service consists in providing consumers with quantified information on its main environmental impacts, calculated over its entire life cycle.

Impetus from citizens, reflected in the 2021 Climate Resilience Act, prompted the French Government to implement an environmental labelling for consumers in food.

Government issued a call for proposals in September 2020 with the aim to get contributions from interested stakeholders. They were asked to submit a methodology, a format and consumer surveys. The methodology had to be primarily based on LCA.

Sayari worked as a service provider to ITAB (French Technical Institute for Organic Agriculture and Food), in charge of the project. ITAB is associated in a consortium with  Very Good Future, an impact accelerator and investor towards more sustainable agriculture and food, specializing in consumer studies.

On average, 80% of the environmental impact of a food product take place upstream of farm gate. We have therefore tried to account for the environmental impacts of the agricultural production phase as accurately as possible.

Planet-Score is based on the Agribalyse database, which contains environmental impacts of 2,500 food products throughout their life cycle,  from field to consumer.

However, the life cycle assessment (LCA) method displays shortcomings when it comes to assessing environmental impacts of biobased raw material such as agriculture products. The positive  externalities of some practices are not taken into account: biodiversity in particular, but also soil carbon storage (e.g. in permanent grasslands). Similarly, this methodology does not/partially accounts for harmful effects of pesticides on human health and ecosystems.

Planet Score methodology is presented below. Our contribution focuses on improvements to LCA data and methods. Data aggregation into a single score has been developed by ITAB.

More specifically, we have been working on the following topics:

  • assessment of positive and negative externalities of various practices on biodiversity;
  • assessment of climate change impact, including carbon storage linked to some practices (permanent grasslands, agro-ecological infrastructures…) ;
  • initial assessment of impacts of pesticides on human health and ecosystems (via LCA);
  • land use including feed-food competition.

These studies will be followed up by peered-reviewed publications. They are also discussed in the European framework of PEF.

Planet-Score has increasing visibility. It is currently tested by retailers in France and in Europe.

It is also tested by conventional and organic brands.

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