The Eco-Score has been purposely designed to resemble the Nutri-Score food choice logo developed for the French government. With five colored leaves (dark green, green, yellow, orange and red) and a letter from A to E, the logo makes clear at a glance the extent to which a product burdens the environment. Both food choice logos are originally French. The methodology is public and was developed by, among others, Eco2, Yuka en Open Food Facts. It became in January 2021 launched. An ‘Eco-Score’ had been created in Switzerland years ago from the restaurant industry which is even more like the Nutri-Score.
The Belgian supermarket formula Colruyt decided to be the first to work with the colored leaves of the Eco-Score, in March 2021. The company foresaw that the environmental impact of food products would become an important criterion for consumer choice. The Dutch Lidl in Carrefour followed later. Lidl has a first pilot now extended.
No transparency yet
Two aspects determine the final score: factors that influence the environment during the product’s life cycle on the one hand, and additional pluses and minuses such as transport, certifications and recyclability of packaging on the other. It’s not the individual products, but 2,500 product categories that have been made transparent in terms of environmental impact. For example, the logo claims to make the environmental impact of meat and dairy comparable.
Marjolein Hanssen, consumer foods analyst at Rabobank, says in VMT that large-scale adoption of the logo will lead to direct competition between companies in the field of sustainability, but not only that. In contrast to the Nutri-Score, where all information is already on the packaging, there is much less transparency with regard to the environmental impact. This should grow as more companies start working with the Eco-Score.
The fear of calculation models based on the worldviews of experts and partial perspectives is the reason for a European citizens’ initiative that was officially registered on 30 June
One instead of many labels
According to research agency Innova Market Insights consumers need a single label that reflects the total environmental impact of a product. Multiple labels at once are confusing because consumers want a simple yes/no answer to the question of whether a product is responsible. Only a small part of the food products has an Eco-Score because not all parameters for the score are public. In the case of the Nutri-Score, this is easier because an algorithm can easily determine a score based on the ingredient declaration. According to Innova, 77% of foods already have a Nutri-Score.
In 2020 it asked Agency for Ecological Transition from the French government for inspiration for logos that should make it easy for consumers to recognize sustainable products. There came from a biological angle the Planet-Score forward. The logo was introduced in the summer of 2021 tested among the public. Like the Eco-Score, the Planet-Score gives one score, but it also specifies the performance of a product in terms of the use of pesticides, animal welfare and the effects on biodiversity and climate change. And, as in the case of Eco-Score, there was also another ‘Planet-Score’, specially made for the packaging industry.
Healthcare: different starting points and perspectives
While supermarkets are already implementing the Eco-Score, other logos are also being developed. Although the Eco-Score and the Planet-Score are both based on calculation models and data from the French Agency for Ecological Transition, this is a concern. Based on different assumptions and values of variables, conflicting calculation models and logos based on them will develop. While one considers dairy to be harmful and the consumption of chicken much more climate-friendly, other experts contradict this on the basis of other principles such as this recent Dutch scientific study by WUR experts shows. A quick check of the Eco-Score algorithm makes me suspect that the Dutch experts do not agree with the dairy score of the Eco-Score.
The fear of calculation models based on the world views of experts and partial perspectives is the reason for a European citizens’ initiative that was officially registered on 30 June. It calls for the introduction of a single European eco-score (right away completely different logo) to avoid confusion and sprawl. The citizens’ initiative began collecting signatures at the end of July 2021. Of the 1 million signatures required, only 4,000 have been received at the moment. There does not seem to be much interest among the public in the standardization of what we will soon be allowed to eat in good conscience. Yet that standard – in the form of logos – will determine what we will eat and how it is made, as we wrote here before.
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Colruyt, Lidl and Carrefour test the Eco-Score – Sustainability can be simplified, but who determines the calculation model? – Food log