November 30, 2022

Towards LCA automation at scale in partnership with Foundation Earth

Carl Olivier

Sustained is joining forces with Foundation Earth - an independent, non-profit organisation issuing front-of-pack environmental scores on food products - to test automated LCA and ECO IMPACT labels to drive large scale uptake and impact.

The pilot, starting early 2023, will run food products through the Sustained platform to assess the ecological impact of food products using an LCA method aligned to the EU’s Product Environment Footprint (PEF) that takes into account 16 environmental impact categories. 

At present environmental impact assessments (or Life Cycle Assessments / LCAs) are generally done manually - which takes a lot of time, requires human resources and comes with a high cost. This means that very few products are assessed, 10s out of many thousands. Moving towards an automated system would allow ecolabels to be delivered at scale and support our mission to make food ecolabelling the new normal. Typically, running products through an automated LCA tool would reduce assessment time by weeks, and sometimes months.

The automated system is a particular breakthrough for organisations dealing with very large volumes such as retailers, allowing them to score a wide array of products at reduced cost, in turn making more scored products available to consumers.

Foundation Earth will continue to run manual LCAs in parallel with its expert partners, allowing us to extract learnings and understand challenges on data collection and validation - critical work needed to establish data quality thresholds for the Foundation Earth standard when scoring a product. A data quality indicator, showing how complete the data collected on a product is, will be included on the Sustained Impact assessment reports, to increase transparency on data quality.

“Automation is key in our mission to scale the uptake of ecolabelling. Testing tech tools will drive efficiency in ecolabeling: assessing large volumes of products and driving down costs to ensure accessibility for all sizes of food brands and producers will be critical to decarbonising food system value chains,” says Cliona Howie, CEO of Foundation Earth.

Sustained, which launched its Impact platform in June 2022, also offers a mobile app for UK food consumers to scan products directly in-store and display environmental impacts, as well as a browser extension for online shopping. Products scored under the Foundation Earth method can be published on the Sustained platform, with the ECO IMPACT data providing consumers with a science-based story of the impact of their food purchases.

On why this is so important, Carl Olivier, co-founder and CEO of Sustained said, “If we are to truly achieve the systemic change needed to reduce the environmental impact of our production and consumption, we need to be able to accurately assess every product at a SKU level, and make that information available to everyone - whether you are shopping for your weekly food, investing in or in fact running a business. Sustained Impact allows us to start that journey today.”

Written by
Carl Olivier
First published on
Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Last edited on
Nov 30, 2022 5:35 PM

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