Questions and answers about the eco-score
How does the eco-score work? You'll find answers here to this question and many more.
What is the eco-score?
The Beelong eco-score is an environmental impact indicator based on data from Ecoinvent, the World Food Database and Agribalyse and takes into account climate change, the pollution of freshwater and seawater, water consumption and soil usage. This information is then expanded to include elements missing from these databases, such as biodiversity, animal welfare and packaging.
The eco-score evaluates the environmental impact of a food item from its production to its consumption by looking at all its ingredients and their origin, the methods used to cultivate, rear or catch them, the distances they have travelled, the modes of transport and any cold storage used.
The eco-score uses real food data and reflects all key topics of high eco-importance. It offers consumers and Coop as a retailer transparent information so that they can take action and change the food choices they make.
Which products will have the eco-score on them? And when?
The eco-score will soon be printed onto the first Coop own-label brand food items. More than 2 000 products have been evaluated since autumn 2022, and although their packaging has not yet been updated, the eco-score and detailed information (origin, production method, climate and resources data, packaging and preservation method) can be accessed via the Coop online shop.
The eco-score will be introduced for all Coop own-label brand food items as part of a step-by-step process. It will be printed onto the packaging as soon as the current packaging stocks have been used up. In this way Coop avoids the need to scrap any existing packaging materials.
Why is the eco-score being introduced?
The objective of the eco-score is to support consumers in eating as sustainably as possible by effectively communicating the impact that food items have on our planet. At the same time, the eco-score gives Coop as a retailer the impetus to lessen the environmental impact of its products during product revisions, and to make its own-label brand ranges even more sustainable.
The eco-score increases transparency in the food market and helps to inform people about the key impacts of food items, which are primarily attributable to agricultural production, but also arise from transport, packaging, preservation and processing methods, etc.
Is the eco-score a new label?
No, the eco-score isn't a new label. Labels are used to certify that certain products meet a specific catalogue of requirements. The eco-score is an environmental impact indicator that can be used to evaluate all food items. So it doesn't certify products, it evaluates their environmental impact using the most up-to-date scientific data possible, combined with the information available in the marketplace.
The eco-score methodology is based on a life-cycle analysis (LCA) of all the potential environmental impacts of a product throughout its entire lifespan. At the same time, the eco-score takes into account other parameters which are normally not part of such analyses, such as the impact on biodiversity and animal welfare.
The eco-score increases transparency in the food market and gives clearly comprehensible information about the environmental impact of all food items. In doing so it is helping consumers and Coop as a retailer to reduce this impact.
What is the purpose of the eco-score on food items?
Food is currently responsible for around a third of all global environmental impacts. This is particularly apparent when it comes to climate change and the loss of biodiversity.
There are lots of measures that consumers can follow to eat as sustainably as possible: consume less animal protein, choose food produced using more environmentally and animal friendly agricultural methods, buy local and seasonal products, etc. However, following this advice is not always easy due to a lack of or a surfeit of information on food items.
The eco-score is intended to give consumers simple, clear and objective information about the environmental impacts of food. There are also lots of measures that Coop can make use of, and by offering a sustainable range it is supporting its customers in changing their eating habits.
Who evaluates the products?
Beelong, which has its head office in Lausanne, specializes in evaluating and communicating the environmental impacts of food items. The company has developed the eco-score for the Swiss market, which enables it to take into account the latest scientific data and the information available on the market.
Beelong also organizes the information about food and finds out more details, checks the quality of the information supplied by brands, and ensures that the most up-to-date data are always used.
How is the eco-score on the scale from A+ to E- calculated?
All food items are evaluated on the basis of the same criteria and on the same scale from A+ (low environmental impact) to E- (high environmental impact).
Each of the ingredients making up the product is evaluated in terms of its CO2 footprint, water footprint and soil usage and is then weighted according to amount of energy (kcal) it contributes to the finished product.
The eco-score of the finished product is then calculated using an additional plus-minus system developed by Beelong that gives or takes away points according to the environmental efforts made by the producer in different areas. This system considers the brand and quality seal guidelines, animal husbandry programmes, packaging, the manufacturer's corporate policy and the environmental policy in the country of production.
What is the difference between the eco-score and the Nutri-Score?
The eco-score evaluates the environmental impact of a food item on scale from A+ (low environmental impact) to E- (high environmental impact). The scale is the same for all products, regardless of the product category. Since the eco-score is not adjusted for the different product categories, it enables the comparison of both products which are similar and products which are different.
By contrast, the Nutri-Score evaluates the health impact of a product. It evaluates the nutritional quality of the food and gives it a nutritional value score of A (high nutritional value) to E (low nutritional value). It is based on the nutrition information already available on the packaging. The Nutri-Score evaluates every product according to its product category. This makes it possible to identify the best product in the category, but is less helpful in comparing products from different categories.
What happens if no information is available about a food item?
Where information is missing, e.g. origin of ingredients, production methods, animal husbandry programmes, cultivation in heated greenhouses, type of packaging, this is categorized as "not reported". In such cases, Beelong assigns criteria with missing information the lowest possible number of points.
For example, if the origin of an ingredient or food item is "not reported", then Beelong will allocate it the maximum possible number of kilometres travelled. The aim of this approach is to reward products for which transparent and comprehensive information is available.
If the recipe (complete list of ingredients and proportions of those ingredients in the finished product) is unknown, then Beelong makes an assumption based on standard recipes. It is important to note that the composition of a product (ingredients and proportions) significantly influences the final eco-score.
How are agricultural quality labels evaluated?
These labels currently play the key role in providing consumers with information on how the product was cultivated, farmed or fished.
Beelong evaluates the requirement specifications for around 100 agricultural quality labels. These requirement specifications pertain to environmental measures, in particular those that promote biodiversity.
The agricultural quality labels are categorized according to the strictness of their environmental requirements, i.e. the production conditions that their farmers must comply with to have their products certified with the label. So the number of environmental requirements in every specification per relevant product category is taken into account. Currently Beelong records and evaluates 104 criteria. The Bio Suisse Bud label (Switzerland), Demeter (Switzerland) and comparable labels currently cover the maximum possible number of environmental requirements.
To what extent does the organic Bud label influence the eco-score?
The Bio Suisse Bud label is awarded the maximum number of label points. The maximum point score available for labels is 20 out of 100 total points.
Are the eco-scores on the products updated?
Product information can change over time. The same applies to eco-scores. Beelong conducts random checks, and as a retailer Coop has set itself the goal of improving eco-scores wherever possible via product changes or revisions.
The eco-score methodology is also updated every two years, as are all evaluated products.
Why don't products containing meat always have the worst score?
Firstly, the eco-score of a product depends strongly on its composition (type and amount of ingredients). So the amount of animal ingredients in a product significantly influences its eco-score.
And secondly, the environmental impact of different meat products can vary enormously depending on:
- Type of meat: the environmental impact of beef, veal and lamb, for example, is 4.5 times higher than that of pork.
- Production method: the label (e.g. organic Bud label, IP-Suisse) and the animal husbandry programme, e.g. free-range, especially animal-friendly housing (BTS) and regular access to range (RAUS), has a significant impact on conserving biodiversity and/or on animal welfare, which in turn has a positive impact on the eco-score.
- Cut of meat: high-quality cuts of meat (steak, fillet, etc.) can leave a carbon footprint that is up to 15 times higher than that of a lower-quality cut (liver, brisket, etc.).
Although animal products in general have a larger environmental footprint than plant-based products, this footprint can be dramatically reduced by following the measures mentioned above.