Coop and the Beelong eco-score: a partnership for the future
Sustainability is important to us. With the Beelong eco-score, we now offer an impact indicator from an independent provider which evaluates the environmental impact of a product at every stage of its production and supply chain. This helps make the world more sustainable – with every purchase made.
Sustainability at a glance
With the aid of the eco-score we are increasing transparency in the food market and showing the impact of food items on our planet. We believe this will help consumers eat as sustainably as possible.
In a step-by-step process, all Coop own-label brand food items will be evaluated using a scale from A+ for the lowest environmental impact to E- for the highest. More than 2 000 own-label brand products on sale in the Coop online shop have already been given an eco-score. Some of these products will soon have the eco-score printed on their packaging as well.
Every product has an impact on our planet, along its entire production and supply chain. The following evaluation criteria are used to calculate the eco-score.
Eco-score evaluation criteria
Not all of the food items we eat have the same impact on the climate. Foods based on animal proteins in particular require more resources to produce and have a greater impact on the environment.
The carbon footprint of a food item is one of the key indicators of sustainable production. This footprint measures the amount of greenhouse gases emitted for its production, from the farm to the point of sale.
The water footprint of a product is the amount of water (freshwater and seawater) that is consumed and polluted to produce a food item.
The production of foods based on animal proteins in particular (meat, fish, dairy products, eggs) often requires more water than that of other food items. Moreover, not all geographical areas are equal in regard to the amount of freshwater which is available. Some countries have less water available, so the water stress there is higher.
Water pollution has two main components: freshwater eutrophication and marine eutrophication. Eutrophication is the over-enrichment of bodies of water by nutrients.
Soil and its ecosystem are critical natural resources for agriculture. These precious resources are currently being degraded by environmentally irresponsible agricultural practices. This criterion is therefore essential in evaluating the environmental impact of a food item.
The soil usage calculation for a food item reflects how much pressure its production places on the soil and its ecosystem.
The loss of biodiversity as a result of food production is at least as big an issue as that of climate change. Some agricultural production methods are more eco-responsible than others, promoting biodiversity and essential ecosystem services to varying degrees.
The main sources of information currently available are agricultural quality labels (production conditions, rearing or catching methods) and the relevant legislation in the countries of production.
Seasonality (fruit and vegetables)
Seasonal fruit and vegetables are produced in line with their natural growing cycles, not grown in heated greenhouses. The main reason for eating seasonally is to avoid using energy, to use renewable energy sources where possible, and to reduce the use of fossil fuels.
Endangered species and fishing method (fish)
In recent decades overfishing has become so prevalent that around a third of the fish stocks are now overfished.
This criterion looks at whether or not the food item or ingredient comes from sustainable fish stocks and what fishing method is used. The information for the evaluation comes from recommendations from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) "Guide to Fish and Seafood", from Ethic Ocean and from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The way in which livestock are reared primarily depends on the mode of agricultural production. For two similar foods, the rearing conditions can vary considerably and have different consequences on animal welfare and adherence to environmental standards in general. The type of animal feed also plays a key role in the overall environmental impact of the product.
The main sources of information available are agricultural quality labels and the relevant legislation in the countries of production, as well as information on specific types of farming (e.g. free-range, barn housing) or specific animal-husbandry programmes (e.g. especially animal-friendly housing or regular access to range BTS/RAUS).
Although agricultural production is generally responsible for the majority of the environmental impact of a food item during its life cycle, the distance travelled by all the ingredients which make up the product and then by the finished product also plays a key role.
The eco-score considers the country of origin of the raw materials, the country where the final product is made, and the country where it is consumed (Switzerland).
Modes of transport
It is not just the distance, but also the modes of transport used for a product that are decisive in determining its ecological footprint. This criterion looks at air, ship, truck and train transportation and the kilometres travelled. It is estimated that transporting food by air uses thirty times more energy than transporting it by truck (KVU, conference of heads of the environmental protection services, 2017).
The use of cold transport and storage, in particular refrigeration and freezing, is energy intensive. These conservation methods make an impact on the energy consumption of the product and thus ultimately on its environmental footprint.
The environmental impact of each packaging type depends on the quantity of material which is needed to package the product, the environmental impact of producing the raw materials, and the ability for it to be recycled.
All main packaging types are taken into consideration, including loose products, glass and PET bottles, cardboard, wood and biodegradable material.
A company's sustainability policy includes measures that are not directly related to agricultural production but which contribute to reducing the environmental impact at corporate level. The Coop digital Progress Report provides detailed information on our ambitious multi-year sustainability targets.
The sustainability policy in the countries of production is also considered. The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) uses 40 indicators to rank 180 countries according to how effective their environmental policies are and how much they impact the environment.
Weighting by energy content (kcal)
The eco-score compares the environmental impact of food items on the basis of their energy content (kcal) and not on the basis of their weight (kg) for the following two reasons: (1) to make the comparison between different product categories relevant, and (2) to align the recommendations with the definition of food security provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).