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Abel and Cole introduce eco-labels for fruit and vegetables that detail supply chain impacts

Abel and Cole announced that the new eco-labelling would be introduced on products and would be graded from A+ to G based on carbon emissions, water usage and pollution and biodiversity loss.

The retailer has partnered with the same team at Oxford University that introduced the nutritional traffic light system to food products. The labelling will account for each stage of the supply chain and impact is weighted differently for certain products. For example, farming contributes more to the final score than any other stage, given that is where most of a product’s impact happens.


Abel and Cole’s sustainable sourcing manager Ed Ayton, said: ‘We know it can be difficult to tell how sustainable something actually is. Often, that kind of information just isn’t shown on the packaging, so customers are left making decisions without all the facts.


“If biodiversity impact was on ingredient lists, every pound would be a vote. Eco-labels like Foundation Earth’s present those facts at a glance, giving customers the knowledge they need to enjoy a more sustainable shop.’


Abel and Cole have already submitted the data for 87 of its fruit and veggie lines to the Foundation Earth eco-label team.


There are currently 456 eco labels in use around the world, but Foundation Earth – an independent non-profit organisation – is aiming to unite the food industry behind a single labelling system that uses lifecycle assessments.


Eco-labelling era


A survey from the Carbon Trust asked 10,000 consumers across France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the US for their take on carbon labelling on groceries. 51% admitted that they did not think about the carbon impact of products when making choices at the supermarket, but more than two-thirds said they would support carbon labelling. Most of this cohort said such labels would encourage them to change their purchasing choices.


Some brands sold in supermarkets have added carbon labels to their packaging, including Flora’s parent company Upfield, energy drink challenger Tenzing, Quorn Foods and plant-based milk brand Oatly.


The practice of carbon labelling is also becoming increasingly popular for catering firms with contracts with some of the UK’s most popular sports and music events and tourist attractions, like Benugo and Compass Group.


Eco-labelling was also one of the key recommendations from Chris Skidmore’s Net-Zero Review. The Review, published last month, sets out more than 120 recommendations for policy recommendations to deliver a more ‘pro-growth, pro-business’ pathway to net-zero by 2050. While many recommendations relate to energy and industrial infrastructure, Skidmore also accounts for the need to better engage and inform the general public, flagged by the Public Accounts Committee.


One engagement-related recommendation is the implementation of standardized environmental labelling on as many product categories as possible by 2025. This includes ecolabels on things like lightbulbs, which the Government is keen on, and on consumer goods including food and drink.


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