Report on environmental labeling for food published
corsus together with Zühlsdorf + Partner and the KATALYSE Institute investigated the question how a successful environmental labeling for food should be designed.
For a food system transformation, i.e. the socio-ecological transformation of food systems, producers, politicians and consumers are challenged.
Consumers can contribute to reducing the environmental impact of food primarily through their choice of food. According to a study published in the journal Nature, a completely vegetarian diet would emit up to 55% less greenhouse gases than the current diet. A Mediterranean diet would save about 30% greenhouse gases and a fish-based diet 45%. In a paper for WWF Germany, corsus determined that the biodiversity footprint and land footprint caused by the diet in Germany could be nearly halved if we followed the recommendations of the Eat Lancet Commission and a vegetarian or vegan diet. A diet that includes meat and follows the recommendations of the Eat Lancet Commission also contributes to a significant reduction in environmental impact.
In order for consumers to make informed decisions at the point-of-sale in favor of more environmentally friendly products, they need the relevant information. At the same time, food purchasing decisions are made habitually and quickly. Information that can influence these decisions must therefore be easy to understand and quickly available. This is because the back of the packaging or even supplementary online information, e.g. retrievable via QR code, are rarely heeded. This is precisely where a directly visible, comprehensible environmental label can make a contribution.
Nevertheless, labeling is associated with a number of difficulties, as the existing label landscape shows: While some labels are real success stories (such as the German organic seal), many other labels have a niche existence that receives little attention and hardly influences purchasing decisions. Not only the awareness, but also the significance of the labels varies greatly, especially in terms of how comprehensively the products are evaluated and how credible the evaluation is.
With few exceptions, the environmental impact of food has so far been addressed mainly indirectly with labels. Attempts at climate labels (for example, by the Carbon Trust in Great Britain) have so far met with little success. However, the development of a comprehensive environmental label is currently being driven forward by France in particular. The EU Commission’s “Farm-to-Fork” strategy also provides for food labeling on environmental impacts by the end of 2023.
Against the background of existing label initiatives and current developments, corsus and its project partners have developed a well-founded recommendation for the German Federal Ministry for the Environment and Consumer Protection (BMUV) on how an environmental label for food should be designed and what framework conditions are needed for its successful introduction and further development. Anyone wishing to find out more about this extremely interesting and complex topic can now do so with the help of the published project results (in German).