Guiding principles launched to assess food’s environmental impact

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food chain Communication

The Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) Round Table has formally adopted ten guiding principles to give a coherent way for assessing and communicating the environmental performance of food and drink products.

The SCP Round Table was launched just over a year ago, and it aims to establish the European food chain as a major contributor to sustainable consumption and production in Europe. It has a steering committee and four working groups, all of which are co-chaired by the European Commission and food chain partners.

The guiding principles, which were published in draft form and open for public consultation, are seen as the first step towards developing a harmonised framework for the environmental assessment of food and drink products.

This framework is expected to be completed by 2011, and round table members have been investigating existing tools available for assessing environmental impact, many of which look at just one element or stage in the life cycle.

The guiding principles, on the other hand, take a whole life cycle approach. They will also be used as a basis for developing business-to-business and business-to-consumer communications tools.

The lead principle is:
Environmental information communicated along the food chain, including to consumers, shall be scientifically reliable and consistent, understandable and not misleading, so as to support informed choice.

The first four principles are for the voluntary environmental assessment of food and drink products:

  • Identify and analyse the environmental aspects at all life-cycle stages.
  • Assess the significant potential environmental impacts along the life-cycle.
  • Apply recognised scientific methodologies.
  • Periodically review and update the environmental assessment.

Two cover voluntary communication of environmental information:

  • Provide information in an easily understandable and comparable way so as to support informed choice.
  • Ensure clarity regarding the scope and meaning of environmental information.

The final four are for both voluntary environmental assessment and communication:

  • Ensure transparency of information and underlying methodologies and assumptions.
  • Ensure that all food chain actors can apply the assessment methodology and communication tools without disproportionate burden.
  • Support innovation.
  • Safeguard the Single Market and international trade.

More input sought

Soledad Blanco, co-chair of the round table and director for industry of DG Environment said: “As the work now enters into a crucial phase,all relevant expertise needs to be pooled together. I therefore encourage representatives from civil society and others actors in the food chain to join the initiative.”

“The Guiding Principles give us a strong foundation for establishing the food chain as a major contributor towards sustainable consumption and production in Europe and beyond. They are a good starting point for the next stages of our work,” ​said Aldo Soldi, president of ANCC/COOP in Italy.

“The inclusive and participative approach we have taken in the Round Table should enable us to produce deliverables that are broadly supported and widely applied by operators along the food chain, and that ultimately satisfy consumer expectations.”

More information on the initiative is available at

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