How ‘green’ is your product? New tool measures food and drink against sustainability criteria

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

The team behind Impact Score has developed the UK’s ‘largest sustainability database’ to help drive product ‘desirability’. GettyImages/SolStock
The team behind Impact Score has developed the UK’s ‘largest sustainability database’ to help drive product ‘desirability’. GettyImages/SolStock

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The ‘Clara’ data platform rates the sustainability credentials of UK supermarket products. FoodNavigator asks co-founder of Impact Score – the start-up behind the new tool – how the platform differs from its flagship app.

Eco-friendly food and drink is not a passing trend. Shoppers increasingly want to buy products that have been produced with environmental sustainability in mind.

According to Ian Yates, co-founder of the Impact Score app, and now the Clara platform, shoppers are continuing to demand more information about the products they buy and their impact on the planet.

To help brands measure just how sustainable their products are, the team behind Impact Score has developed the UK’s ‘largest sustainability database’ to help drive product ‘desirability’.

Difference between Impact Score and Clara

Clara is an independent platform, we were told, which rates the sustainability credentials of 280,000 UK supermarket products.

Specifically, the platform tracks how products are developing against 14 sustainability criteria that shoppers prioritise. Clara is being made available to brands to help them create and monitor their product-sustainability roadmaps.

Clara and Impact Score work in different ways, explained Yates. “Impact Score is the consumer facing app that allows users to search one product at a time for the sustainability ratings.

“Clara is the database that sits behind this, which contains 280,000 products and their associated brands and companies. Access to Clara allows brands to benchmark at a product, brand and company level with powerful reporting tools.”

Products are rated using the same system as the Impact Score, which has been on the market since 2018.

“Users of Impact Score consistently told us that they wanted a mechanism to get brands and retailers to improve their products,” ​said Yates. “The best way for this to happen, is to open our Clara ratings platform, work directly with the brands, and help them recognise where and how they need to improve.”

14 sustainability criteria

The 14 sustainability criteria include: organic, responsibly sourced, UK made, low carbon footprint, sustainable palm oil, free from additives, animal welfare, better packaging, no chemicals of concern, healthier option, and plant-based.

“The criteria were chosen from a mix of what our users tell us is important to them and what data is available to rate the products,” ​Yates told this publication.

Measures overview
Clara platform's measurement overview. Image supplied.

So which products achieve the best ranking? And which are considered the least sustainable.

According to Yates, that’s a difficult question to answer easily. “We have over 280,000 products rated against up to 14 measures in over 800 categories – so ‘best’ will depend on what you mean by best – either overall or by measure – and what category we are talking about.”

The Clara platform rates products in a way that brands will be able to compare like-for-like. “There is no point comparing a cereal with a cleaning product,” ​said the co-founder.

“As an example, if we look at cereal bars, Trek Oat Protein Flapjacks come out top with five of the eight features we look for, whereas McVities Hobnobs Flapjacks Chocolate Cake Snack Bar achieves just one.”

‘Greenwashing is a problem and shoppers are wary’

Having surveyed Impact Score’s users, the start-up is convinced the Clara platform could have an impact on brands and products’ sustainability credentials.

A ‘staggering’ 83% of Impact Score app users change their mind about buying a product after seeing its sustainability rating.

At the same time, shoppers are cynical about the level of meaningful change behind sustainability promises. “Greenwashing is a problem and shoppers are wary,” ​said Josh Simpson, co-founder of Impact Score.

“In our own survey, 64% of shoppers said they do not trust a company to publish unbiased data about itself.”

Simpson continued: “If we can help brands develop and sell more sustainable products, which in turn helps shoppers make simply changes that are better for their families and the planet, then we all win.

“And while cost is a consideration right now, sustainable consumerism is only going in one direction, and companies that delay are risking their future. They can’t market themselves out of this one.”

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