When it comes to food, global consumers are more aware than ever of what they’re actually buying, what it contains, and where it comes from. With climate change and the state of the planet at the forefront of business owners’ and consumers’ minds alike, the environmental impact of the goods we buy and consume is becoming more important.
Millennials and Gen Z consumers are leading the charge in terms of demanding more transparency from retailers. A poll by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) showed that 73% of consumers said it was important for them to buy food that has a lower environmental impact; consumers definitely want to have more control over their environmental impact through consumption.
One way that companies are addressing this demand is by using eco-labels.
What Are Eco-Labels?
Eco-labels tell consumers the environmental impact of manufacturing a product. There are already global standards for labels to show calorie counts and robust nutritional information, with easy to recognize systems such as the traffic light system in the UK and Nutri-Score used by multiple European countries.
Eco-labels can be single-attribute, meaning they focus on a single life cycle stage of a product or a single environmental issue, or they can be multi-attribute and focus on the entire product life cycle, from manufacturing to disposal.
Global Trends Surrounding Eco-Labels
Multiple non-profits and independent institutions around the world have already established their own meaningful criteria for eco-friendly labels that companies must meet to prove their product adheres to certain environmental standards. Last year saw the introduction of Eco-Score, touted as the environmental equivalent to Nutri-Score, which is being trialed by big European retailers like Lidl and Colruyt. Nestlé, PepsiCo, and Unilever have also backed a labeling system from Foundation Earth, which is aiming to provide the UK and EU with an optimum scoring system this year. In the UK, supermarket giants like Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Co-op, and Morrisons announced that they will trial digital environmental labels as the industry moves toward greater transparency.
What if Eco-Labels Become an Industry Requirement?
While there is currently no single score and methodology for determining the environmental impact of a product, around 460 eco-labels currently are in use on a global scale, with over 120 types specifically used on food and beverage products. A consistent system is needed to reduce the spread of greenwashing and misinformation.
While it may sound easy for big corporations to create their own certification system, this has led to the issue of greenwashing and lawsuits. In 2021, more than 300 class action lawsuits were filed against the food and beverage industry in the US, with many pertaining to misleading environmental and sustainability claims. A recent greenwashing example is when Red Lobster, the world’s largest seafood restaurant chain, came under fire in 2021 for allegedly having deceptive environmental claims, tricking consumers into believing their food is eco-friendly.
Do You Need Help with Eco-Labels?
If eco-labels become an industry requirement in any of your markets, there are multiple regulatory hurdles to face, and these can differ depending on the market. There are tough fines in place for companies who do not meet all regulatory requirements, and TransPerfect is able to act as a single point of contact to navigate the regulatory environment for you and make sure that all markets are covered.
TransPerfect supports companies across the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and retail industries by providing a full suite of packaging and labeling services—including component content management, regulatory compliance consulting, translation in 200+ languages, artwork implementation and review, and integration with commercial artworks systems, including Veeva Artworks. Get in touch today to learn more about how we can help.