In order to better inform consumers’ choices and public decision-makers, BASIC has jointly developed with Greenpeace and WWF an innovative methodology to assess the social, economic and environmental impacts of sustainability labels and standards in the food sector.

An innovative methodology developed by BASIC has been applied to analyze the impacts of 11 sustainability labels in 15 product categories on the French food market. Based on a comprehensive literature review, the study investigates the requirements defined in their standards, as well as the ancillary actions they conduct in order to develop sustainable value chains and consumption. It is also based on a series of interviews with each pilot of label (so as to understand their intentions) as well as a modelling of the links between the effects of each label and the sustainability issues related to food.

Varying results depending on the label/standard

This new study provides precise and verified information on the potential impact of the labels analyzed on a wide range of food-related environmental issues (climate change, biodiversity, etc.) and socio-economic issues (impact on human health, animal welfare, etc.), so as to enable citizens make better informed choices of consumption.

Three groups of labels were identified:

  • The labels that share a continuous improvement approach – Agri Confiance, Zero Pesticide Residues and High Environmental Value (HVE) – have the weakest and least proven positive effects of all the labels analysed, even though they sometimes claim broad and ambitious intentions.
  • The labels that share the organic farming approach – EU organic standards & logo, Bio Equitable in France, Nature & Progres, Demeter – have strong and proven socio-economic and environmental benefits.
  • The sector-specific labels – Bleu-Blanc-Cœur, Label Rouge, PDO, C’est Qui le Patron – have very different benefits depending on the product category, which can create confusion for consumers.

In particular, the study shows that some food labels show a big gap between their socio-economic and environmental benefits and their stated intentions.

To access the full results of our evaluation, see the dedicated website developed by BASIC to navigate the results (in French).

A highly political subject

Finally, this study enables to feed the technical and political debates on food labels, the associated regulatory framework, and the forms of public support that can be granted to them. Based on the results, Greenpeace and WWF have made the following recommendations:

  • Revise the list of standards which are eligible to public support, by integrating a minimum set of criteria regarding the environment (biodiversity and climate change) and socio-economic issues (producers’ income, human health and animal welfare).
  • Make public support conditional on the concrete impacts of labels and not on their stated intentions. In particular, public support for High Environmental Value (HVE) certification should be suspended until its requirements have been revised, and the crietria used to identify ‘sustainable’ labels in the EGalim law should be significantly revised.

For further information:

In the French medias :