To address the challenges of greenhouse gas emissions and the sustainability of our food systems, we must reduce the environmental footprint of the eggs, fish, meat and dairy that make up part of the balanced diet of billions of people each day. As a society we have collectively recognized the need to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, as evidenced by i.e., the COP21 Paris Agreement and the COP26 Global Methane Pledge.

Simultaneously decarbonizing our food systems while feeding several more billion people by 2050 –an expected 70% increase in demand for eggs, fish, meat and dairy– is challenging, not least because our food systems are complex and highly nuanced, but also because it is critical to measure accurately and credibly using the latest Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) protocols and guidelines with appropriate assurance in place. Furthermore, time is against us.

Attractive opportunities for sustainability
Consumers have begun to make their preferences clear, and sustainably-marketed products are unlocking significant market value. In the US consumer packaged goods market, recent surveys have highlighted that sustainably-marketed products are accounting for the majority of market growth while commanding significant price premiums over conventionally marketed products.

Retailers are stepping up their commitments Current efforts in food retail
Retailers and agri-food companies increasingly recognize the market opportunities associated with sustainability and are exploring abatement strategies with their suppliers. Their efforts include incorporating sustainability into consumer research, testing and creating transparency around sustainably produced products at consumer level with the latest LCA based eco-labelling schemes, and considering decarbonization in all procurement discussions.

Retailers are stepping up their commitments. Over sixty major retailers have already made commitments to science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement goals, adding credibility, accountability and the need for accurate data to substantiate their sustainability efforts.

90% of retailers’ greenhouse gas emissions stem from purchased goods upstream in the supply chain. What happens on the farm is particularly relevant Farm in focus
Retailers’ own emissions from company facilities and vehicles (Scope 1) and from purchased energy (Scope 2) account for less than 10% of their total emissions. 90% of retailers’ greenhouse gas emissions stem from purchased goods upstream in the supply chain. What happens on the farm is particularly relevant – farm productivity, feed composition, feed efficiency and manure management are key. The animal feed that livestock consume and metabolize is itself responsible for up to 80% of the environmental footprint of eggs, fish, meat and dairy from a farm and so addressing the nutritional aspects of animal protein production is critical for reducing the environmental footprint.

Connecting the value chain with data
Not only is animal nutrition key to more sustainable food systems, but accurate, credible measurement is needed to meet the emissions requirements of the downstream value chain. You cannot manage what you do not measure, which is why farmers, integrators, processors, packers and retailers must all work together using reliable data. At present, the farm data landscape is fragmented. Farm-specific data must be accurate and assured. Feed data and product data are proprietary and closely guarded—often considered trade secrets.

Connecting the relevant data from farm suppliers, farms and processors using a monitoring and decision support tool should provide the necessary insights to identify and implement interventions to reduce emissions through the supply chain. Good data connectivity has to involve everyone in the value chain, empowering them to take control of their own data while respecting data ownership.

This can be done by means of a purpose registry within a software application that essentially puts rules around the sharing, permission and use of data in order to sufficient trust among supply chain participants. In this way, the framework is set for players to collaborate on emissions reduction credibly and with transparency.

Farm footprint and emissions reductions
Sustell, DSM’s intelligent sustainability service, is an ISO 14040/44 assured system that combines measurement with practical, science-based, proven solutions to unlock the value of sustainability across livestock species and farming systems.

Generating a full and accurate environmental footprint of eggs, fish, meat or dairy starts with verified farm and feed input data. Sustell provides full product life cycle analysis and enables users to run reduction scenario analyses. It uses the latest internationally recognized LCA calculation methodologies and guidelines, industry relevant databases and customer primary data to provide detailed footprint insights.

Sustell makes the invisible, visible by making complex LCA data understandable and actionable through user-friendly dashboards. Through this approach DSM’s service enables customers to take ownership of their footprint, identify best practice and direct resources and interventions to making improvements to their sustainability performance – information that can be shared with value chain partners and stakeholders. As such this system is a powerful business diagnostic that leads to improvements in environmental footprint and business performance.

The ISO-assured Sustell results have several applications beyond reducing on-farm emissions. They can form a credible basis for:
- Consumer product sustainability claims
- GHG accounting
- Financial incentives for sustainable farming such as payments and access to green loans
- Verified ESG reporting
- Eco-labelling schemes

Sustell™ enables the food value chain to take ownership of their environmental footprints, cooperate to reduce emissions and unlock the value of sustainability.

By assigning all eggs or milk the same environmental impact, for example, farmers and integrators are prevented from sharing their own positive sustainability performance in a credible and transparent way. Empowering conscious consumption
Many consumers are interested in knowing more about how their food is produced, and many studies have reported they are willing to pay for more sustainable products. Eco-labels have emerged as a useful way to simplify technical environmental assessments into something that is clear, simple and easily understood by consumers who want to compare various products based on their environmental impact.

However, while we know some farms are more sustainable than others, at present the majority of eco-labels do not include environmental LCA data or simply use global average category data which does not differentiate or reward more sustainable animal protein producers. By assigning all eggs or milk the same environmental impact, for example, farmers and integrators are prevented from sharing their own positive sustainability performance in a credible and transparent way.

Utilizing primary farm and feed data is key to unlocking this value. Eco-label systems that generate sustainability information from full LCA data empower consumers to make informed, trusted decisions and allow companies to capture additional value based on the sustainability of their products. Credible, assured data along with compliant LCA tools are key to unlocking the value of sustainability and making progress towards net zero.

The recording of the webinar with David Nickell (DSM) and Wilbert Hilkens (FoodInsights) as part of the Digital Food series brought to you by and can be found below.

Nickell and Hilkens discussed assembling data from various sources, monitored and produced by different systems and with different terminology by using artificial intelligence. Moreover, they expect to establish a fairly good insight into the effects of interventions on the carbon footprint of animal produce.