Customers of the supermarkets of the Colruyt group will soon see from an ecoscore how hard a product has an impact on the environment. ‘It would not be bad if the system was followed by other supermarkets,’ says State Secretary Eva De Bleeker.
The Colruyt group
launches a system that shows customers whether a product has a heavy or light impact on the environment, on a scale from A to E. Products that have little negative impact on the environment are given the score A. Products that are not very sustainable are given an E.
The system is similar to the nutri score. The supermarkets Delhaize, Colruyt and Carrefour launched this health label in 2019. Healthy products receive an A and unhealthy products an E.
The ecoscore is first available through our app. Later she appears on the packaging.
‘The ecoscore is available for 2,500 products from our house brand Boni’, says project manager Stefan Goethaert. ‘In the first phase, this is only digital, in our SmartWithFood app. This allows customers to scan the barcode of products. The scores of the branded products will also be published during the year. Next year we will print the ecoscore on the packaging of the Boni products, in addition to the nutriscore. ‘
The score is not yet detectable in the fruit and vegetable department. ‘The origin of fruit and vegetables differs greatly according to the season. Nevertheless, we hope that it will one day be possible to give fresh fruit and vegetables an Ecoscore, ‘says Goethaert.
Colruyt calculates the ecoscore in two steps. First, it consults the French database Agribalyse. It contains information on 2,500 product types, divided over 17 parameters. These include CO2 emissions, land and water consumption, the impact on the ozone layer, the risk of water poisoning and algae formation, particulate matter production, the use of fossil fuels and soil acidification.
With the database, Colruyt can find out how heavy, say, the average jar of strawberry yogurt weighs on the environment. But every pot is different: one is made in a Belgian factory with solar panels and water purification, the other travels with an old, polluting truck from a run-down factory in the south of Italy to the Colruyt warehouse.
‘In a second step, we add even more specific information,’ says Goethaert. Colruyt checks whether the products have recognized labels, such as the organic label or that for sustainable fish and chocolate. The group checks whether the packaging is recyclable and where the factory is located. ‘If the producer scores well and has, say, a water purification plant, he gets a bonus. If he scores poorly or not all the information is known, then points will be deducted. ‘
Collecting that data is quite a job. That is why Colruyt is first launching the ecoscore with its own private label. ‘We produce our own meat, coffee and wine. Contacts with our private label producers are close. We have mapped 70 products down to the smallest detail. ‘
Colruyt is convinced that the system is reliable. ‘Both the French and the European government recognize the database on which we base ourselves. How we add additional info is based on an open source method recognized by the French government. We are assisted by the developers of the system. ‘
The system is based on data and shows in a transparent way whether a product is sustainable or not.
The Belgian government is also in favor of the system, although State Secretary for Consumer Protection Eva De Bleeker (Open VLD) calls on the other chains not to explicitly use the Colruyt system. “It is good that a Belgian company is taking the lead,” says its spokesperson. ‘The system is based on data and shows in a transparent way whether a product is sustainable. There is little doubt about the method. It is good if the sector takes the initiative to communicate in this way. ‘
Political support made the Nutriscore successful three years ago. This also prevents a proliferation of similar labels. ‘The government will encourage companies to become more sustainable in the future,’ says Goethaert. ‘We want to take the lead. We stick our necks out with this project because sustainability is important to us and many customers. ‘
The question arises as to whether the system increases Colruyt’s costs. “The future will tell,” says Goethaert. The same goes for the costs of the producers. Colruyt says that the intention is for products to become more sustainable thanks to the ecoscore. Suppliers who see their products exposed by the ecoscore as polluting are under pressure to invest in sustainability. The question arises whether they can pass on the investment costs to Colruyt. This is not self-evident, because the Colruyt chain insists on offering its customers the lowest price.
“Our selling prices are the lowest,” says Goethaert. ‘Our purchase prices are not necessary. Environment and economy can be reconciled. If a producer invests in sustainability, we can talk. ‘