Freshfel Environmental Footprint initiative and the development of shadow category rules

Published on
November 2, 2022

The fresh fruit and vegetable sector has launched the Freshfel Environmental Footprint initiative at European sector level, developed with the technical support of Wageningen University & Research, Blonk Consultants and PRé Sustainability. It will be a uniform method to assess the production of fruit or vegetables on their environmental impact, taking 16 important environmental indicators such as climate change, toxicity, acidification, water use and land use. The Product Environmental Footprint is a method which builds trust among producers, creates reliable information based on impact data, gives companies solid management information and builds trust of consumers in a greener economy.

Trustworthy information on sustainability

Consumers, financial institutions, retailers and other large companies look for trustworthy information about the sustainability of the products they buy. Information and transparency are therefore key. To this end new regulations have been developed to label food with the proper information on sustainability.

However, the efforts have been fragmented so far, resulting in a bundle of certifications, claims and labels, confusing the costumer and producers and reducing trust. There was need to ensure strict uniform rules by which environmental footprints can be calculated. This particular shadow PEFCR, which stands for Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules will take two years to develop and will closely follow the European Commission’s process to be well aligned for future approval.

Uniform methodology

The European Commission has made lots of efforts to come to a uniform methodology. Official pilots were set up to gather relevant data on agricultural products like pasta or olive oil. Outside of the official EC programme other so-called shadow developments were set up. This Product Environmental Footprint for Fruits and Vegetables is one of them. The adjective ‘shadow’ refers to the fact that the development is not part of the official PEF framework, but will be aligned with it to a large extent. A shadow development was chosen as the sector is eager to proceed in harmonisation of the methodology underlying environmental footprinting, and does not wish to wait for a official opening to do so.

Its methods lean on the earlier developed HortiFootprint Category Rules, presented two years ago by a consortium of companies for which Wageningen University & Research, Blonk Consultants and PRé Sustainability provided the technical basis. This particular shadow PEFCR set up for fresh fruits and vegetables will contain rules for calculating an environmental footprint of these product categories. Its methodology will be closely aligned with European Commission Recommendation on the use of the Environmental Footprint and aims to arrive at an objective and standardised methodology. An explanatory fact sheet on the shadow PEFCR for fruit and vegetables, titled Addressing Sustainability in the fresh Fruit and Vegetable sector gives more information.

After approval of the project proposal, the shadow PEFCR will be developed by Wageningen University & Research in cooperation with Blonk Consultants and PRé Sustainability with sector frontrunners like Freshfel, Fresh Produce Centre, Greenyard, Dole Plc, MPS Group, Royal FloraHolland, Rabobank, ABN Amro, AQS holdingand Glastuinbouw NL. Once delivered the shadow PEFCR will be freely available for the whole fresh fruit & vegetable sector.