Each time we speak about food product life cycle analysis (LCA), the question of whether or not to use a multi-indicator approach comes up. It’s understandable to hear this question from players in the food industry who are confronted regularly with issues of water use, waste, and cost reduction, although usually not in an LCA context. But we are particularly puzzled by this discussion when it comes from our peers or consultants performing LCA, especially since, for the moment, that lack of science and standardization limits the indicator options (or usage) for LCA. This should close the debate – but it doesn’t.
Excerpt from Sara Pax’s column on Environmental Leader. To read the full article and share your views, click to read: “Food LCA: The Elusive Quest to Go Beyond Carbon”.
Bluehorse’s core product, Carbonostics, received a stellar 4.5 star score from the expert panel of judges for the Environmental Leader Technology Review program. In addition, Carbonostics was deemed an exemplary, “best-in-class” sustainability product, which the panel highly recommends. In addition, Carbonostics was awarded the highest score among comparable energy accounting and product lifecycle assessment tools.
“Unique benefits – focus on food and beverage sector, data-resource transparency, diverse and impressive client list, ability to enter your own primary data, addition of cost and nutrition metrics – make Carbonostics best-in-class,” commented one judge of Carbonostics.
Bluehorse president Sara Pax is excited to have such validation from other sustainability experts and peers. ““Our mission is to democratize access to robust and sophisticated environmental impact measurement tools for the food industry by offering a platform that is easy- to-use and affordable to implement for people with different levels of sustainability experience – in all sizes of companies,” Pax says, adding, “we are delighted that the panel of judges recognizes the best-in-class value of Carbonostics to provide actionable results that will enhance efficiency and performance of food and drink companies globally.”
To view Carbonostics in the Technology Hall of Fame, click here.
For more details and comments from the judges and the publisher of Environmental Leader, go here.
Visit Carbonostics to explore our sophisticated yet accessible environmental measurement platform that is transforming food businesses around the world.
Carbonostics, the leading food sustainability metrics tool, has been chosen by Italian certification organization BioAgriCert as their exclusive tool to deliver product-level environmental impact assessment for their recently launched carbon emissions reduction certification.
BioAgriCert partnered with Bluehorse to use Carbonostics to deliver environmental products declarations (EPD) to businesses feeling the pressure from consumer and governments to take steps to reduce carbon emissions. The EPD delivered, based on a lifecyle analysis performed in Carbonostics, includes information about the environmental impacts associated with a product, such as raw materials, energy use, materials and chemical substances, air, soil and water impacts as well as waste generation.
Here is an excerpt from Bluehorse President Sara Pax’s latest op-ed on Environmental Leader:
During this summer when the news channels were repeatedly showing images of corn drying in the fields due to the drought, another news article told a very different story. One that is not seasonal yet has reached epidemic proportions in the US — food waste. This particular article about consumption and waste caught my attention. It highlighted a report by the US National Defense Resource Council which found that an average family of four throws away food worth about $2,275 each year. Despite all the grim statistics showing how much food is wasted at restaurants and what the total food waste impact is on methane and carbon emissions, I found the most important sentence in the whole article to be: “The relatively low cost of food at retail is a major factor in household food waste.”
Food’s Long Journey
So, who is to blame? The article puts a lot of emphasis on portion control and consumer behavior, but I believe strongly in the laws of supply and demand and would therefore suggest that the food and consumer goods manufacturers have an important role in this problem. [...]
To read on, click here to be directed to the full article.
Sara Pax’s column published on Environmental Leader:
We’ve all read the headlines and know that the American Midwest is suffering from a major drought. Crops are starting to wither, farmers are already suffering, and fairly soon consumers will start to feel the pinch too. Droughts come and go as do floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters – and as do years of abundance. The difference now is that there is a new business activity that might be sidelined in the immediacy of the drought that ironically could, if used correctly, help businesses be better prepared for the types of feast and famine that the climate often causes.
This activity is sustainability. Sustainability means a lot of things to different people. I find that in many cases it is interpreted as a fuzzy warm feeling that is largely undefined and misunderstood. However, what it really means is corporate social responsibility (CSR), which manifests in good public works such as donating goods and services to communities in need. It means an integrated environmental policy that takes into account even small things like environmentally responsible behavior such as turning off lights, a comprehensive recycling program, and low-energy light bulbs. And it means engaging with suppliers in finding cooperative ways to build a win-win relationship.
Article continued on Environmental Leader. Click here to read.
Sara Pax’s column published on Environmental Leader:
Thinking back, the term carbon footprint was still in its infancy as recently as five years ago and frankly, at that time, I didn’t think it had much staying power. I felt like it was a narrow view and only scratched the surface of the real climate change problems the world was facing. What the term and the work associated with carbon footprinting and lifecycle analysis have come to mean, five years later, is so much more than I could have ever imagined.
Today, we talk about “carbon” like we talk about “Kleenex” — as a shortcut to mean almost anything to do with environmental impacts. We discuss LCA as a profession, a deliverable, and as a means to measurably improve operational efficiency and relationships with suppliers. And we debate the value of all kinds of metrics (even qualitative ones) and the standards that are being developed around the world, as if they’ve always been a part of the discussion.
Mainstreaming the Science for Business
One of the issues that I am passionate about is for the science of LCA to be brought into the mainstream. While it’s fabulously exciting and intellectually stimulating to debate the details of LCA and its related metrics, it’s not going to make any practical difference to anyone if only the scientists understand what it’s all about.
I feel strongly about bringing the science of LCA into the business world where it could be used by non-experts, for practical purposes, in a company’s daily operations. If a company’s leadership can get their heads around what a carbon footprint will tell them about their business, they’re more likely to invest in the necessary work. [continued on Environmental Leader...]
To read the entire article, click here.
The ongoing drought in the US Mid-West is spreading fear of soaring commodity prices across the food industry. According to Reuters today, some 86% of crops have been affected by the dry spring and summer and the crops are wilting.
The corn crops have been especially hard hit and one farmer tells Bluehorse that they have already packed up for the season because the crops are simply not growing. Corn expected to be some 7 feet high by this time of the summer are only reaching 3-4 feet, some farmers are reporting.
“For a lot of the hardest hit areas, it’s too late to reverse the damage on corn. We had a lot of stress ahead of silking and into pollination, and that’s the worst time we could have that stress,” said Jefferies Bache grains analyst Shawn McCambridge in the Reuters piece.
Today Food Business News published “Nightmarish picture for ingredients buyers” addressing and possibly giving reason to the industry’s mounting concerns: “The downward spiral in row crop conditions has dashed flour buyer hopes that 2012-13 would bring a respite from the high flour prices that have prevailed in recent years.”
The drought also impacts the livestock sector so buyers can expect an immediate impact on beef prices.
Commodity pricing and sustainability
For some time, sustainability experts have been forecasting a rise in food commodity prices. Some say that prices have been too low for too long and that this has contributed to companies not making sustainability a priority for companies. If companies had to pay $15 a bushel of wheat instead of $9.50 today, then operations managers would make sure that there was no wasted flour in the manufacturing process.
As unfortunate at this is for all the farmers and businesses that will be adversely affected by the drought of Summer 2012, let’s take this as a wake-up call that this is just a dose of what is to come: higher food prices.
Becoming more sustainable will help in two ways: 1) it will reduce cost and waste on your factory floor, in your recipes and along your supply chain; and 2) it will help to establish stronger supplier relationships.
Contact Bluehorse to find out what sustainability metrics can help you and your business prepare for the expected rise in commodity prices.
Reducing waste is a pillar for sustainable food product manufacturing throughout the entire lifecycle of the product from the agricultural and production to the end-of-life phase. The latest issue of The International Journal of LCA features a Conference Report on the 46th Discussion Forum on LCA, held in Zurich in December 2011.
Bluehorse Associates VP of Innovation & Development, Anne Himeno was invited to participate in the conference on “End-of-life and waste management in life cycle assessment” to shed some light on this challenging issue that all food and beverage companies are tackling. Anne’s presentation was supported by her latest research on how lifecycle assessment guides companies to reduce food loss and waste and, as a positive consequence, lower costs.
The International Journal of LCA discusses Anne’s presentation in its Special Report on the conference:
“Anne Himeno talked about the importance of including the prevention of food losses when assessing the impacts of food packaging. The study was performed with Carbonostics, an LCA tool for food products that allows users to capture waste at every stage of a product’s life cycle and to assess the impact of food loss along the supply chain. The results of the study suggest that the environmental impacts of food waste occur both through additional volume of waste requiring treatment and additional food volume being produced and that there is an urgent need to better model food loss in life cycle assessment studies.”
For more information on the food loss and Carbonostics, contact Anne Himeno at email@example.com.
To view the article in the Journal of International LCA, click here.
There have been two particularly “mediatized” stories recently in the food industry that I felt needed some reality checking. The first was the coverage of Kraft’s news that after many months and dollars spent their environmental impact analysis (LCA) revealed that most of their hotspots are in the production of their raw materials and not the rest of their supply chain. And the second was the more recent announcement by Tesco in the UK that it would abandon carbon footprint labeling efforts on the 70,000 products on shelves. Tesco embarked on the labeling initiative using the Carbon Trust method and the project is being dropped because this method is too expensive, and they were disappointed that the uptake across the industry was not happening. In both instances, there are some very important lessons about getting maximum benefit of LCA work with less time and resource investment.
To read the full article, “Lessons from Kraft and Tesco on Making LCA Count”, on Sara Pax’s Environmental Leader column, click here.