Tangible Sustainability

One of twelve strategies developed in the Trust Study, with the goal of helping consumers eat more healthfully and sustainably.

The Trust Study

In collaboration with EIT Food, Future of Food Institute conducted a study to gain a deeper understanding about consumer attitudes towards the food chain, and particularly the role trust plays in that relationship.

One of the outcomes of this study is a set of twelve strategies, co-created together with European participants in the Citizen Participation Forum 2020. 

One of these strategies is Tangible Sustainability.

What is Tangible Sustainability?

We learned that many consumers would like to have a more sustainable diet. However, they find it difficult to understand just how sustainable certain food types are and what the impact is on the environment.

Wouldn’t it be great if they could easily find understandable information about how sustainable exactly each type of food is, so that they can make better decisions?

What does Tangible Sustainability look like?

  • Measurable and understandable concepts, such as overall climate impact, distance travelled and CO2 emissions.
  • Easy to find: On the packaging, the shelf or online. Not in small print, but with clear indicators.
  • Allowing consumers to compare different products and make the best choice.
  • Accurate data checked by a trusted organisation.

Farmers can provide concrete information about the attempts they make to produce their crops more sustainably. Retailers can choose to sell products of which the sustainability claims are backed up with concrete statements. Authorities can create scales to relativise different aspects of food production, for example, the role of water consumption versus distance travelled versus land use.

What’s the catch?

For this strategy to work, the following points need to be taken into account:

Reactance

New social norms should not give consumers the feeling that they are forced into eating food they wouldn’t otherwise eat.

Information overload

More information does not necessarily mean better insights. Information must be presented in ways that consumers can easily interpret, for example by using logos or colour schemes.

What did community members say about this?

“I would like to have all possible information available. Already now I look for the list of ingredients, origin and place of production of the product. It is quite common on Danish products, but often missing on foreign products. So therefore my trust lays more with the Danish products.”
Carola, 44, Denmark


“I like about this theme that I would know what product is less bad for the climate, but it should be easy readable. No numbers for these three values but something comparable to the nutri-score.”
Utz, 66, Germany

“So interesting concept, to give measurable and understandable information to the consumers. Be in your supermarket, and have the opportunity to easily choose the product which meets better your own requirements. But this concept can work if: there are standards, rules -not the retailer, the marketer, the brand who decides its own way of measuring sustainable datas. If it is well done, well regulated, it could be a wonderful tool to give more trust in the food chain.”
Laetitia, 39, France

Best practices: who is already doing this?

Oatly

Oat drink brand Oatly back-up their sustainability claims elaborately on their website, but also make them explicit on their packaging.

Foodprint 

Foodprint is the name of a program from a non-profit organization dedicated to research and education on food production practices.

Our mission is to help accelerate the transition to a more sustainable food system, by including the consumer as equally relevant stakeholder.

We offer accessible and clear consumer insights that help all actors in the food chain to effectively support & seduce the consumer to make the sustainable food choice.

Laan van Meerdervoort 36 - 2517AL - Den Haag - The Netherlands - Info@futureoffood.institute