Purpose – The pressure on the food industry and society as a whole to evolve towards more sustainable production and consumption has increased in recent years. There are a number of drivers that can help reduce environmental impacts including legislative instruments, retail marketing and consumer choices and demand. One driver that has received attention recently is the use of product labels, either on a single issue or on multiple issues (using omni‐labelling). The purpose of this paper is to report on a framework that emerged from a wider study exploring effective approaches to environmental labelling of food products. Design/methodology/approach – Techniques for assessing the environmental impacts of food production were reviewed and a consultation was undertaken with industry and consumer experts to ascertain their views (using multi‐criteria mapping) on the practicality and efficacy of environmental labels. Findings – The wider study found that although the science is not sufficiently robust to develop an outcome‐based, environmentally broad, omni‐label at this time, there is a role for environmental labelling in conjunction with other initiatives to improve the sustainability of food production and consumption. The framework presented aims to support this role and help improve the practicality and efficacy of environmental labels. It provides a series of interrelated guidelines which provide a basis for developing more effective, robust, credible and practical environmental labels for food. Practical implications – The framework can be used to design new, or evaluate existing labelling schemes and to identify opportunities for improvements. The process is illustrated with an application to four existing schemes. Originality/value – Eco‐labelling of food products is gaining interest globally, but there are numerous issues that need to be fully understood in order to develop credible and robust labelling systems.
Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 11, 2012
Keywords: Food products; Labelling; Agriculture; Eco‐labelling; Environment; Food; Sustainable consumption; Production
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