CLEAR [i], the Sustainable Food Trust [ii] and Compassion in World Farming [iii] have today written to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Rt. Hon. Steve Barclay MP, to express concerns regarding the membership of the Food Data Transparency Partnership [iv] and the recent recommendations made by the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) [v] to the Government for eco-labelling of food products.
If enacted, the current IGD recommendations risk confusing and misleading consumers while failing to support improved business decisions around supply chain efficiencies and sourcing, potentially creating unintended environmental outcomes. Pointing to potential for industry domination of the governance model, the signatories urge that the development of the rules, regulations, and governance of environmental labelling should be led by the Government with cross-sector cooperation between the Government, industry and representatives from the third sector.
Fidelity Weston, Chair of CLEAR, says:
“Global and UK food production is undoubtedly impacting the climate, biodiversity, and our own health. Consumers wish to be equipped to understand more fully how their food has been produced and it is right that the Government is considering how food labelling can help. However, a simplistic and narrow approach is not appropriate. It is crucial that the wide range of stakeholders involved in our food system are included. There is a great deal going on to support this happening yet neglecting this broad range of expertise and experience by taking a single industry-driven approach will fall far short of delivering a meaningful and robust basis for making sustainability claims for food products.
We urge the Government to ensure that any proposal for a mandatory system underpinning an eco-label should be led by the Government and overseen by effective multi-sector governance and not rely on one designed solely by the food manufacturing and retailing industry.”
Dr Lesley Mitchell, Policy Director at the Sustainable Food Trust, comments, “Supply chains and consumers need robust and comprehensive information to support positive environmental choices. We urge the Government to adopt an approach that focuses on biodiversity, animal welfare and other core aspects of sustainability, alongside carbon impacts.”
Nick Palmer, Chief Political Strategist, Compassion in World Farming UK, says, “Many consumers are keen to buy products prepared in good environmental and animal welfare conditions. Only mandatory labelling according to objective national standards will satisfy them – not voluntary labelling designed by industry. Ultimately, industry itself needs clear, accepted differentiation including imports, so that everyone is on a level playing field and good providers get a fair reward.”
Catherine Chong, ESG advisor and engagement lead at CLEAR, concludes, “The voice of agroecology must be included in the public policy agenda on food system transparency and accountability. Tools designed to measure and communicate agriculture and food socioecological impacts should support the food system transition to a more sustainable and regenerative future.”
The Consortium for Labelling for the Environment, Animal Welfare and Regenerative Farming (CLEAR) has over 50 organisation members representing the views of agro-ecological farmers, small and medium food producers and civil society organisations on policy and regulatory development on food labelling in the UK.
The full text of the letter is available here.
Signatories to the letter are:
Fidelity Weston, Chair, CLEAR
Dr. Lesley Mitchell, Policy Director, Sustainable Food Trust
Dr. Nick Palmer, Chief Policy Strategist, Compassion in World Farming
Dr. Catherine Chong, ESG Advisor, Engagement Lead, CLEAR
- CLEAR. Email: Fidelity Weston at firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 07867797166
- Sustainable Food Trust. 38 Richmond Street, Bristol BS3 4TQ. Email: Lesley Mitchell at email@example.com Tel 07961027609
- Compassion in World Farming. River Court, Mill Lane, Godalming, Surrey GU7 1EZ. Email: Nick Palmer at Nick.Palmer@ciwf.org