CASE STUDY UN FAO
Providing guidance on labels to communicate sustainability
3Keel collaborates with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation to provide retailers with guidance on using food labels to communicate sustainability
abels are one of the main way consumers find out about the sustainability of their food and form a basis for making more sustainable choices at the checkout. But with the proliferation of sustainability approaches and standards, what type of sustainability labelling really works, and how can retailers effectively use labels to communicate about sustainability to their customers?
3Keel partners Richard Sheane and Will Schreiber were commissioned by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation to provide guidance for retailers on what type of labelling best promotes sustainability, and how to successfully implement labels that communicate sustainability.
3Keel worked with the UN to conduct the research and craft the content of a 90-page toolkit for retailers containing practical guidance on sustainability labelling. The toolkit walks through the key considerations and approaches, from creating the business case for sustainability information labels, through to scoping and implementing and communicating label claims to customers. The toolkit explains the five key stages of a label implementation process, consideration points for businesses on whether to adopt, adapt or develop label schemes, and guidance on understanding customers and aligning your label messages. Businesses can use the toolkit to engage their teams and suppliers in the process and identify useful resources to support them in implementing a variety of initiatives.
As part of the research 3Keel assessed what makes successful labelling from a sustainability perspective. It total, over 250 labels and standards were assessed to form the following conclusions:
- There is a proliferation of sustainability labelling, creating confusion for customers. New sustainability labels should build on existing approaches to avoid further proliferation and confusion.
- Labels on their own are not enough to influence change – they need to be part of a much broader marketing and customer communications strategy.
- Featuring sustainability standards can be an effective tool where awareness and concern on a particular issue is high – such as animal welfare. The drawback is such standards are often limited to just one issue or ingredient of the product.
- Developing and featuring a sustainable brand on products can allow retailers to recover a premium for sustainable practices, but this branding can take time to build, and can fall foul of greenwashing where a brand’s sustainability reputation is not reflected in its actual sourcing practices.
- Other sustainability information on labels, such as carbon labelling, can be costly to undertake and risks not being understood by consumers.