The food and drink industry in Europe, of which 99% are SMEs, is highly fragmented, and food chains are very complex. Hence, to assess the environmental sustainability of a product there is a need for applying integrated, harmonised and scientifically robust methodologies, together with appropriate communication strategies for making environmental sustainability understandable to the market. However, there are difficulties in developing a commonly agreed methodology for environmental impact assessment that still need to be overcome, notably: complexity of food chains, large number of agents involved, different indicators depending on the business sector, regional differences related to biodiversity among other challenges, including climate change and complexity of the actual sustainability assessment tools - high data intensity, costs and expertise required.
SENSE will deliver a harmonised system for the environmental impact assessment of food&drink products. The research will evaluate existing relevant environmental impact assessment methodologies, and consider socio-economical, quality and safety aspects, to deliver a new integral system that can be linked to monitoring and traceability data. The system will integrate: (a) (regionalised) data gathering system; (b) matrix of key environmental performance indicators; (c) methodology for environmental impact assessment; and (d) a certification scheme. The methodology will be transferred to food&drink sectors and stakeholders by means of specific communications strategies.
The sustainability information collected along the production cycle of any food stuff and reflected into the EID (Environmental Identification Document) will be accessible by the EID-Communication Platform, contributing to make the environmental sustainability part of the usual purchasing behaviour of consumers and provide a competitive advantage to those products (and companies) which choose to use the EID. By means of a comprehensive environmental communication between the industry and consumers will lead those to choose for the food products communicated as being environmentally friendly.