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Belgian supermarket marks every product with a sustainability grade

Last month, we featured a Dutch grocery store that had raised prices to compensate for hidden social and environmental costs, and broke down those costs for shoppers. Meanwhile, a Belgian organic supermarket had been working on the same issue: how to help consumers make considered choices when shopping for food.

Färm has analyzed every food product it sells, giving it a 'färmoscore' based on 11 criteria. Points are awarded for each of the following: 1) product is organic, 2) brand is not listed on a stock exchange, 3) company is Belgian, 4) item was produced or processed in Belgium, 5) at least 80% of the ingredients are Belgian, 6) country of origin is listed for each ingredient, 7) manufacturer owns the brand, 8) product goes beyond organic, for example Demeter, Fairtrade, Nature & Progrès, 9) low in resource consumption: little to no processing and plant-based, 10) product is packaged in >90% paper or in a container with a refundable deposit, 11) item is not packaged. The product's numerical score is listed on its shelf label.

While we're seeing carbon labelling pop up everywhere (including in our 21 trends for 2021), Färm broadens the sustainability scope to include socio-economic elements like ownership and nationality, stressing a desire to support Belgium's economy and foster privately-owned businesses. And, given the country's size, Belgian products are by definition local and should therefore have a lower carbon footprint than similar items shipped in from other countries.

While many consumers will — by choice or necessity — continue to scan shelves for low prices, there's real value to be had in providing people with an easy tool to make a positive impact while shopping.

(Related: Supermarket adds shelf labels to highlight minority-owned businesses.)

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