Outcomes of the second workshop of the Food Sustainable Consumption and Production Round Table Working Group 1: deriving scientifically sound rules for a sector-specific environmental assessment methodology
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- De Camillis, C., Bligny, JC., Pennington, D. et al. Int J Life Cycle Assess (2012) 17: 511. doi:10.1007/s11367-012-0396-9
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This paper illustrates the consensus achieved by the members of the European Food Sustainable Consumption and Production Round Table Working Group 1 in their second scientific workshop held in the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre site in Ispra, Italy on July 5–7, 2011. This workshop came after having run a detailed analysis, of data gaps and of methodologies, for the environmental assessment of food and drink products. In particular, the aim of this workshop was to reach consensus amongst key stakeholders on those approaches found diverging across methodologies and on which the forthcoming protocol for the ENVIronmental assessment of FOOds and Drinks (ENVIFOOD Protocol) is expected to provide guidance to the sector.
Almost 30 round table members joined the workshop. Most of them were representatives from business associations associated with the food and drink supply chain and their member companies, EU member state governments, government-supported initiatives on environmental labelling schemes, NGOs and The Sustainability Consortium. Several European Commission staff members also participated in the workshop. A pool of selected senior scientists on food LCA, data and environmental impact assessment methods were also invited to join the workshop. Even if not eligible to take part in the round table decision-making process on the workshop outcomes, some of these invited scientists joined the workshop and actively contributed to the discussion by providing participants with their arguments. A pre-analysis of key existing guidelines and the guiding principles for voluntary environmental assessment and communication agreed by the food round table members provided the basis for the workshop. Besides two plenary sessions (i.e. one to introduce the topics at the beginning of the workshop and one in the end to draw conclusions), the workshop had three ad hoc breakout sessions to discuss those approaches where consensus is missing across environmental assessment methodologies.
Bearing in mind the twofold purpose of the ENVIFOOD Protocol (i.e. providing guidance for assessments instrumental to both communication and environmental improvement), some approaches for assessment were agreed in the workshop. For instance, in the context of those assessments instrumental to business-to-consumer (B2C) communication, the functional unit shall be equal to 100 g or ml. In addition, the functional unit can also be expressed either per recommended serving or per portion. When it comes to those assessments for business-to-business communication, reference flows shall be preferred to functional units as reference units of analysis. These and many other approaches on calculation rules, data quality and impact assessment were agreed by the round table members. These will be likely integrated into the ENVIFOOD Protocol.
Despite the workshop was relatively successful in terms of consensus achieved, some issues still remained. Round table members are continuing the discussion inside the working group 1 drafting group to address those issues where no consensus was reached (e.g. system boundary for assessments instrumental to B2C communication) or where a more in-depth background analysis was needed (e.g. accounting for land use change, allocation for recycling). A public consultation will be run in 2012 to ensure that the coming ENVIFOOD Protocol is both scientifically sound and practical to implement.