Confidence in the food industry has fallen in recent years. A growing number of consumers have questions about the story behind the products they’re buying. How much does a farmer make from a bottle of milk? What impact do food miles have on the environment? Since 2014 you can find product information at Questionmark and now we are working hard to further improve the information with which consumers can compare their favourite products. With the 'Transparent on Sustainability' initiative, Questionmark is working on restoring trust by giving companies with or without a certification the chance to show what they do to sustainability.
More and more farmers and food companies opt for more sustainable production methods. But how can they also show their efforts to the people who buy their products? There are now roughly two options: a company can claim its 'sustainability' itself, or join an existing certification.
Consumers may in fact doubt a company’s claims of its own sustainability; and it’s precisely those consumers who consider sustainability so important that they only trust the opinion of an independent third party. The system of quality marks offers a solution, but there are so many logos that people do not always know what these mean and that makes products difficult to compare. And companies that want to do more than the certification demands are not rewarded for this. In some product groups such as chocolate, eggs or fish, almost all products now have a seal of approval. This is good news in itself, because the lower limit on sustainability requirements has gone up for the entire category. But consumers can not see which companies do more.
With the 'Transparent on Sustainability' initiative, Questionmark is building a new way to explain and make information about sustainability and health available for consumers. The essence of this idea is that brands per product category are compared with each other on a limited number of standardized and scientifically selected topics, which go deeper into our main themes of the environment, animal welfare and human rights.
Companies can provide their own answers to the internationally recognized questionnaires. If a brand does not want to provide information, Questionmark will fill in the information on the basis of public information sources. This means that all brands are always compared.
Questionmark uses the questionnaires from The Sustainability Consortium (TSC), an international alliance of universities. TSC, represented in Europe by Wageningen University, has determined the most important risk areas for sustainability for each product group. For coffee, for example, the risk of child labor is an important issue, while in avocados, limiting water use is very urgent. Each product has its own risks. The topics per chain are determined by the Universities of Wageningen, Arkansas and Arizona. The development is co-financed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. View a sample questionnaire for coffee here.
Questionmark assesses the products of all brands within a product group on exactly the same topics. In this way, the policy of companies is mutually comparable and 'sustainability' is finally a measurable fact.
The Questionmark Foundation is financially independent from the food industry. Questionmark has a social mission and therefore no profit motive. Our goal is to encourage companies to produce more sustainable and healthier products and that is why we help companies achieve this. Questionmark is also independent from the government, but it does seek government coordination and support for its objectives.
'Transparent about Sustainability' is not a certification, label or standard. It does not impose substantive requirements on the ambitions of companies, but compares the existing policies of brands. However, the method makes demands on the reliability of the information shared by companies. All information is in one place and consumers can look up products via the Questionmark website and app.
Adapting the research method and collecting new product information takes a lot of time. That is why we start by showing the certifications that products have and we explain what they entail. In the autumn of 2018 we expect to be able to show the renewed product information per brand. So please be patient ...