Apr 21, 2022
Are supermarkets helping us towards a sustainable diet? Superlist wants to find out.
Are supermarkets helping us to eat sustainably? That question is the subject of a new comparative research by Questionmark Foundation, supported by Rikolto and Test Aankoop, in cooperation with BOS+, IEW, FoodWIN and Bond Beter Leefmilieu. Superlist is the first international study that maps the performance of supermarkets throughout the years. In Belgium, the first study with a focus on environment, is launched today with the publication of the research method. Results are expected in November. The research method is developed under supervision of a scientific board.
In the coming months, Superlist Environment will be studying Colruyt, Delhaize, Carrefour, Aldi and Lidl. The combined market share of those supermarkets adds up to more than 80%. The efforts that are being researched include reducing sales of animal protein, choosing sustainable produce and working to prevent deforestation and food waste.
According to the IPCC-report from last April, food systems are responsible for 42% of the global greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, household diets are responsible for 28% of the ecological footprint. Food choices determine between 48% and 70% of the impact on the households’ use of land and water.
“Over 80% of the food that ends up on our plates comes from supermarkets”, says Jelle Goossens from Rikolto. “That is why supermarkets can significantly contribute to establishing environmental and climate friendly food patterns and to creating a sustainable food chain.”
Simon November from Test Aankoop: “Through Superlist, we want to offer insight in the ways supermarkets are already contributing today. Next to this, this research will offer specific recommendations that both supermarkets and politicians can implement to improve. We highly value this constructive-critical approach.”
Superlist Environment focusses on 3 main topics that possess the greatest potential to reduce the impact food has on the planet. These topics are sustainable agriculture, protein shift, and food waste. The topics were determined with the support and expertise of partners BOS+, IEW (Inter-Environnement Wallonie), Bond Beter Leefmilieu and FoodWIN.
“Excessive use of artificial fertilizer and pesticides disrupt the natural cycles. This causes a negative impact on water, health and soil. Superlist is looking into the measures supermarkets take to stimulate environmentally friendly agricultural practices and to create the easy choice for sustainable products”, says Corentin Roland from IEW.
Pieter Van De Sype, policy officer at BOS+: “Superlist also checks whether supermarkets take action to prevent deforestation, especially with respect to the cultivation of soy, palm oil and cocoa. Deforestation caused by (livestock) farming contributes to the climate crisis and to biodiversity loss.”
Our meat consumption causes a major environmental impact.
Heleen De Smet from Bond Beter Leefmilieu: “The average Belgian diet contains a relatively large amount of animal proteins, such as meat and cheese. This puts a lot of pressure on the environment in the current agricultural system. Both on a European level and Belgian level, actions are being taken towards plant-based diets. Superlist analyzes what supermarkets are doing to guide consumers towards the plant-based choice.”
Finally, food waste is an continuous problem as well. “In Flanders alone about 907,000 tons of food is wasted annually. That is why Superlist is analyzing to what extent supermarkets have plans to counteract food waste in the supermarkets, at the level of their suppliers and with the consumers”, says Gil Op de Beeck from FoodWIN.
The research method of Superlist specifies for every topic the measures supermarkets can take and the corresponding indicators that are used to evaluate the actual actions of supermarkets.
Questionmark Foundation developed the research method in collaboration with a scientific board that specialises in agriculture, the environment, sustainability, consumer behaviour and retail.
Charlotte Linnebank, director at Questionmark: “Superlist is the first multi-year European study that provides insights in what supermarkets are doing to help their customers make the healthy, sustainable, animal friendly and fair choice.”
Sustainability is a complex matter. For that reason, the Superlist research has been split into several themes. “The study for Superlist Environment has now started. In the near future, we also want to tackle the themes of human rights and health”, says Jelle Goossens from Rikolto.
Superlist was first launched in 2020 in the Netherlands, where the reports on the themes health, environment and animal welfare have already been published. In addition, two Superlists have been published in the United Kingdom and the research for the first Superlist in Sweden has started.
The research methodology can be found here. The research report with Superlist Environment results is to be expected at the beginning of November.
Superlist Environment is a study by Questionmark. In Belgium, the study is established through a collaboration of Rikolto, Test Aankoop, BOS+, Bond Beter Leefmilieu (BBL), FoodWIN, écoconso and Inter-Environnement Wallonie (IEW). They have provided the knowledge and expertise necessary for the development of the research programme and the study itself. Superlist was made possible thanks to financial contributions of Rikolto, Test Aankoop, DGD, the Environment & Spatial Development department of the Flemish authorities, and EU LIFE.
Rikolto is an international organisation that facilitates worldwide collaborations between citizens, farmers, enterprises, knowledge institutions and governments to create food systems that are fairer, more transparent and more environmentally resilient. Healthy, sustainable food for everyone: that is what Rikolto is all about.
Test Aankoop: Defending consumers' interests, finding solutions to their challenges and helping them to assert their rights, that is what Test Aankoop is all about. Based on broad expertise from different areas, Test Aankoop tests products and services in a constructive, critical and transparent manner to shape the economy in a sustainable way.
Questionmark Foundation is an independent knowledge institute that helps consumers, producers and supermarkets with information to make responsible choices in the food market.
BOS+: More and improved forests, that has been our mission for more than 50 years. We are fulfilling this by planting trees and working to prevent deforestation. We want to engage people in preserving forests in Flanders as well as tropical forests. Forests are among the most efficient means we have to fight against climate change. Forests are important to biodiversity and renewable resources, beneficial for health, and simply wonderful and magnificent.
IEW: Inter-Environnement Wallonie is a federation of environmental organisations, representing 130 organisations working locally and internationally. Originally, IEW working in spatial planning, environmental pollution and agriculture/nature, but the scope of action has now been extended to mobility, energy, environmental health, food and tourism. IEW critically monitors government policies and formulates concrete proposals with innovative solutions to accelerate a social change towards an ecological society.
Bond Beter Leefmilieu unites natural and environmental organisations and strengthens the voice of sustainable frontrunners in Flanders. Together, we initiate and promote the transition to a society with a completely renewable, circular economy. We put this into practice by collaborating with citizens, social organisations, businesses and governments on viable and innovative solutions. In this way, we want to achieve a good life for everyone in Flanders without compromising the environment, nature and our health.
FoodWIN: FoodWIN is a team of food waste experts. Our mission? To reduce food waste! We expertly keep precious money and raw materials out of the dumpster. To do that, we are creating heroes out of local governments, kitchens and food companies. FoodWIN coordinates the Food Waste Alliance and serves as a contact point for all food waste related questions.
Écoconso: Écoconso encourages behavioural and consumption patterns that respect health and the environment. Écoconso provides concrete, accessible and credible information on the benefits and opportunities of environmentally friendly consumption. Écoconso encourages ecological consumption behaviour in individuals and promotes structural changes in society that encourage eco-consumption.