Kraft Foods, General Mills and Monsanto are among the first to join the World Food LCA Database (WFLDB), which aims to develop a comprehensive database for food and beverage life cycle assessments (LCAs).
Launched last week by the Swiss Federal Research Station Agroscope and consulting firm Quantis, the project is expected to be completed by 2015.
A slew of funding partners have already come on board, including Mars, Nestlé, Mondelez International, Bayer, Syngenta and Yara. The French Environment and Energy Management and Swiss Federal Office for the Environment have also committed to the program. Agroscope and Quantis say they hope to continue to recruit additional companies and government agencies to join the project.
According to the project founders, the need for an LCA database stems from the increasing need for LCA applied for the quantification of environmental impacts and as a basis for optimization of food production. However, one of the primary limitations of LCAs in the food and beverage sector is the lack of consistent, up-to-date, comprehensive and transparent inventory data for food products and processes. This results in LCA-based communication that is too often driven by results that are not comparable or sufficiently reliable.
Agroscope and Quantis say that high-quality data is critical for well-informed decision-making, both at the company and policy levels. This data also is needed for environmental reporting purposes.
The WFLDB fills this need for reliable food-sector data, and will provide more than 200 datasets of agricultural crops and animal products including different production methods as well as food transformation, storage and transport processes, the project founders say. The database applies scientific modeling principles that are in line with international standards, and all datasets created within the project will be published and the database will be compatible with existing LCA software.
Agroscope says its Life Cycle Assessment research group has been working on the project since 2000. The group’s research focuses on environmental information for food products, eco-design and resource efficiency in agricultural production systems.
Besides helping companies to generate Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and producing food-sector-specific LCA data, the project also will serve as a model for how life cycle inventory data can be produced in a specific industrial sector, Quantis CEO Yves Loerincik says.
Big data also is being utilized to optimize supply chains. Earlier this year, Ecoshift launched a cloud-based system to help companies engage with their suppliers and use sustainability information to improve supply chain performance and reduce risk. SupplyShift is a secure, cloud-based enterprise sustainability management platform designed for companies with several suppliers to reduce risk and enhance sustainability in supply chains.