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Calculating and Communicating Food Emissions with Matthew Isaacs of My Emissions

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Manage episode 411997797 series 3498616
תוכן מסופק על ידי Keith Anderson and Decarbonizing Commerce. כל תוכן הפודקאסטים כולל פרקים, גרפיקה ותיאורי פודקאסטים מועלים ומסופקים ישירות על ידי Keith Anderson and Decarbonizing Commerce או שותף פלטפורמת הפודקאסט שלהם. אם אתה מאמין שמישהו משתמש ביצירה שלך המוגנת בזכויות יוצרים ללא רשותך, אתה יכול לעקוב אחר התהליך המתואר כאן https://he.player.fm/legal.
In this episode of Decarbonizing Commerce, host Keith Anderson welcomes Matthew Isaacs, co-founder of My Emissions, to discuss the critical intersection of climate innovation and commerce, focusing on the environmental impact of food production and consumption. Matthew shares how his journey with My Emissions began during the COVID-19 pandemic when he and his co-founder sought ways to reduce their environmental footprint. Recognizing that food accounts for a significant portion of global greenhouse gas emissions, they developed My Emissions to help food businesses calculate and communicate product-level emissions. The platform aims to bridge the gap between emissions data and consumers, empowering businesses to make informed sustainability decisions while engaging customers through carbon labeling. Matthew highlights the platform's dual focus on emissions data and communication, enabling companies to navigate sustainability challenges and drive meaningful change and the importance of transparency and collaboration in achieving a low-carbon future for the food industry.

Learn more about Matthew Isaacs:

To listen to the full episode join our Plus or Pro memberships at decarbonize.co:


If you enjoyed this episode then please:


TRANSCRIPT BELOW:
Keith Anderson: Welcome to Decarbonizing Commerce, where we explore what's new, interesting, and actionable at the intersection of climate innovation and commerce. I'm your host, Keith Anderson, and together we'll meet entrepreneurs and innovators reinventing retail, e-commerce, and consumer products through the lenses of low carbon and commercial viability.
Welcome to the Decarbonizing Commerce podcast. I'm Keith Anderson, and my guest this week is Matthew Isaacs, co-founder of My Emissions, which helps food manufacturers, retailers, and restaurants calculate and communicate product- and menu-item-level emissions. And this is a topic that remains really interesting to me for a handful of reasons. Number one, food is a huge source of emissions globally, one of the largest sources of emissions within retail and consumer products. Secondly, the value chain represents a huge percentage of those emissions, and it can be challenging and complicated to calculate those emissions.
And thirdly, labeling and communicating emissions for consumers with the objective of changing behavior is something that really interests me. You know, we've seen, nutrition and health and wellness schemes meet with varying degrees of success, and they have varying levels of standardization, country to country, retailer to retailer.
And so I'm always eager to speak with anybody that is actively working in that space, or studying what works, and Matthew is one of those people. So, I'm very excited for you to meet Matthew Isaacs, co-founder of My Emissions.
Well, Matthew, welcome to the podcast. Great to have you with us. Maybe to get us started, you can tell us a bit about how you ended up starting My Emissions.
Matthew Isaacs: Absolutely. So our story began with the COVID 19 pandemic. Myself and my co-founder, Nathan, we just started exploring how we could reduce our own environmental impact. The two of us are longstanding friends. We were both at Cambridge University together here in the UK, and we've always been data-minded.
We've always been thinking about what we can do to be more sustainable, to reduce our impact and how we can make a difference really to society. And in the context of having a lot of time on our hands, we have the concept of furlough here in the UK. And so we're working at the time, it really gave us the opportunity to start exploring what we could do to reduce our impact.
And we very quickly realised that food is the biggest and best way that individuals can reduce their impact. What we see is that around one third, 33 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions are coming from food right now. And what really excited us is this idea that we weren't asking people to spend tens of thousands of pounds or dollars on solar panels or buying a new car or vehicle, changing their holiday habits, things that are very emotive, things that can cost a lot of money. Instead, what we can do is suggest simple swaps that often don't cost more money. And through that, we can actually quite quickly and significantly reduced our carbon footprint.
and that was our starting point. It was very much a personal, individual led, starting point. And over time we've really transitioned into being much more of a platform for food businesses. Because what we realized very quickly is that not only do consumers have this problem, but actually food businesses and companies that could be restaurants, brands, FMCG, They're all facing the same problem.
And there was this, ultimately what we saw is this big disconnect between emissions data from food in a research environment, and that data getting across to not only consumers, but also to food companies. And now that's really the gap that we're trying to fill with my emissions. We're trying to be the provider that can bridge that gap, that can, that is willing to open the can of worms that is emissions reporting and emissions labeling and digest all of that information and come out with something that's pragmatic, that's simple, and that can scale.
And that's where we've got to today.
Keith Anderson: So, I hear there's sort of two, legs to the platform. One of which is the emissions data itself. And the second is really about the communication and the labeling. So, why don't we take those one at a time. Is there something unique about food as an industry or as a category that leads you to focus on that specifically versus some of the industry- or category-agnostic solutions?
Matthew Isaacs: I think there is, and the first thing is food's wide impact, the second thing, and this is a real challenge, probably the biggest challenge in our work, is the fact that the majority of emissions are coming at the farm level. So when we look and measure the emissions of a product, we're looking at the emissions from farming, from manufacturing and production, from transport and distribution, and from packaging at a minimum. That we can also extend it and often can include your cooking emissions, your end of life and disposal as well. And, but the four that I said at the start, farming, processing, packaging, transport is the core of what we do. And the majority of the emissions for pretty much every food product we see is coming from the farming stage.
And what we also have then is quite a, an interconnected and global food system. So we see a lot of our clients, sourcing food from all over the globe, being two or three steps removed from their suppliers, or from the original farms, I should say. And given that's where the majority of the emissions lie, it really does lend itself to having a food-specific solution, because what we can do is build up a really comprehensive database of food emission factors, taken into account the very limited data that we can often get from our, from our clients, as in from food companies. But we can also build really targeted solutions to fill those gaps and to start really unlocking more primary data across the food sector. Maybe to bring this to life in a really, simple way. We work with restaurants and we work with brands.
And one of the common challenges, especially with so much new, novel, foods being introduced, was when a restaurant or catering provider started using a plant-based meat or a plant-based cheese, our key benefit, I guess, is the fact that we also work with a lot of brands. And that included some plant-based meats and some plant-based cheeses.
So rather than seeing these quite novel foods and then having to go away and spend a lot of time researching those ingredients and those foods, understanding supply chains, understanding recipes, we're actually able to leverage the data we're getting from some of our clients and make it available and use it in a more generalist way for our other clients.
And that was a real, challenge. value driver we're already finding for our clients, where because of our food sector specialism, we're able to unlock far more detailed and specific values, than maybe what your more agnostic sector, agnostic providers are able to offer.
Keith Anderson: And when you say food supply chain data, and I suppose we ought to focus on the farm since that's where it sounds like the bulk of the emissions originate. Are you looking at averages based on a particular crop or ingredient in a particular country? Are you actually working with your customer to engage their upstream suppliers and gather more information or primary data?
What does that look like in practice?
Matthew Isaacs: So we start off by having regional databases. So we have a database that is appropriate for European Union, for North America, et cetera. We then look to, our goal whenever we work with a client is to try and get an initial mapping or an initial assessment as quickly as possible. That's not necessarily to say that that data is going to be the final value, but one of the biggest challenges we face and we see is companies taking six or 12 months to get to the real insight or the real, kind of the value from this service, which ultimately is how can we use this data to drive change and reduction?
So we often recommend starting on a regional basis because you can get a high level mapping and also because the challenges of collecting data from suppliers and farms is really quite difficult. But once we've got an initial mapping, what that can do is we often have a conversation with our clients and say, well, here are the, here are the key ingredients that are, that we are identifying.
Those can be because it's the highest volume of product or sales, or because they're the highest emission ingredients, or, based on the data that we have, the foods which might have the highest variance, and maybe something like lettuce or flour are ingredients where the range of emissions is much lower.
Whereas via meats and dairies, it's likely that the range of emissions are much higher. therefore if we were to focus on one we would go for the latter rather than the former options. And then at that point, what we can do is start going down the supply chain. So we can engage, suppliers and they might be middle, middle range suppliers.
They might help unlock things like what country of origins the foods are coming from, or what regions the foods being coming, are coming from, which maybe isn't data that our clients might, as a starting point have available to them. And they might also be able to loop us in directly to the farms and the producers.
And ultimately if we want to get more specific data, we often say, we can do, we can do work modeling and mapping, based on secondary data, but really there's, there's not a substitute for that primary data at a farm level.
Keith Anderson: Makes a lot of sense. And it sounds like the focus is really on product- and menu item-level calculations. Is that correct?
Matthew Isaacs: Yes and no. We are looking to get assessmentss for the individual ingredients that are brought in, but it, but increasingly we're working with our clients to help them on their net zero reporting. Here in European Union, we've got CSRD reporting coming in over the next two years, which is requiring larger organizations in particular to report their emissions on an annual basis and include that within their financial reporting.
And so increasingly we're finding ways with our clients to incorporate this data and convert it into a more traditional corporate reporting or, or, or as we might call it scope three emissions reporting, where we can offer some really granular data on the food side, which, because the emissions from food is often the largest contributions, for our customers as food companies, it's often where the most value is in having some really granular and detailed, data, which, which is exactly what our tool is built for.
Keith Anderson: Well, maybe that's a good segue to talking about the second component of the platform, which is the communication side and the labeling aspect. You know, it sounds like, listening to you, there's demand for really both use cases, and I'm sure they work well together, but are you finding that there's more demand from companies that want to produce those sort of corporate level reports to appease shareholders and, remain compliant with regulation, or, or possibly, and is it as much about keeping up with consumer interest in understanding what they're eating and shifting their own behavior the way you and your co-founder were thinking?
Matthew Isaacs: And is definitely the right answer there. And what we're seeing, we have some clients. Companies that have or want sustainability as a really core part of their brands or of their message, carbon labeling is really attractive because it's a really simple and crucially visual way that you can talk to your customers about carbon footprints. Actually we find the the biggest concern or, or, or, yeah, well, the biggest concern that companies often have when they come to us is what's going to happen if there's lots of e-ratings on their products or on their menus. But actually the data we're seeing is that the most effective campaigns or initiatives that we've got from clients are when they have a whole range and a whole spread of carbon labels and they use it as a conversation starter. They're able to talk to their customers about carbon footprints and the environment and really develop a strong brand image, frankly, on their, on sustainability.
and, and that educational piece is really, really strong in creating that bonds with, with companies. We're often seeing customers as well, not just use carbon labeling purely on products or on menus, but also as part of an impact report. Rather than necessarily putting it on all menus, often it's done in addition, but sometimes we just have clients taking some of their hero products and putting it within their impact reports with maybe some comparisons or impact statements, or putting it as a dedicated sustainability page, bringing out some of those, hero items.
And then probably my third and favorite example of what, what some companies are doing is they're going even further and they're aligning their promotions to the carbon labels and to low carbon products. So a really great example is a catering provider we work with here in the UK, they're part of Cambridge University down in college, catering.
And what they've done is they've taken the traditional buy 10, get one free. And we give our, all products or meals a rating from A to E, A being very low, E being very high. And what they've said is rather than buy 10, get one free, they've said buy 10 A rated meals and get one free. What this is, is a really, really powerful way of linking sustainability and, a low carbon activation or activity with a promotion and a reward.
And the response from students has been overwhelming in terms of the engagement that they've had and the ability to not just give a reward or like a feel good moment to them, but then actually linking that to sustainability, which for a lot of people increasingly is a, is a really key, key issue or point on mind, particularly in your younger generations. That's all on the consumer piece, but it is also worth noting that that reporting side, increasingly we're hearing companies talk to us and say, Our customers are asking us to report emissions on an annual basis. We've set a net zero goal or an SBTI submission, and we now need to find ways to reduce our emissions and then to report our progress on an annual basis.
And in particular, with these, these reporting requirements like CSRD coming in and over the next few, few years, it's something that companies are already starting to get on top of. And I think this is becoming a second avenue for us now where, where we can use our tool. And we've just launched a purchase report module.
We've just, we've just started, working with a lot more companies to do their full corporate assessments even. And, w e're seeing that with them, often the route goes the other way around, where we start in the corporate assessments, we start with maybe just, or even just focusing on emissions reporting for food, and we just take the scope three food emissions piece, and then maybe actually it's, we're starting to now see some of those clients go, actually, it's really interesting and useful for us to then convert that into a product assessment, put this onto their products, map the data again onto their products or onto their menu items, and then start communicating that as well. So it very much is a, an either an and/or rather than an either/or.
Keith Anderson: Makes sense. And once you've got, in the case of a product-level assessment, I imagine there's value at different stages of the product life cycle. It's not purely what the shopper sees at the shelf or the point of consumption. You know, I think you mentioned before we started the conversation, there are clients of yours that are actually using that for new product development decisions.
Matthew Isaacs: Again, it's a, it is one of the things that gets me really excited and probably the anyone who asks me about carbon labeling is asking me, what is the impact that this has on on consumers? But as you say, and point to, we're actually seeing that carbon naming is just as if not more useful internally within food companies, especially, so,
so for us again, that, that A to E rating that we use, we've developed that to just make it as easy for people to understand as possible.
A is very low, E is very high, A is green, C is amber, E is red. So it's simple traffic light colors, simple grading system. And what we've got some of our companies doing now is that during the NPD process, then that should becomes a three product shortlist often. And then, well, you start with a long list, three product shortlist, and then a final product and with, with some of our clients building solutions where we do a basic carbon assessment at the shortlist stage.
So at the point when they're reviewing those three products. They're not just having a table which has taste, cost and nutrition, but they also have a metric on carbon and on sustainability. And again, by putting that in that very simple A to E color ratings, they could have red, amber, green next to the products and it will help them choose which, it will help them make the decision. It's not to say that every product needs to be introduced to be the lowest carbon. It's just bringing out that data and allowing people to make those more informed decisions and, at an NPD stage. And then finally, also once the final product has been, developed, or chosen, sorry, there can then be a final review of saying, "well, can we make any small tweaks to this product that will keep it the same, but reduce the emissions slightly?"
We've had some clients or seen some of our clients who maybe had a sprinkle of feta on the products and go, actually, we can remove that and not lose the basis of the products, but actually reduce the emissions by 30 percent and reduce costs.
And it's those kinds of, those kinds of, swaps or, or, or small changes that we can find that that, where there's a real opportunity to make some quick wins and quick emission reductions.
Keith Anderson: Jumping back for a second to the labeling approach, when you say high or low, is that relative to products within the same category? Is that, you know, what's the consideration set there?
Matthew Isaacs: So, we've made a decision pretty early on to use a single range and a single scale for all food products, well, all products, actually, not just food, food and drink, I should say. We're just focusing that in the food and beverage, sector, but the reason for that is because, ultimately, when we look at the spread of, emissions across different foods and across different products.
There can be, there's certain fundamentals and certain like high level principles that we see, which is that, what's more important is what food you're eating rather than say where it's coming from or how it's been produced as a general rule. That's one of the, the things that the data tells us.
So we thought it would be quite disingenuous to have ratings and an individual product rating and level, because it then doesn't communicate that there are some swaps that can be made, which more often than not, if not always, will be, will be true. Beef and lamb or red meats, for example, will pretty much always have a higher carbon footprint than white meats, your chickens and porks and turkeys, or other poultries.
That's true if you're looking at high carbon chicken versus low carbon beef. On the scales. And so for us, we felt it quite important to do that. And I guess as a final point as well, we, we looked at how nutrition labels are set and more often than not, they're using a single scale rather than a product led approach, particularly here in the UK and European Union, that's consistent across pretty much all nutrition scales.
So we didn't want to introduce something now, which likely wouldn't match what regulation looks like and in that sense wanted to give an open and genuine, rating to products from, from the start, rather than necessarily playing around with, with, with labeling within sectors.
Keith Anderson: Is your labeling standardized across customers? I know that you've got customers in North America and Europe. Some are food service, some are retail, some are brands. Are they all effectively on the same labeling scheme?
Matthew Isaacs: They are, yes, I guess one nuance is that our scheme is based on intensity. So we look at the emissions per kilogram of foods. We're aware that, for example, portion sizes in North America are generally slightly larger, than in,
Keith Anderson: That's diplomatic of you.
Matthew Isaacs: Okay.
Keith Anderson: Significantly larger.
Matthew Isaacs: But that, that isn't necessarily caught, in the changes. So it, what matters is the proportions and the core, maybe the proteins that are being used and those kind of pieces of what's being communicated more there. So there's some consideration there that, that it is somewhat comparable and, and, okay to use different, or the same metrics.
Also what, it makes a difference how we've set those ratings. So for example, our C rating was decided based on the global average emissions from the food sector today. And the, A rating is set based on the Lancet Commission's Planetary Health Diet, which is a global assessment of what does the emissions or the impact of the food sector need to be if we have a 10 billion population on Earth, i. e. what does a healthy and sustainable diet need to look like? Those are both globalized metrics and therefore it made sense to have a globalized carbon rating scheme.
Keith Anderson: Hey folks, this is the part of the show where we say thank you and see you soon to the general audience, plus and higher tier members of decarbonize.co, stay tuned for the rest of the episode.
Hey, it's Keith Anderson from decarbonize.co inviting you to join our brand new Slack community for retail, e-commerce, and consumer product professionals that want to keep up with what's new, interesting, and actionable in industry, climate, and sustainability action, and connect with your peers. As I got into this work, one of the things that I found so invigorating is how passionate and willing to help everyone is.
But I haven't found a community composed of people across functions in the industry that are working in or want to work in climate and sustainability. And so we're launching the community to connect both sustainability experts and practitioners and people in conventional roles like product design, packaging, supply chain marketing, and merchandising to share their work, ask for help, connect about career opportunities, keep up with the latest industry development, and we'll be previewing who our upcoming guests on the podcast will be and giving you an opportunity to pose questions to our guests. So I can't wait to meet you and have you meet some of the other members of the community. To join us, you can visit decarbonize.co. You'll see a call to action on the homepage, or use the intelligence menu at the top of the page where you'll also see a link to join.
Makes sense. Well, Matthew, if people want to learn more about My Emissions or reach you, how should they get in touch?
Matthew Isaacs: So our website is myemissions.green and you can search "free food emissions calculator" and at least as far as I'm aware today, we should be appearing number one on Google as a simple free calculator that we have available on our website, where anyone can put in a recipe and see what the emissions of their products or recipes are.
Or you can email us at hello@myemissions.green.
Keith Anderson: Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for joining us.
Matthew Isaacs: Thank you very much, Keith, for the time.
Keith Anderson: Thanks for listening. I'm Keith Anderson, the executive producer and host of Decarbonizing Commerce. Sonic Futures handles audio, music, and video production. If you enjoyed the show, we'd really appreciate it if you took a moment to subscribe and leave a review or share it with a colleague. For the full episode and more member exclusive insight and analysis, join the decarbonizing commerce community at decarbonize.co. Thanks for listening and we'll see you on the next episode of decarbonizing commerce.


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iconשתפו
 
Manage episode 411997797 series 3498616
תוכן מסופק על ידי Keith Anderson and Decarbonizing Commerce. כל תוכן הפודקאסטים כולל פרקים, גרפיקה ותיאורי פודקאסטים מועלים ומסופקים ישירות על ידי Keith Anderson and Decarbonizing Commerce או שותף פלטפורמת הפודקאסט שלהם. אם אתה מאמין שמישהו משתמש ביצירה שלך המוגנת בזכויות יוצרים ללא רשותך, אתה יכול לעקוב אחר התהליך המתואר כאן https://he.player.fm/legal.
In this episode of Decarbonizing Commerce, host Keith Anderson welcomes Matthew Isaacs, co-founder of My Emissions, to discuss the critical intersection of climate innovation and commerce, focusing on the environmental impact of food production and consumption. Matthew shares how his journey with My Emissions began during the COVID-19 pandemic when he and his co-founder sought ways to reduce their environmental footprint. Recognizing that food accounts for a significant portion of global greenhouse gas emissions, they developed My Emissions to help food businesses calculate and communicate product-level emissions. The platform aims to bridge the gap between emissions data and consumers, empowering businesses to make informed sustainability decisions while engaging customers through carbon labeling. Matthew highlights the platform's dual focus on emissions data and communication, enabling companies to navigate sustainability challenges and drive meaningful change and the importance of transparency and collaboration in achieving a low-carbon future for the food industry.

Learn more about Matthew Isaacs:

To listen to the full episode join our Plus or Pro memberships at decarbonize.co:


If you enjoyed this episode then please:


TRANSCRIPT BELOW:
Keith Anderson: Welcome to Decarbonizing Commerce, where we explore what's new, interesting, and actionable at the intersection of climate innovation and commerce. I'm your host, Keith Anderson, and together we'll meet entrepreneurs and innovators reinventing retail, e-commerce, and consumer products through the lenses of low carbon and commercial viability.
Welcome to the Decarbonizing Commerce podcast. I'm Keith Anderson, and my guest this week is Matthew Isaacs, co-founder of My Emissions, which helps food manufacturers, retailers, and restaurants calculate and communicate product- and menu-item-level emissions. And this is a topic that remains really interesting to me for a handful of reasons. Number one, food is a huge source of emissions globally, one of the largest sources of emissions within retail and consumer products. Secondly, the value chain represents a huge percentage of those emissions, and it can be challenging and complicated to calculate those emissions.
And thirdly, labeling and communicating emissions for consumers with the objective of changing behavior is something that really interests me. You know, we've seen, nutrition and health and wellness schemes meet with varying degrees of success, and they have varying levels of standardization, country to country, retailer to retailer.
And so I'm always eager to speak with anybody that is actively working in that space, or studying what works, and Matthew is one of those people. So, I'm very excited for you to meet Matthew Isaacs, co-founder of My Emissions.
Well, Matthew, welcome to the podcast. Great to have you with us. Maybe to get us started, you can tell us a bit about how you ended up starting My Emissions.
Matthew Isaacs: Absolutely. So our story began with the COVID 19 pandemic. Myself and my co-founder, Nathan, we just started exploring how we could reduce our own environmental impact. The two of us are longstanding friends. We were both at Cambridge University together here in the UK, and we've always been data-minded.
We've always been thinking about what we can do to be more sustainable, to reduce our impact and how we can make a difference really to society. And in the context of having a lot of time on our hands, we have the concept of furlough here in the UK. And so we're working at the time, it really gave us the opportunity to start exploring what we could do to reduce our impact.
And we very quickly realised that food is the biggest and best way that individuals can reduce their impact. What we see is that around one third, 33 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions are coming from food right now. And what really excited us is this idea that we weren't asking people to spend tens of thousands of pounds or dollars on solar panels or buying a new car or vehicle, changing their holiday habits, things that are very emotive, things that can cost a lot of money. Instead, what we can do is suggest simple swaps that often don't cost more money. And through that, we can actually quite quickly and significantly reduced our carbon footprint.
and that was our starting point. It was very much a personal, individual led, starting point. And over time we've really transitioned into being much more of a platform for food businesses. Because what we realized very quickly is that not only do consumers have this problem, but actually food businesses and companies that could be restaurants, brands, FMCG, They're all facing the same problem.
And there was this, ultimately what we saw is this big disconnect between emissions data from food in a research environment, and that data getting across to not only consumers, but also to food companies. And now that's really the gap that we're trying to fill with my emissions. We're trying to be the provider that can bridge that gap, that can, that is willing to open the can of worms that is emissions reporting and emissions labeling and digest all of that information and come out with something that's pragmatic, that's simple, and that can scale.
And that's where we've got to today.
Keith Anderson: So, I hear there's sort of two, legs to the platform. One of which is the emissions data itself. And the second is really about the communication and the labeling. So, why don't we take those one at a time. Is there something unique about food as an industry or as a category that leads you to focus on that specifically versus some of the industry- or category-agnostic solutions?
Matthew Isaacs: I think there is, and the first thing is food's wide impact, the second thing, and this is a real challenge, probably the biggest challenge in our work, is the fact that the majority of emissions are coming at the farm level. So when we look and measure the emissions of a product, we're looking at the emissions from farming, from manufacturing and production, from transport and distribution, and from packaging at a minimum. That we can also extend it and often can include your cooking emissions, your end of life and disposal as well. And, but the four that I said at the start, farming, processing, packaging, transport is the core of what we do. And the majority of the emissions for pretty much every food product we see is coming from the farming stage.
And what we also have then is quite a, an interconnected and global food system. So we see a lot of our clients, sourcing food from all over the globe, being two or three steps removed from their suppliers, or from the original farms, I should say. And given that's where the majority of the emissions lie, it really does lend itself to having a food-specific solution, because what we can do is build up a really comprehensive database of food emission factors, taken into account the very limited data that we can often get from our, from our clients, as in from food companies. But we can also build really targeted solutions to fill those gaps and to start really unlocking more primary data across the food sector. Maybe to bring this to life in a really, simple way. We work with restaurants and we work with brands.
And one of the common challenges, especially with so much new, novel, foods being introduced, was when a restaurant or catering provider started using a plant-based meat or a plant-based cheese, our key benefit, I guess, is the fact that we also work with a lot of brands. And that included some plant-based meats and some plant-based cheeses.
So rather than seeing these quite novel foods and then having to go away and spend a lot of time researching those ingredients and those foods, understanding supply chains, understanding recipes, we're actually able to leverage the data we're getting from some of our clients and make it available and use it in a more generalist way for our other clients.
And that was a real, challenge. value driver we're already finding for our clients, where because of our food sector specialism, we're able to unlock far more detailed and specific values, than maybe what your more agnostic sector, agnostic providers are able to offer.
Keith Anderson: And when you say food supply chain data, and I suppose we ought to focus on the farm since that's where it sounds like the bulk of the emissions originate. Are you looking at averages based on a particular crop or ingredient in a particular country? Are you actually working with your customer to engage their upstream suppliers and gather more information or primary data?
What does that look like in practice?
Matthew Isaacs: So we start off by having regional databases. So we have a database that is appropriate for European Union, for North America, et cetera. We then look to, our goal whenever we work with a client is to try and get an initial mapping or an initial assessment as quickly as possible. That's not necessarily to say that that data is going to be the final value, but one of the biggest challenges we face and we see is companies taking six or 12 months to get to the real insight or the real, kind of the value from this service, which ultimately is how can we use this data to drive change and reduction?
So we often recommend starting on a regional basis because you can get a high level mapping and also because the challenges of collecting data from suppliers and farms is really quite difficult. But once we've got an initial mapping, what that can do is we often have a conversation with our clients and say, well, here are the, here are the key ingredients that are, that we are identifying.
Those can be because it's the highest volume of product or sales, or because they're the highest emission ingredients, or, based on the data that we have, the foods which might have the highest variance, and maybe something like lettuce or flour are ingredients where the range of emissions is much lower.
Whereas via meats and dairies, it's likely that the range of emissions are much higher. therefore if we were to focus on one we would go for the latter rather than the former options. And then at that point, what we can do is start going down the supply chain. So we can engage, suppliers and they might be middle, middle range suppliers.
They might help unlock things like what country of origins the foods are coming from, or what regions the foods being coming, are coming from, which maybe isn't data that our clients might, as a starting point have available to them. And they might also be able to loop us in directly to the farms and the producers.
And ultimately if we want to get more specific data, we often say, we can do, we can do work modeling and mapping, based on secondary data, but really there's, there's not a substitute for that primary data at a farm level.
Keith Anderson: Makes a lot of sense. And it sounds like the focus is really on product- and menu item-level calculations. Is that correct?
Matthew Isaacs: Yes and no. We are looking to get assessmentss for the individual ingredients that are brought in, but it, but increasingly we're working with our clients to help them on their net zero reporting. Here in European Union, we've got CSRD reporting coming in over the next two years, which is requiring larger organizations in particular to report their emissions on an annual basis and include that within their financial reporting.
And so increasingly we're finding ways with our clients to incorporate this data and convert it into a more traditional corporate reporting or, or, or as we might call it scope three emissions reporting, where we can offer some really granular data on the food side, which, because the emissions from food is often the largest contributions, for our customers as food companies, it's often where the most value is in having some really granular and detailed, data, which, which is exactly what our tool is built for.
Keith Anderson: Well, maybe that's a good segue to talking about the second component of the platform, which is the communication side and the labeling aspect. You know, it sounds like, listening to you, there's demand for really both use cases, and I'm sure they work well together, but are you finding that there's more demand from companies that want to produce those sort of corporate level reports to appease shareholders and, remain compliant with regulation, or, or possibly, and is it as much about keeping up with consumer interest in understanding what they're eating and shifting their own behavior the way you and your co-founder were thinking?
Matthew Isaacs: And is definitely the right answer there. And what we're seeing, we have some clients. Companies that have or want sustainability as a really core part of their brands or of their message, carbon labeling is really attractive because it's a really simple and crucially visual way that you can talk to your customers about carbon footprints. Actually we find the the biggest concern or, or, or, yeah, well, the biggest concern that companies often have when they come to us is what's going to happen if there's lots of e-ratings on their products or on their menus. But actually the data we're seeing is that the most effective campaigns or initiatives that we've got from clients are when they have a whole range and a whole spread of carbon labels and they use it as a conversation starter. They're able to talk to their customers about carbon footprints and the environment and really develop a strong brand image, frankly, on their, on sustainability.
and, and that educational piece is really, really strong in creating that bonds with, with companies. We're often seeing customers as well, not just use carbon labeling purely on products or on menus, but also as part of an impact report. Rather than necessarily putting it on all menus, often it's done in addition, but sometimes we just have clients taking some of their hero products and putting it within their impact reports with maybe some comparisons or impact statements, or putting it as a dedicated sustainability page, bringing out some of those, hero items.
And then probably my third and favorite example of what, what some companies are doing is they're going even further and they're aligning their promotions to the carbon labels and to low carbon products. So a really great example is a catering provider we work with here in the UK, they're part of Cambridge University down in college, catering.
And what they've done is they've taken the traditional buy 10, get one free. And we give our, all products or meals a rating from A to E, A being very low, E being very high. And what they've said is rather than buy 10, get one free, they've said buy 10 A rated meals and get one free. What this is, is a really, really powerful way of linking sustainability and, a low carbon activation or activity with a promotion and a reward.
And the response from students has been overwhelming in terms of the engagement that they've had and the ability to not just give a reward or like a feel good moment to them, but then actually linking that to sustainability, which for a lot of people increasingly is a, is a really key, key issue or point on mind, particularly in your younger generations. That's all on the consumer piece, but it is also worth noting that that reporting side, increasingly we're hearing companies talk to us and say, Our customers are asking us to report emissions on an annual basis. We've set a net zero goal or an SBTI submission, and we now need to find ways to reduce our emissions and then to report our progress on an annual basis.
And in particular, with these, these reporting requirements like CSRD coming in and over the next few, few years, it's something that companies are already starting to get on top of. And I think this is becoming a second avenue for us now where, where we can use our tool. And we've just launched a purchase report module.
We've just, we've just started, working with a lot more companies to do their full corporate assessments even. And, w e're seeing that with them, often the route goes the other way around, where we start in the corporate assessments, we start with maybe just, or even just focusing on emissions reporting for food, and we just take the scope three food emissions piece, and then maybe actually it's, we're starting to now see some of those clients go, actually, it's really interesting and useful for us to then convert that into a product assessment, put this onto their products, map the data again onto their products or onto their menu items, and then start communicating that as well. So it very much is a, an either an and/or rather than an either/or.
Keith Anderson: Makes sense. And once you've got, in the case of a product-level assessment, I imagine there's value at different stages of the product life cycle. It's not purely what the shopper sees at the shelf or the point of consumption. You know, I think you mentioned before we started the conversation, there are clients of yours that are actually using that for new product development decisions.
Matthew Isaacs: Again, it's a, it is one of the things that gets me really excited and probably the anyone who asks me about carbon labeling is asking me, what is the impact that this has on on consumers? But as you say, and point to, we're actually seeing that carbon naming is just as if not more useful internally within food companies, especially, so,
so for us again, that, that A to E rating that we use, we've developed that to just make it as easy for people to understand as possible.
A is very low, E is very high, A is green, C is amber, E is red. So it's simple traffic light colors, simple grading system. And what we've got some of our companies doing now is that during the NPD process, then that should becomes a three product shortlist often. And then, well, you start with a long list, three product shortlist, and then a final product and with, with some of our clients building solutions where we do a basic carbon assessment at the shortlist stage.
So at the point when they're reviewing those three products. They're not just having a table which has taste, cost and nutrition, but they also have a metric on carbon and on sustainability. And again, by putting that in that very simple A to E color ratings, they could have red, amber, green next to the products and it will help them choose which, it will help them make the decision. It's not to say that every product needs to be introduced to be the lowest carbon. It's just bringing out that data and allowing people to make those more informed decisions and, at an NPD stage. And then finally, also once the final product has been, developed, or chosen, sorry, there can then be a final review of saying, "well, can we make any small tweaks to this product that will keep it the same, but reduce the emissions slightly?"
We've had some clients or seen some of our clients who maybe had a sprinkle of feta on the products and go, actually, we can remove that and not lose the basis of the products, but actually reduce the emissions by 30 percent and reduce costs.
And it's those kinds of, those kinds of, swaps or, or, or small changes that we can find that that, where there's a real opportunity to make some quick wins and quick emission reductions.
Keith Anderson: Jumping back for a second to the labeling approach, when you say high or low, is that relative to products within the same category? Is that, you know, what's the consideration set there?
Matthew Isaacs: So, we've made a decision pretty early on to use a single range and a single scale for all food products, well, all products, actually, not just food, food and drink, I should say. We're just focusing that in the food and beverage, sector, but the reason for that is because, ultimately, when we look at the spread of, emissions across different foods and across different products.
There can be, there's certain fundamentals and certain like high level principles that we see, which is that, what's more important is what food you're eating rather than say where it's coming from or how it's been produced as a general rule. That's one of the, the things that the data tells us.
So we thought it would be quite disingenuous to have ratings and an individual product rating and level, because it then doesn't communicate that there are some swaps that can be made, which more often than not, if not always, will be, will be true. Beef and lamb or red meats, for example, will pretty much always have a higher carbon footprint than white meats, your chickens and porks and turkeys, or other poultries.
That's true if you're looking at high carbon chicken versus low carbon beef. On the scales. And so for us, we felt it quite important to do that. And I guess as a final point as well, we, we looked at how nutrition labels are set and more often than not, they're using a single scale rather than a product led approach, particularly here in the UK and European Union, that's consistent across pretty much all nutrition scales.
So we didn't want to introduce something now, which likely wouldn't match what regulation looks like and in that sense wanted to give an open and genuine, rating to products from, from the start, rather than necessarily playing around with, with, with labeling within sectors.
Keith Anderson: Is your labeling standardized across customers? I know that you've got customers in North America and Europe. Some are food service, some are retail, some are brands. Are they all effectively on the same labeling scheme?
Matthew Isaacs: They are, yes, I guess one nuance is that our scheme is based on intensity. So we look at the emissions per kilogram of foods. We're aware that, for example, portion sizes in North America are generally slightly larger, than in,
Keith Anderson: That's diplomatic of you.
Matthew Isaacs: Okay.
Keith Anderson: Significantly larger.
Matthew Isaacs: But that, that isn't necessarily caught, in the changes. So it, what matters is the proportions and the core, maybe the proteins that are being used and those kind of pieces of what's being communicated more there. So there's some consideration there that, that it is somewhat comparable and, and, okay to use different, or the same metrics.
Also what, it makes a difference how we've set those ratings. So for example, our C rating was decided based on the global average emissions from the food sector today. And the, A rating is set based on the Lancet Commission's Planetary Health Diet, which is a global assessment of what does the emissions or the impact of the food sector need to be if we have a 10 billion population on Earth, i. e. what does a healthy and sustainable diet need to look like? Those are both globalized metrics and therefore it made sense to have a globalized carbon rating scheme.
Keith Anderson: Hey folks, this is the part of the show where we say thank you and see you soon to the general audience, plus and higher tier members of decarbonize.co, stay tuned for the rest of the episode.
Hey, it's Keith Anderson from decarbonize.co inviting you to join our brand new Slack community for retail, e-commerce, and consumer product professionals that want to keep up with what's new, interesting, and actionable in industry, climate, and sustainability action, and connect with your peers. As I got into this work, one of the things that I found so invigorating is how passionate and willing to help everyone is.
But I haven't found a community composed of people across functions in the industry that are working in or want to work in climate and sustainability. And so we're launching the community to connect both sustainability experts and practitioners and people in conventional roles like product design, packaging, supply chain marketing, and merchandising to share their work, ask for help, connect about career opportunities, keep up with the latest industry development, and we'll be previewing who our upcoming guests on the podcast will be and giving you an opportunity to pose questions to our guests. So I can't wait to meet you and have you meet some of the other members of the community. To join us, you can visit decarbonize.co. You'll see a call to action on the homepage, or use the intelligence menu at the top of the page where you'll also see a link to join.
Makes sense. Well, Matthew, if people want to learn more about My Emissions or reach you, how should they get in touch?
Matthew Isaacs: So our website is myemissions.green and you can search "free food emissions calculator" and at least as far as I'm aware today, we should be appearing number one on Google as a simple free calculator that we have available on our website, where anyone can put in a recipe and see what the emissions of their products or recipes are.
Or you can email us at hello@myemissions.green.
Keith Anderson: Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for joining us.
Matthew Isaacs: Thank you very much, Keith, for the time.
Keith Anderson: Thanks for listening. I'm Keith Anderson, the executive producer and host of Decarbonizing Commerce. Sonic Futures handles audio, music, and video production. If you enjoyed the show, we'd really appreciate it if you took a moment to subscribe and leave a review or share it with a colleague. For the full episode and more member exclusive insight and analysis, join the decarbonizing commerce community at decarbonize.co. Thanks for listening and we'll see you on the next episode of decarbonizing commerce.


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