Wageningen to develop 'sustainability yardstick'
From Tuesday, Wageningen University will be home to the European branch of The Sustainability Consortium. TSC is a US consortium comprised of both businesses and universities.
Sustainability is a relatively vague term, which lacks clear, uniform criteria. Wageningen University is to develop a ‘sustainability yardstick’ for consumer products in collaboration with US universities.
In future we will know exactly how much water was used to make a product, the quantity of greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere, what the labour conditions were like, etc. Consumers and buyers for supermarkets can then make a well-founded choice between, say, different cookies or soft drinks.
Life cycle The Wageningen researchers will analyse the ‘life cycle’ of all products. Each phase of the production process, from raw material to finished product will be analysed based on five criteria: CO2 emission, water consumption, biodiversity, labour conditions and fair trade. The result will be a sustainability score which can be compared to that of other products.
In the United States, Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas have been engaged in product sustainability analyses for a number of years. And now Wageningen University in Europe has joined them. TSC includes retailers Ahold and Walmart as well as food manufacturers Unilever, Mars and Coca Cola.
Five years TSC Europe Director Koen Boone says industry will pay for the research. All resulting data will be made public so other researchers and social organisations can verify the results. According to Mr Boone it could well be another five years before the sustainability score of all products is known.
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